The art of paraphrasing, sharing, using, referring to a source in without committing plagiarism, which is a serious violation, is complex and most important. Often students get into trouble not because they are dishonest but because they do not really know how to walk the walk. For Baha’i students, this is specially critical because, the issue of honesty and “being worthy of the trust of our neighbors”, according to Baha’i Teachings is a spiritual law and most central to building a unified and harmonious world with due respect to every one’s reality which is their thought, according to Abdu’l-baha who says: ” Man’s Reality is his thought”
I have come to realize how my beloved students from the collective cultures of the world have such a hard time with drawing the line between their own thoughts and views and those of the others. They say, ideas belong to the universal thought pool and is like air, we breathe the air that others have breathed out and we all are inspired, effected, informed, intuit by what floats in another mind. The universal mind belongs to all of us. They have a hard time drawing a line in the universal world of thoughts. The lines between what comes to their mind and what enters another is invisible.
Added to this struggle is the mindset of tribal identity. What belongs to me, also belongs to my family and friends. If we consider the who world as our friend, then what is the big deal?!! Aren’t we all one body with many cells?!! They cannot come to terms and understand the concept of plagiarism. To many the boundaries are outside the context of human relationship and familiar social norms of oneness. If we live together in one home, then we share the food in the ice box because we all agree that what goes in the icebox belongs to all!!
Well, in the market value concept of the world, ideas are commodities and they have a personal signature and monetary value for the individual or group who generate the thought. If another person wishes to acknowledge, repeat or share the thoughts and ideas that was inspired to the mind of another, they are required, by the social laws and norms of the majority to give credit to the one who was the first person who published that particular thought.
Story: Many years ago a newly arrived foreign students called me for help in tears with crisis of being expelled from her med school because sitting on an exam she let another student, who was her friend, copy her answer! She was shocked and most distraught, did not know what to do and could not understand the logic. We talked a bit to calm her down and for me to understand what really had happened. So I asked her if she really showed this other student her answer. She said yes. I said, do you mean you sit at an exam to show how much you know and yet you find it ok to share your answer with another student? The answer she gave, really was an illuminating AHA for me as a cross-cultural therapist. She said; I only share my hand with my friends!! We talked about the norms and rules in the Western world where an individual bears the responsibility of what they learn, how they practice, how they perceive as reality, how they feel in response to a situation, what they hope and intend to do about it and finally how they act. People individually are held responsible for their intentions and actions according to the law. That is how as a society we build trust and feel proud to “be worthy of the trust of our neighbor” as instructed by Baha’u’llah.
I have heard people in media using the teachings of the Baha’i Faith talking about oneness of humanity, equality of women and men, independent investigation of truth, harmony of science and religion, etc. without acknowledging the author, the date and the place it was first written. This not only is dishonest but also deprives the public from learning about the vast ocean where these transforming ideas and Teachings have come from and universal Force behind it and the global community associated with it.
As we know, many believers in the the cause of Baha’u’llah have given their lives to speak out His Teachings. I remember many loving Muslim and Jewish friends who remain puzzled why Baha’is do not just say I am not a Baha’i when they get arrested and sentenced to death. They say what is wrong with a verbal denial knowing a Baha’i can go home and then do whatever they believe, living their lives and doing whatever they think is right?!!! The answer is the Baha’i Teachings and the science that supports it. :”Truthfulness is the foundation of all human virtues. Without truthfulness progress and success, in all the worlds of God, are impossible for any soul. When this holy attribute is established in man, all the divine qualities will also be acquired.” (‘Abdu’l-Baha, quoted by Shoghi Effendi, ‘The Advent of Divine Justice’). These divine qualities include; freedom, humanity, integrity, trustworthiness, and true happiness.
In the meantime I understand that majority of my students have a difficult time writing a paper with proper citation not because they argue with the rule but because they do not know how.
The above is one of the best instructional videos I have seen that explains the process very well.
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