-By Warner Todd Huston
I guess being the president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) means not having to do your own homework. Just ask AFT President Randi Weingarten. Weingarten was caught using verbatim and without attribution the work of a journalist from New York in a speech she gave a week ago.
Usually this is called plagiarism and people get fired for doing it. Apparently, though, the president of a national teachers union… a teachers union… isn’t held to the high standard that others (including students her union members supervise) are held to!
When a journalist, politician or student uses someone else’s words without attribution in a speech or a paper, it’s called plagiarism – and it’s often enough to get a journalist fired, a politician embarrassed or a student kicked out of school. In this NY1 exclusive, Education reporter Lindsey Christ reports on what happens when it’s someone who represents a million-and-a-half teachers.
The stolen words in question were part of a New York Channel 1 news report on the problems with ARIS, the New York Department of Education’s $80 million computer system. NY1 writer Lindsay Christ has a few comparisons between Weingarten’s speech and excerpts of the series of NY1 reports and the similarity is unmistakable. Weingarten seems to be getting away with her plagiarism without any consequences, though. In fact, AFT’s website was quietly changed to add quote marks around the reporter’s words to make it look like president Weingarten was properly quoting her source. All NY1 got was a small footnote that reads: “Much of this information about ARIS comes from a report by NY1’s Lindsey Christ. Quotes from the NY1 report are noted by quotation marks. This attribution was inadvertently omitted from an earlier version.”
When called on her theft by NY1, Weingarten admitted her crime and claimed that someone else wrote it for her and she was unaware that the thing was largely plagiarized. But for quite some time the website was not changed to reflect the facts. Eventually the footnote was added to the site.
The AFT also released a statement on the incident seen below.
“NY1 is right. These facts came from their excellent reporting. It was our intention to amplify the troubling misallocation of resources NY1 exposed, not to claim either NY1’s reporting or the reporter’s words as our own. It was our mistake not to clearly credit NY1 and its reporter Lindsey Christ. And, while we sourced many other materials, we neither sourced nor quoted this and I deeply apologize for that lapse. Educators know better and in the future due diligence we expect from others will be exercised here. This error has been corrected so that NY1 receives proper attribution for its important reporting on this issue that has such pressing educational and economic implications.”