|Schavan loses PhD and job within three days|
‘The trouble with words is that you never know whose mouths they have been in’, said the wise Dennis Potter. But for Angela Merkel, re-used (i.e. plagiarised) words are becoming a liability. She has a knack of appointing ministers with dodgy PhDs.
Two years ago her ambitious Defence Minister, Karl-Theodor von Guttenberg, was forced to step down when it was mysteriously revealed that he had copied large sections of his 2006 University of Bayreuth dissertation, ‘Constitution and Constitutional Treaty’, from sources to which he had given no credit. Since he lives in a castle, the German press nicknamed him ‘Baron Cut-and-Paste, Zu Copyberg and Zu Googleberg.’
|Baron Cut-and-Paste, Zu Copyberg Zu Googleberg|
Now it is the turn of the Minister of—wait for it—Education, responsible for universities and research funding. Annette Schavan has just resigned after a committee at Düsseldorf University ruled that she be stripped of her PhD qualification since much of her thesis, ‘Character and Conscience,’ was abducted from other sources including a recent Polish dissertation. [The Chair of the special enquiry committee was an eminent Roman Historian named Prof. Dr. Bruno Bleckmann, who presumably knows about how to spot cheats and liars since one of his books is called Fiktion als Geschichte (Fiction as History)].
In Schavan’s case, the plagiarism was outed by an anonymous blogger widely believed to have been politically motivated. Schavan is very unpopular with the Y-chromosome bearers in her own party, who use her unmarried status and fondness for privacy to spread rumours that she is a lesbian. Even her friendship with Merkel has attracted sniggers.
What this means, of course, is the 21st-century way of bringing down political enemies is not to enquire about whether they have ever inhaled or had an affair, but to go through all their student writings. Having been in Higher Education for too many decades, I can confidently predict that many more ripped-off theses slapped together by ambitious politicians await to be exposed.
|'Any good phrases I can abduct?'|
Meanwhile, a word of advice to current undergraduates. Almost all the culprits I have busted for plagiarism over the last two decades have given themselves away by using a long and interesting word or a correct syntactical or grammatical form. If you are going to use words that were formed in other people’s mouths, then you need to rewrite them to sound as if they have come out of the mouth of a modern undergraduate.
For example, in an essay on the play Alcestis, if you want to plagiarise a sentence like ‘Notwithstanding Heracles’ witty characterisation as an inebriate, Euripides’ dark implication that fate is ineluctable shimmers beneath the surface of the text’, you must wreck that accurate placement of the genitive apostrophe. Moreover, you need to take out the long words and write e.g. ‘Although Heracles is drunk, Euripides view is that life is, like, pants.’
This kind of dumbing down takes time and intellectual effort. It is HONESTLY quicker to write your own words. And if you ever want to go into politics, it is certainly less likely to get you sacked.