Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Don't Plagiari Thy Syllabi

Since I am preparing a syllabus for a course I never taught before this article from the Chronicle of Higher Education caught my attention. Apparently there is gray area as to whether or not a syllabus can be plagiarized. I personally do not feel my syllabuses are intellectual or literary contributions to society, and thus do not personally care if someone copied my syllabus, but I think the topic is an interesting nugget of copyright law and would not begrudge someone who would find it distasteful. However, the author of the article (an English professor), does take syllabus plagiarism very seriously and considers the possibility that such a lax view of the the absent intellectual protection as a symptom of something bigger:
To decide that a syllabus is not a made thing, not worthy of protection without regard to market value or aesthetic value, erodes the terrain of the classroom, a terrain with a history of siege. I remember in graduate school being mocked by other doctoral students for caring about the classroom. Most tried to "get out" of teaching through grants and fellowships. The real work, I was meant to understand, lay in scholarship. In a culture where teaching is feminized, I see direct connections between the lack of protection surrounding the materials produced for the classroom and the fact that female faculty members tend to have higher teaching loads than their male counterparts, devote more hours to teaching, spend less time on research and therefore publish less, and dominate the adjunct ranks while lagging behind in the numbers of full professors. My syllabus participates in larger questions in academe about what, and who, is valued.

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