Plagarism and Mr. Graham
When I was about 16, my English teacher, Mr. Graham, asked us to write a book report on a
novel called Tess of the D'urbervilles by Thomas Hardy. And I went home, and I started to read
it, and it was so boring. I got to page 9 or 10 and I couldn't read any more. It was killing me, I
mean really putting me to sleep. I closed the book and I noticed on the back cover there was this
great summary of the book.
And I just copied it out and handed it in to Mr. Graham and I was kind of pleased with it. It came
back with an A on it, excellent. And it says at the top of the page "see me" in big red ink. And I go
to see Mr. Graham. And he says, that's plagiarism. Oh my god, I thought, what's plagiarism?
I'd never heard of it. The concept of plagiarism was alien to me, so Mr. Graham explained it to me.
I just thought it was a very strange concept, because people repeat what other people say all the
time. I was just repeating what someone else had said. It just seemed like a very intelligent thing
to repeat. I told Mr. Graham that I thought I was saving us all a lot of trouble.
I just thought it will save him the trouble of reading something really awful. And I wouldn't have to
write a boring book report, or even read the boring book. I was doing both of us a favor. And it
seemed kind of counterintuitive to have to generate a thing, y'know re-do something that had already
been done.
Mr. Graham didn't agree and said he was going to punish me. I couldn't see the logic in that. I mean,
I understood I was supposed to feel it's wrong. But I didn't, not at all.
So my punishment from my English teacher was to write 100 times a phrase that Mr. Graham had
written on the blackboard, "I will not plagiarize the work of others".
So, the punishment is to plagiarize, 100 times, over and over and over. And I didn't understand the
point of this. Because I thought, well this is just plagiarizing again. Why am I doing this? Do you just
want to show me that it's supposed to be hard work to plagiarize? I just didn't get it!

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