Homeschooler Says He Didn’t Learn about Plagiarism

Homeschooler Says He Didn’t Learn about Plagiarism October 4, 2012

Interesting story in this morning’s StarTribune. Matt Rustad, a school board member in St. Francis, Minnesota, submitted a column about paperless classrooms to the school district’s monthly newsletter, The Courier. Problem was, the column wasn’t written by him. Instead, he found it in the comment section of a 2010 blog post, copied it, changed a couple phrases, and submitted it.

Matt Rustad

That act in itself isn’t so surprising. People are busted all the time for copying stuff from websites, paying for pre-written term papers, and the like. What is surprising is how Rustad explained his actions:

Rustad said in an interview Wednesday that he had spent little time in traditional schools, and that in home school he hadn’t learned much about plagiarism.

He said he didn’t view what he did as plagiarism, but that he had hoped readers would know whose work it was by a quote at the end of the column. The quote was from the original author, though readers might believe it was from an interview, not lifted from a blog comment. “I see how it would be viewed as that,” he said. “It was ignorance. It was a mistake.”

If I write about this craziness as implicating all homeschoolers, I’ll get accused of painting with too broad a brush, as I did in my other posts on homeschooling. But here’s what became clear in all of the comments and opposing blog posts about homeschooling:

– When I write against homeschooling, I use general and societal arguments.

– When my opponents defend homeschooling, they use individual, personal anecdotes.

So, for example, I say, “Homeschooling is bad for society because it weakens public education, and we’ve decided that public education is one of our most important societal institutions. Every family that is Christian and committed to faithful citizenship should keep their kids in public schools.”

Then they say, “You don’t know what’s best for my family.” “My kids are different.” “My kids deserve a better education than the public school offers.” “I was homeschooled, and I turned out fine.”

But, you see, I’m not talking about you or your kids, and I’m not talking about me or my kids. I’m talking about meta-issues here.

Anyway, if you want to argue personal anecdote versus personal anecdote, I submit to you the case of one Mr. Matt Rustad, for your consideration.

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