Saturday, November 28th, 2009...10:11 am

Appropriations

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Two front-page articles in a recent edition of the Sunday New York Times (15 November 2009) caught my eye.

Robert Pear’s  “In House Record, Many Spoke With One Voice: The Lobbyists” observes that, “In the official record of the historic House debate on overhauling health care, the speeches of many lawmakers echo with similarities. Often, that was no accident. Statements by more than a dozen lawmakers were ghostwritten, in whole or in part, by Washington lobbyists working for Genentech, one of the world’s largest biotechnology companies. E-mail messages obtained by The New York Times show that the lobbysits drafted one statement for Democrats and another for Republicans.”

Below the fold, Winnie Hu’s “Selling Lesson Plans Online, Teachers Raise Cash and Questions,” discloses that “thousands of teachers are cashing in on a commodity they used to give away, selling lesson plans online for excercises as simple as M&M sorting and as sophisticated as Shakespeare.”

Appropriating the intellectual property of another is probably the second oldest professional practice. It is reassuring to learn that teachers are taking their intellectual property seriously; there would likely be fewer “questions” if the faculty published their intellectual property in a print medium, like a textbook or handbook for teachers. However, whether selling online one lesson plan at a time (like new-media iTunes) or selling one textbook at a time (like old-media Harcourt, the publisher of a textbook that I co-authored in the 1980s), it amounts to the same thing, with teachers realizing a greater margin of profit by taking it on line.

Disconcerting, however, is the notion that our Congressional hirelings lack sufficient curiosity and intelligence (no surprise there) or even lack staff (tomorrow’s cable news pundits) with sufficient curiosity and intelligence to write the representatives’ own speeches.

Welcome to the golden Age of Plagiarism.

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