Many universities and high schools use a service called TurnItIn.com which scans the web, and archives of papers, journals, and books in order to determine whether a paper is plagerizing. I like the sentiment: people should certainly do original work and make sure that citations are full and accurate. However, I think this poses a serious problem for intellectual discussion and creativity. Here is the reason: most of the time (since I graduated from college) when I want to float an idea that I had or force myself to articulate my opinion of some scholarship I would write about it and post it on this blog or on Platonic Psychology. Now, taking the summer art history course, I have to be very careful. If I write an analysis something discussed in class and said topic shows up in a paper, it is likely that my phrasing in the paper, by natural impulse, will sound like the previous work I have penned. Beyond this, friends of mine have had long discussions on Facebook about papers they were going to write. It seems absurd to penalize a student for using social media to discuss their academic pursuits. Isn't that the opposite of the goal of education?
I do see the obvious counterargument: most plagerism is plagerism and not students enjoying high-minded discussion on the internet. I also do not have any evidence such a scenario might happen, however, Turn It In is constantly expanding their database so it seems that one of these incidents is in the foreseeable future. In reality, I guess, my complaint is a selfish one: I do not want to live under constant fear that one of my papers is going to sound too much like one of my blogposts and get hauled into see some dean and try to talk my way out of failing a class. I can only hope it never happens.