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Recognized Social Butterfly

APPEARANCE AND REALITY

Appearance and Reality

My wife and I were dazzled by the oceanic rock formations at Two Tower State Park in Cape Elizabeth, Maine: There was a mammoth maze of tiny crevices, deep gashes, elongated whale-bone like slabs, and layered boulders with smooth surfaces and cubistic jagged extensions. But when my wife was resting, I comprehensively scanned the embankment. Whoa! What I and my wife had thought were rocks were actually piles of petrified wood, a bastion against the plummeting waves.

At first glance, how often we all mistake one thing for another. When I was an English major at Tufts University in the early 60’s, I was devastated when I found out that my professorial mentor was a fraud. During all of the courses I took from him, I was astounded by his subtle, brilliant insights, his immaculate perceptions regarding the structure and linguistic intricacies of every era in English poetry. Nothing sounded rehearsed. Everything that he expounded upon seemed to be a spontaneous revelation.

But a week before graduation, another student confided in me that my professor’s uncanny intuition was mere imitation, a rehashing of the expositions of a literary critic (John Crowe Ransom) who my teacher considered to be the infallible authority on the works that we were studying. To authenticate that student’s accusation, I rummaged through some of the works of Ransom. I found innumerable unmistakable examples of my professor plagiarizing that critic’s opinions.

I vowed that when I became an English instructor, I would scrupulously cite all of the literary sources (primary or secondary) that I used in my lectures and class discussion. I upheld this promise during my 30-year teaching career at Craven Community College in New Bern, North Carolina. So I guess I have to thank my deceitful professor at Tufts for making me firmly commit to being honest in the classroom, as I expected my students to be. And as far as I could tell, most of them abided by my standard.

Throughout my tenure at Craven, only two students clearly plagiarized. Their excuse was that they were too busy supporting Eugene McCarthy’s presidential campaign in New Hampshire to do the laborious research needed for their term paper. I flunked them, even though they worked for my idol, the owlish senator from Minnesota, not to be confused with the jackal from Wisconsin, Senator Joseph McCarthy.

 

 

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