Folks may have heard that Orange County School Board Chairman Keith Cook cribbed his commencement speech delivered at Orange County High School last week. This is a serious infraction given the problems with plagiarism among students and the efforts by teachers to prevent it. Cook surely ought to be a role model in such matters.
Perhaps even worse than Cookâ€™s plagiarism is his continuing denial of it. He initially denied it to the Herald reporter. Moments ago, he told the WCHL reporter that it was not plagiarism because he did not know who wrote the speech and that what was important was the content. He might talk to any English or history teacher to find out just how important they would consider the content if a student turned in a speech by Donna Shalala.
Meanwhile, Eleanor Murray embarrassed WCHL by repeatedly agreeing with Cook that it was inadvertent plagiarism. Yet Cook admits to making a web search for â€œgraduation speechesâ€ and making liberal use of the one he found. That is intentional plagiarism even if he did not trouble himself to find out who the author was.
While some may think that Cook should resign over the incident , I believe that would send the wrong message to students. The example should be that, if they mess up, they have the opportunity to correct the matter and improve themselves.
If you agree, what should Cook do?
My own suggestion is that he should attend a writing class or, if available, a public speaking class this summer at the high school. He should be graded like any other student. In the fall, he should appear at a high school assembly to announce his grade and explain what he has learned to the student body.
I do think he should resign as chair.