Celebrity gossip is seldom appropriate for classroom discussion—I think we can all agree that a Socratic seminar on Perez Hilton’s top blog posts is probably not relevant to preparing students for their academic and professional careers.
There is one story from last week, however, that you must discuss with your students. Shia LaBeouf, known to most 20-somethings as Louis from Even Stevens and Megan Fox’s Love Interest in Transformers to everyone else, announced on Friday via Twitter that he will be retiring from public life. Why? Plagiarism.
Media coverage on LaBeouf has been mounting in recent weeks after it was discovered that his short film, HowardCantour.com, was heavily plagiarized from cartoonist Daniel Clowes’ comic, “Justin M. Damiano.” LaBeouf directed the piece, which was shown at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, but the accusations did not surface until last month.
He was quick to apologize, but not without seemingly plagiarizing Yahoo! Answers in the process. (Yes, really.)
There are myriad examples of how plagiarism has impacted the reputation of public figures. Let’s not forget when Joe Biden plagiarized a British politician’s speech back in the ’80s, or the more recent allegations against Senator Rand Paul. Last year’s scandal of writer Jonah Lehrer plagiarizing and fabricating a whole bunch of stuff was a prime example of just how serious plagiarism accusations can be in the working world: he resigned from the New Yorker, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt halted production of his book and now must deal with a tarnished reputation for the rest of his life.
But politicians and authors won’t pique students’ interest in learning more about the issue. A 27-year-old actor who starred in blockbuster movies, however, will.
It can be easy for students to focus on LaBeouf’s bizarre tweeting sprees or the fact that he hired a skywriter—twice—to make announcements across L.A. Rather, guide a discussion on how not crediting other people’s work goes well beyond detention or expulsion from school, and can have serious, long-lasting repercussions. Explain how studies show that job seekers want graduates with solid research skills, and that information literacy is a skill that they’ll be using for the rest of their lives.
Whether LaBeouf sticks to his word is anyone’s guess, but seeing as this story is making the rounds from celebrity gossip sites to newspapers, now is a great opportunity to join in on the discussion with students and bolster the importance of proper accreditation.
Emily Gover is the information literacy librarian for EasyBib and ResearchReady. She is struggling to hide from Sherlock spoilers across the Interwebz as she tries to hold out for the PBS premiere next Sunday. #sherlocklives You can find her on Twitter, @Emily_EasyBib, or posting news you can use at the EasyBib Librarians Facebook page.
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