mabfan (Michael A. Burstein) (mabfan) wrote,
mabfan (Michael A. Burstein)
mabfan

The Real Plagiarism Scandal

In the midst of all this talk about Kaavya Viswanathan, David Leonhardt over at the New York Times has pointed out that the real significant plagiarism scandal has fallen under everyone's radar.

In today's article, Rule No. 35: Reread Rule on Integrity, Leonhardt reminds everyone about William J. Swanson, the chief executive of Raytheon. For many years, Swanson has given away a book titled "Swanson's Unwritten Rules of Management," a list of "common-sense maxims" about doing well and doing right in the business world. But last month, engineer Carl Durrenberger discovered that about half of the maxims were lifted almost verbatim from a 1944 work by W. J. King titled "The Unwritten Laws of Engineering." Durrenberger blogged about this on April 20th, and the response from corporate America has been almost nil. Swanson has shrugged it off, and Raytheon is essentially standing behind him.

No matter what else we may say about Viswanathan, the fact is that she is a 19-year-old college sophomore. In our society, we tend to expect that younger people will make mistakes and then learn from then. I imagine that Viswanathan has learned some valuable lessons for the future, and I wouldn't be surprised if her experience leads her to become a better person for it.

But where's the outcry about Swanson? As Leonhardt points out, this man runs an 80,000-employee company and is supposed to be a leader. And a 57-year-old should presumably have better judgment than a 19-year-old. Shouldn't he admit his mistake and take steps to see that credit goes where credit is due?

At the very least, it does seem unfair that Viswanathan is undergoing such a public pillorying at the same time that Swanson's plagiarism is essentially being ignored.
Tags: copyright, writing
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