Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Paige Patterson on Campus Violence

Last week in a chapel service at SWBTS, seminary president Paige Patterson admonished the male students to be prepared to stand up to, and stop a campus shooter, should such violence ever occur at the seminary. The clip can be found here (4/18).

Yesterday, the seminary released a statement, written by Dr. Patterson expanding his remarks.
Since his original remarks last wednesday, many have criticized the president for "being insensitive" and for a myriad of other charges, most stemming from each pundit's interpretation of his motives.

I will not make apology for his remarks. Dr. Patterson has been called many things, but "sensitive" is not usually one of them. I do, however believe it is important for us not to judge his motives, only God and Dr. Patterson can know those. I will agree, even as a current student of the seminary, that his remarks struck me as quite bizarre. Upon reading the press release, however it appears to me that he does raise a legitimate viewpoint. Dr. Patterson views Christianity as a faith of selflessness and sacrifice, and rightly so for this is what the Bible commands of us. I agree with Dr. Patterson that the values of courage and sacrifice are important and ought to be taught at our seminaries.

How then should our faith work itself out in our lives? Does our faith lead us to attack a gunman in order to save the lives of others? Or does it manifest itself in other ways? I pray that the day never comes when someone with intent to kill enters our churches or seminaries (again), yet if and when that day does come, we should have an idea of just what our faith does call us to do. Are we to show our faith through quiet martyrdom, or are we to actively struggle against one intent on doing harm? Each of us must answer that question for ourselves.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Feeding the Beast

I am consistently amazed at the lengths (and depths) to which the news media will go in pursuit of a story. In recent days we’ve seen several big stories, and great tragedies. While my heart goes out to those families touched by the events at Virginia Tech and NASA’s Johnson Space Center (story) in Houston. I can’t help but notice the ways in which many of our nation’s news outlets have injected themselves into the news.

Sadly, it seems that the news industry is willing to do anything to get “the big story” and that includes making stories happen. Please do not misunderstand me; I’m not advocating conspiracy theories or anything like that. Here’s an example of how the news organizations themselves are in the news. Virginia Tech shooter Cho Seung-Hui sent a package to NBC. This package included video footage of him expressing his viewpoints and murderous intentions. Of course NBC dutifully aired the video. As a result of their choice to do so several families of the victims opted not to appear on the network (story).

Whether they should have done it or not is still a matter that is up for debate. Obviously NBC and other major media outlets believed they had a “journalistic obligation” to air the footage. The question that ought to be asked is, “where should the line be drawn?” How far can the news go before they cease to be informing the people, and start ruining lives?

There are some cases that have been in the news that I thought would ruin my life. The Anna Nicole Smith ordeal, you’ll recall dominated the 24 hour news networks for what seemed an eternity. I watched for a while, hoping that some other news would knock the fight to be her baby’s daddy off the news, but in the end I boycotted the 24-hour news networks for a few weeks.

There are countless stories of how the news organizations themselves have sought to be the story rather than simply reporting the stories. Here’s another example: Don Imus. I seriously doubt that he would have been fired had someone not decided that his gaffe was worthy of “top story” status. Once the pack of ravenous wolves that is the news media jumped on him, he was done for.

Here’s the bottom line – the news media is a ravenous beast that either finds or creates news to feed itself. Professional journalism in America today has become a machine that devours anything remotely tragic or sensational, even to the point of making it so for the sake of the story. In the process the news machine uses, chews up, and spits out those whom it exploits for the sake of getting “the story.”

Would we be better off without 24-hour, up-to-the-second, coverage of the “news?” You decide.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Antiplagiarism Service Sued For Copyright Infringement

Last week, this story was published about a lawsuit against a company that offers an anti-plagiarism service to schools across the country. According to the Washington Post, two high school students from Mclean, Virginia are suing iParadigms, LLC--the California company which offers the Turnitin anti-plagiarism database. Turnitin is a service, “seeks to root out cheaters by comparing student term papers and essays against a database of more than 22 million student papers as well as online sources and electronic archives of journals. In the process, the student papers are added to the database.” And that – the fact that student papers are added to the database – is the heart of the lawsuit.

I have a particular interest in this case because SWBTS (where I am currently a student) uses Turnitin to screen papers and major assignments for most of its classes. According to the story, "Turnitin is used by 6,000 institutions in 90 countries, including Harvard and Georgetown universities, company officials have said."

The suit charges that Turnitin unlawfully adds students' papers to its database without the consent of the authors, and offers no remuneration to the students. These high school students object to the use of their intellectual property (their papers) by a for-profit business without their consent. The lawsuit, filed last week in U.S. District Court in
Alexandria, seeks $900,000 in damages from Turnitin.

Read more about it here.

What do you think? Is it wrong for this service to use student papers in this way without giving them any compensation or even getting their permission? Is the company doing the same thing (using someone else’s work without giving them credit) that its service seeks to prevent?

On a personal note, I believe it is sad that plagiarism is a problem in seminaries. Conversely, I think it borders on the ridiculous that we must be constantly warned (and threatened) about plagiarism to the point where professors are lecturing us on the evils of “unintentional plagiarism.” Plagiarism is bad, but the remedy must never be worse than the cure.