Fooled Me Once: Doug Wilson and Plagiarism

Fooled Me Once: Doug Wilson and Plagiarism March 26, 2019

You know what’s interesting? Doug Wilson’s Omnibus curriculum, used by many Christian homeschoolers for high school history and literature instruction, is full of plagiarized passages. That’s not the interesting part, because it’s so unsurprising; Wilson has gotten in trouble for plagiarism before; his Southern Slavery As It Was was full of passages lifted from elsewhere. The interesting bit is that people using his curriculum were surprised

In a 2016 thread on The Well Trained Mind, a forum and curriculum provider for homeschooling parents, users commented on a blog post that outlined the extent of plagiarism in Wilson’s Omnibus curriculum. Many of the users expressed surprise at this revelation, some drawing on their past using Wilson’s curriculum.

Here’s a fairly representative example:

That’s too bad. I used Omni 1 and 2 when we first started homeschooling high school. The books were beautiful and easy for a newbie to follow, and my son loved reading the selected books. … It’s disappointing to find such unprofessionalism and blatant disregard of what is right in books that claim to interweave morals and theology with history and GB study.

Here’s the thing: when Omnibus was rolled out in 2005, Wilson had already become embroiled in controversy over his Southern Slavery As It Was, both because it idealized slavery and described the antebellum South as a time of “racial harmony,” and because it was rife with plagiarism, being largely lifted from the works of others.

As the Southern Poverty Law Center reported in 2004:

The two neo-Confederate pastors who were recently at the center of controversy in Idaho over their defense of bondage, Southern Slavery As It Was, are facing a new brouhaha. It turns out that at least 22 passages, some of them quite lengthy, were plagiarized from a 1974 book [Time on the Cross].

Wilson apologized for his “carelessness” and blamed the plagiarism present in Southern Slavery As It Was on his co-author, Steve Wilkins, :

“Steve wrote his section separately from mine, and we both had our different footnotes …. I do not know how these problems crept in …. Even though they occurred in Steve’s section (he wrote the Time on the Cross material), I had the editing responsibility, and did not check the notes and numbering against the book in the final draft.”

When Wilson’s Justice Primer was outed for similar plagiarism in 2015, Wilson did what he had done previously: he blamed his coauthor.

Douglas Wilson released a more-detailed statement on Saturday in response to his publisher pulling a book co-authored by him and Randy Booth because of plagiarism.

“I want to take full responsibility for having my name on the cover of a book containing plagiarized sections, and where the contributions from the authors were undifferentiated,” he wrote, adding that he planned to write letters of apology to the authors whose books were plagiarized in A Justice Primer.

[Wilson’s] Canon Press also released another statement on Saturday, saying the segments of the book written by Wilson were run “through two separate plagiarism detection software programs,” which “found his work to be original and plagiarism-free.”

And yet, in the 2016 Well Trained Mind forum, homeschool parent after homeschool parent evinces surprise that there could possibly be plagiarism in Wilson’s Omnibus curriculum.

I am … horrified.

My boys have done Omnibus I, II, III, and IV (oldest ds) and I and II (second ds).

How would you discuss this with your children?

Several users did push back:

When an outfit (Omnibus) chooses a self-described “neo-confederate”  (Wilson) to write on the Slave Narratives, you know you’ve got a judgement problem.

And:

Wasn’t Wilson already involved in plagiarism? A couple different books with co-authors? I seem to remember in one instance, he forgot to cite rather a lot of text that was basically copied from another book, but…it was not his fault, of course. You know,just that pesky editing process…

Interestingly, Wilson did not blame his co-authors this time. In his response, he argued that clear plagiarism was not in fact plagiarism—and that because Wikipedia is open source, it does not have to be cited. As the blogger who first revealed Wilson’s plagiarism in Omnibus wrote in response, this is not how this works.

This would all be so much more academic and so much less personal if I didn’t know kids who are currently being homeschooled using Omnibus—still. As sad as this sounds, one would think that even those homeschoolers who didn’t care about Wilson’s white supremacism would care about his ongoing plagiarism problem. Apparently not.

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