Teaching & Learning

June 18, 2003 5 min read
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History Group to Stop Probes Of Plagiarism Accusations

The American Historical Association has announced plans to abandon a 15-year-old policy of investigating members accused of plagiarism and other professional misconduct.

The confidentiality of the proceedings, association officials said, did little to inform the broader public about ethical issues in the field.

The Washington-based organization, which represents more than 14,000 historians, professors, and high school teachers, will instead embark on a public education campaign to raise awareness of plagiarism and the problems it produces for studying and understanding history.

The effort will include greater distribution of the group’s standards of professional conduct. It will also include the design of curricular resources for students from high school through graduate school that define plagiarism and offer tips for avoiding the misuse of others’ work.

A number of prominent writers and historians— including the best-selling authors Stephen Ambrose and Doris Kearns Goodwin— have been forced in recent years to acknowledge that they used materials from other sources without proper attribution.

The problem has stretched beyond academe and book publishing. Plagiarism has become a greater concern among educators at all levels as students become more adept at finding information on the Internet.

The problem also emerged at The New York Times this spring, after it was learned that a reporter had fabricated the details of some three dozen stories, including use of material lifted from other newspapers.

Partnership Perishes

Two groups that had hoped to offer joint national certification to school counselors have parted ways, leaving counselors who want certification to choose which group to go with—or whether to seek both credentials.

The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and the National Board for Certified Counselors said they were calling it quits after more than a decade’s worth of discussions about how to certify school counselors. Talks broke down last month over who would control a new test. The groups will move forward with separate certification plans using different tests, officials said.

Underlying the disagreements are conflicting views of the nature of school counseling. The teaching-standards board, with headquarters in Arlington, Va., argues that school counselors are first and foremost educators, while the counseling board, based in Greensboro, N.C., views them as counselors in a school setting.

The teaching board is currently accepting applications for school counseling recognition, with the goal of certifying people in the field for the first time next year.

As with the more than 20 types of certification the board now offers, candidates will win approval by passing a test in their content area and successfully compiling portfolios intended to show their professional skills.

The counseling board will continue to give its seal of approval to counselors who present three years of school counseling experience, hold master’s degrees in the field, and pass a test on counseling.

Starting next year, however, candidates will also have to pass a test geared specifically to school counseling. About 1,400 of the nation’s roughly 100,000 school counselors now hold NBCC certification, said Thomas W. Clawson, the group’s executive director.

Officials of the American School Counselor Association, a professional organization, said they were disappointed the discussions had ended.

“Because the school counseling profession has suffered from conflicting philosophies and a lack of consistent identity, [the school counselors’ association] had high hopes that a collaboration between the two [certification] organizations would be an important step in unifying and elevating the profession,” the Alexandria, Va.-based group’s board said in a letter to members.

Burning Book

A columnist for The Des Moines Register said most school adminstrators “will want to burn” Charles Newton and Gretchen Kauffman’s new novel, A Disgrace to the Profession.

The remark prompted the authors to ask in their guide for book clubs: “Why might the book appeal more to teachers than to administrators?”

Why, indeed, when the principal of the school that is chronicled, according to a synopsis on the book’s Web site, “masquerades as a person of integrity” and practices “intimidation” to keep his teachers in line?

And that’s not even mentioning that the authors between them have more than five decades of school experience—and a short history of Up the Down Staircase-style subversion—behind them.

Disgrace to the Profession is available for $13.95, plus $4 for shipping, from

Mr. Newton and Ms. Kauffman taught together at Des Moines’ Lincoln High School, where for a year they put out an “underground” newsletter to expose what they viewed as the puffery and wrongheadedness that seemed to them so characteristic of school officialdom.

After retirement, the two turned their hands to a romance novel set in a fictional Des Moines high school, where the authority- bucking hero, the heroine with the “keen mind and aloof manner,” and their chalk-dusted allies—teachers all—fight the bureaucracy that keeps them from doing their jobs.

A friend of Ms. Kauffman’s loved the manuscript so much she turned publisher to get it out.

Since the three started selling Disgrace almost a year ago, its largely word-of-mouth success has gratified them. They have sold some 5,000 copies, and ordered up a printing of 2,500 more.

They’ve also packed the meeting room at a local retirement community, drawn notice in three big-city newspapers, and written a book-club discussion guide.

Teachers around the country have told the authors that the book portrays their own experience.

“They say, ‘Thanks for telling our story'—the inanities that have crept into public education that rob us of our time,” Mr. Newton reported.

“I think most teachers feel ‘world-class education’ have become words [administrators and policymakers only] blather about.”

Kathleen Kennedy Manzo & Bess Keller


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