Academic Sins

Frank: “They threw me out for plagiarizing.”

Ernest: “You were stealing songs?”

Frank: “No, I was taking notes.”

—from a Frank and Ernest cartoon
(Frank has been expelled from music school)


A graduate student asked if he could take a reading course; sitting at my feet, I thought, talking with the rabbi.  He was in his early 30’s, a little older than I was, and he had taught in a private school for boys for ten years.  It was time for him to take a year or so off and gather his wits about him and learn a little of what a decade of teaching had taught him that he did not know.  We agreed that he would read 15 books—one each week for the semester—and write short reviews that would be the basis of our once-a-week discussions.  It wasn’t long before I looked forward to that conversation more than anything I was teaching that semester: His essays were so good, his disposition so even, his humor so engaging.

We shook hands one Thursday after a particularly good discussion; I was walking back to my desk and spotted a page on the floor.  I picked it up and glanced at it rather casually, and then a two-by-four hit me upside the head.  It was a copy of a short review (from the Times Literary Supplement) of the book we had just been talking...

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