Friday, March 22, 2013

Be Careful What You Read

The other day my son Jacob asked me to proofread a paper before he went to class. I said, “Sure.” After I read it, I said, “Uh, Jake, what’s this all about?”

Turns out, Jake had to read an essay in his rhetoric textbook and write a paper on it. As he read, he became increasingly skeptical—it seemed to him that in spite of the author’s inflammatory rhetoric, the author’s quotes were weak and he made several logical fallacies. So, Jake decided to google the author….wow!

Subsequent to the publication of the textbook, the essay’s author was stripped of his journalism awards. Turns out the author not only plagiarized, he invented quotes. Then, when the truth came out, he attacked his critics, etc. Jake mentioned this in the conclusion of his paper.

My hope was that this essay assignment was a “trick” from his professor, that the prof used this as an exercise in always being vigilant—just because something is in a textbook doesn’t mean it’s right.

So Jake took the paper to class for peer review. As the students in his group read his paper, they pulled out their phones and googled the author. Jake said, “They started muttering and swearing.”

Then, during the class discussion after peer review, no one from Jake’s group said anything. The other groups talked about how great the article and author were. Jake felt increasingly awkward. Finally, he raised his hand, shared his opinion, and explained what he found out about the author.

When Jake got home, I said, “So was it a set-up by your professor?” Jake said, “I don’t know, Mom. When, I talked about the article and the author, the professor looked surprised—I don’t think she knew.”

Hmm…I wonder how she’s going to grade this paper.

Update: Jake just had a meeting with his professor--she did know all about it. I guess she was just surprised that any of the students caught it. :)

File:Stack of Library Books on Piano.JPG
Image courtesy of Wikimedia


  1. WOW. That is amazing and very interesting. I can't wait to find out his grade!

  2. Hooray for Jake! He's the kid who yelled, "The Emperor has no clothes!"

  3. Hip, hip, hooray for Jacob! He's exactly the kind of student I most admire.

    Although, it is a bit puzzling why the professor would assign that particular essay in the first place if she was already aware of the problems with its writer.

  4. It takes a lot of confidence to go against the whole class! I see why you are so proud.

  5. Interesting, but good catch by Jake! Aren't we blessed to have things like Google at our fingertips?

  6. Your son has the ability to believe he is right (based on research) and that everyone else can be wrong. This can be beneficial in many instances. I hope this is coupled with good social skills, or he may end up feeling alienated after being right too many times.