There's a scene in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince which finds the saintly professor forcing himself to drink enchanted/poisoned water which sends him mad with terror - and yet he has to continue imbibing until it's all gone, or his quest fails.
This is an exact analogy for marking essays. The first few this morning were fine. Some were good, others less so. Several hours later, I'm ready to sell my grandmother to cannibals if it would end the torment (though actually the alternative is to clean my flat).
I don't mind marking essays where the effort hasn't been rewarded by enlightenment. It's easy to tell how much work has gone into a piece, and effort does deserve recognition. What's soul-destroying is the plagiarism, especially lazy plagiarism. If you copy from the web, at least copy a decent source. I've had a couple today that have cut-and-pasted from a site riddled with factual errors. If you'd written it yourself, you might have done better…
A final thought. If you're only here for the piece of paper, I guess plagiarism is fine. It's an efficient method entirely in keeping with the instrumentalist, individualist and consumerist ethos dominant in Western society. However: learning should be transformative. You should be changed by everything you hear and write. Losing the opportunity to debate rather than listen to lecturers, and plagiarising essays doesn't hurt us (though it is disappointing). Most of all, it robs you of the chance to transform your intellect, your personality, and your future.
It's also a mammoth pain in the arse, trawling the web to track down your sources.
For a wittier and more learned take on plagiarism and intertextuality (though he doesn't se the word), read this essay in yesterday's Observer. In case you don't know the difference, plagiarism is the use of other people's ideas or words without acknowledgement. Intertextuality is the use of said ideas or words with the deliberate intention of touching off associations and memories: the author wants you to know where they came from, to add significance. Eliot's Waste Land uses countless fragmented quotations and references because one of the ideas he's exploring is the loss of a stable and coherent culture (destroyed by war, technology, lefties and so on), from which he pillages the references. You, on the other hand, nicking paragraphs from essays on 'cheatmate.com' isn't a witty and philosophical redefinition of the nature of scholarship, authority and the ownership of ideas…
Technical trouble: how to switch from nPower
3 days ago