ELCE, SafeAssign and References: Cogito Ergo Sum

From day one, we’ve had lecturer after lecturer, academic after academic, impress upon us the importance of referencing, and not plagiarising anyone’s works — including our own. We’ve been warned rather sternly that if we were to be caught stealing the works of others, we’d be tortured, quartered, and our still-alive heads be hung on the battlements of this academic castle, so that we could lament our wrong-doing’s to those who will pass through these pearly gates of wisdom.

Surely I jest about being tortured, but perhaps not the battlements bit, at least figuratively. Still, we were warned, and that we were had to submit our assignments via Blackboard™ which has this built-in feature called SafeAssign™. SafeAssign would then run our submissions through this vast network of submitted works; if there was any match made to works past, and if we did not reference them, we’d have committed that cardinal sin of Plagerising. That would be all fine and dandy, but I’m also under the impression that if I didn’t reference anyone’s work, then my work would be considered unacademic, and possible useless, because god-forbid gt;anyone in Singapore be able to come up with something original.

I am perhaps over generalising, but it is a feeling that I cannot shake. Having had to work my way through an overseas education, my time here in NIE is the first time I am actually doing any form of post-secondary education in Singapore. You see, I didn’t go away to study because I had the money, or because I was on any scholarships. I went away because everyone said I was stupid. They said I was lazy and stupid, and my teachers we always asking, “Aiyoh… what is wrong with you Juliaaaaaan? Why are you so lazy and stupid?” But that is a another story for another time. My point here is that I’m utterly shocked that my peers here, for the most part were not “allowed” to think, nor were they allowed to have their own thoughts. How can it be that a student goes to University, and then be told that they absolutely must reference an academic’s published work for the said student’s work to be valid. It is true that perhaps this idea could have been shared somewhere before, but from the student’s perspective, it is truly something he came up with. It’s like something I posted on Twitter™ the other day, and a friend commented that it sound similar to something that the 13th century Sufi-mystic, Rumi said. So did I just pilfer something from Rumi?

It was in fact something that I had said to a young person, as a piece of advice. I was cautioning him against taking the same path as I did, which resulted in many years of pain. So am I still stupid because SafeAssign™ I don’t reference the published work of any academic, or are my ideas original? I’d like to think I am being original, because while I am Singaporean, I certainly do THINK.

— cogito ergo sum, René Descartes