Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Plagiarism in the Pulpit?

The Christian German-language online news portal idea.de has a story about plagiarism in the pulpit. Seems many preachers do a lot of "borrowing" from the Internet. I know my pastor does, I sometimes note down a few good words from his sermon and google where he got this one from.

It seems, though, that there are portals that are expressly made for copying sermons from: Göttinger Predigten, for example. They even now have a weekly Lutheran sermon in English available free of charge.

idea.de goves the theological basis for sermon reuse:
  • Jesus notes in Matthew 10:8: "Freely you have received, freely give." [Note: this is, of course, the basis for the Open Access movement]
  • Irenäus von Lyon (135-202) noted that a preacher is not the owner of his sermon, since God is the Creator.
  • The Heidelberg theologian Rudolf Bohren records in his book on sermons, Predigtlehre: "Since there is no intellectual property in the Church of Jesus Christ, I am free to take from others what I need." He also advises that "an ungifted preacher will work much more and better if he uses a good sermon from someone else than if he fails with a self-written one."
  • The Lutheran pastor for City-Church and Publicity in Esslingen, Peter Schaal-Ahlers deduces from this: Plagiarism from the pulpit contributes to quality assurance within the German Lutheran Church.
I don't think it is a problem to get inspiration from other's sermons, but to copy & preach does seem a bit distasteful. In any case, an interesting defense.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Outsourcing Programming Assignments

My previous post this morning sparked an interesting discussion on outsourcing homework. I started googling around and discovered that I seem to have completely missed these two discussion waves:
So maybe personal interviews or program-while-we-watch is the only way to go?


The ghostwriters seem to be getting more and more brazen - and seem to be earning lots of money.

The plagiarism conference I attended last month in England noted that there was a rising tide of ghostwriting that we needed to be fighting. The only question is: how? It is legal to pay someone to write something. It is just not legal to submit it to a university as your own work. Not only do you not learn what you were supposed to - and that might end up being very costly when you enter your profession - but you cheat.

I just discovered that a magazine that is put out for free at all German universities and colleges, Unicum, takes open advertising for ghostwriters and prints ads for ghostwriting services. I have written to the magazine to ask why they accept such advertising. If I do not get a satisfactory answer, I will request my school to forbid this magazine from distributing to our students.

Of course, that doesn't hurt the ghostwriters. But maybe it gets the ball rolling. What strategies can we come up with to combat the ghostwriters? Perhaps apply to be a ghostwriter ourselves and then hide a "bomb" somewhere in the text, as was done in the case described in 2005 in Inside Higher Education. Any good (legal) ideas?