Irish novelist George A. Moore once wrote:“Taking something from one man and making it worse is plagiarism.”
Please note that this quote, while pithy and brilliant, is not mine. I took special care to cite the author who wrote it, lest some reader of this editorial erroneously assume it was mine. To claim so would be plagiarism, a sin of thought, the theft of an idea.
Our high school students are also instructed to cite their sources. On Page 15 of the student handbook, Sedona Red Rock High School’s Academic Integrity policy reads,
"Cheating or academic dishonesty includes: ..."
"... Stealing or passing off the ideas or words of another as your own."
Sedona Red Rock High School’s Academic Integrity Policy, Page 15
The penalties of plagiarism are severe, according to SRRHS Principal Darrin Karuzas, from dropping a letter grade to removal from class, and sometimes students must retype the whole handbook so they understand the seriousness of plagiarism. In many careers, plagiarism results in termination.
On Jan. 12, Sedona-Oak Creek School District Superintendent David Lykins gave a PowerPoint presentation before dozens of parents and the SOCSD Governing Board. On Slide No. 79 appeared the quote:
"‘The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting to keep the old, but rather on building the new." D. Lykins.
Surely, this wise brilliance is an original sage-like thought by the aforementioned author, “D. Lykins,” a school official who should know the ethical damage caused by egregious sin of plagiarism. After all, earlier in the same presentation, Lykins called for increased “trainings for staff” on Slide No. 25, specifically encouraging teachers on “using a plagiarism checker.”
Yet, that assumption is wrong. A quick Google search reveals Lykins’ alleged original quote comes not from his life experience but instead from “Way of the Peaceful Warrior” a 1980 novel by Dan Millman [on page 130 of the 2000 reprint edition], made into a film in 2006:
"The secret of change is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." Dan Millman from "Way of the Peaceful Warrior," published in 1980
Did it appear in the slide show as a clerical error, a typo by an overworked staffer or a student intern? Surely, Lykins, he who wields disciplinary power to punish student plagiarists, would admit an error, especially when we directly asked about it.
Regretfully, Lykins did not. He instead inexplicably doubled-down on his claim, stating in a text message, “The quote I placed on the [PowerPoint] kind of developed over the years is a compilation of lots of change study and other quotes! [sic] It’s my way of expressing the importance of the future based on our experiences of the past.”
Alas, it did not percolate in Lykins’ mind to leap forth as epiphany, but was instead stolen directly from Millman.
Given this now double deception, how can Lykins possibly be trusted to ever punish a student for plagiarism when he does so with impunity?
How can any teacher enforce this policy when the school’s chief administrator steals ideas, passes off another’s work as his own and violates his district’s own integrity policy?
Given Lykins’ example, is it any wonder that a member of his administrative staff who recently admitted to falsifying public records hasn’t been fired?
To be fair to the few students who have already been penalized this school year for plagiarism in their senior exhibitions, Lykins must apologize to them personally and the student body as a whole. Given the weight of his office and the standards to which he must hold to as superintendent, students, parents and teachers can demand no less than to have Lykins rewrite the whole handbook.
We expect that to prove his integrity, a copy of this amends will be sent home with students and dropped off at our newsroom within a week.
If not, then students, feel free to steal away because integrity has become a joke under Lykins’ leadership.
Christopher Fox Graham
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