A book report, the students were asked to write, in order to pass my mother's Philippine Literature class. They were to choose between two novels - Bata, Bata Paano Ka Ginawa, penned by Lualhati Bautista, or Luha ng Buwaya by Amado V. Hernandez.
Both works were written at a time when the country was experiencing a social upheaval. Set before and during Martial Law, one speaks about changing gender roles and Feminist ideals. The other, a Leftist manifesto praising the qualities of a Maoist's utopia.
The students were expected to read the book, and write what they thought of the stories. Their papers will be graded according to how they scratch the surface, and spin their own thoughts. In this exercise, description of characters bear no points, and dicing of the narrative to bite-sized paragraphs count little. The latter is drawn from the student's tendency to copy the summary from other digital sources.
This is how book reports have been written, as far as the untaught rule book goes. And since my mom had asked me to grade the papers for her to beat the deadline of the grades submission, she gave me the liberty to do as I please and apply my own standards.
However, I am limited by the fact that I have not read the two novels. Both works are divided into tens of chapters, and there is no way I could finish reading even one in two days. There were close to fifty students, whose papers average three pages. My mom assured me that I could figure the plot just by reading a handful of students' works, a claim I refute, since the idea i'd get will be inadequate. Given that I already committed my time, and there are resources on the Internet I could use as guide, the first thing I did was to look for a summary of every chapter of the novels, and from there, condense my own opinion.
To my astonishment, very few resources exist on the web, and if I was able to find one - in the case of Bata, Bata, Paano ka Ginawa, the summary was written on a long dead website, cached to be accessed only by those who sift through the un-crawled links on Wikipedia. With Luha ng Buhaya, I wasn't able to find any. In the end, I resigned to reading a superior study, from someone who made the novel her dissertation. To supplement my knowledge, I read a chapter lifted from the book itself.
To expose myself and get familiarized with Amado Hernandez' writing style should there be any, among my mom's students whose well-thought work touch on the subject.
But this is not how the checking of the book reports turned out to be.
I was set to read the pages, word for word, in hopes of finding a grain of wisdom from the students' body of work. These are freshmen kids from the College of Engineering, the cream of the crop of a state university I used to belong. But my enthusiasm turned to dismay as I soon discovered that the kids plagiarized not only the summary part of the book review, but every word they put on paper.
And it was easy to spot the idiocy.
I put on Google search field a sentence sampled from a students' submitted paper. From there, the deception is revealed. The process is repeated again and again, and the copy-pasted habit reared its ugly head. The contents were copied from the blogs. Other portions, from Scribd and Wattpad. The cause of my alarm - no - what drove me to muted rage was the fact that even the supposed to be insightful parts of the work was lifted from someone's web portal. It's like stealing the mind of the blog author, when a student can easily form his own thoughts on the subject.
I was tempted to give a failing grade that had I not nudged myself that it was my mom's students and not mine, half of the class might have to repeat the subject. I also tried to make light of their action since these are Engineering students. Not men and women of letters:
"Maybe they were not instructed on how to write a book review in high school," I thought.
"Maybe because they paid more attention to the really difficult subjects like Advanced Calculus. And that, Philippine Literature is just a mere sideshow for them."
"Perhaps my mother disclosed that she doesn't know how to use the computer, and that the students thought they could get away by grazing what they could find on the Internet."
"Antatanga talaga amputa." I thought, while writing in big and readable numerals the grades of the students.
To be fair, I used to lift entire passages from books at the library during my days in the academe. But the time spent looking for several sources and reading them merit a respectable grade for the effort. Besides, it was difficult to prove then, that a work has been plagiarized. I also cite my sources. Unlike today, when safeguards exist to dissuade kids from performing such acts, some continue to steal ideas believing they could get away with it.
Apparently, they paid little attention when my mom warned she would find out if her students copied from the internet.
But then, how would she know if I didn't step forward to serve as her dedicated eyes?
She would have been duped.
Of the 43 students who submitted their book report, I was only able to give a flat one (95%) to only one. A girl, I had to search the web to make sure her prolific work fits her character. Less then 10 got a grade of 85% and the rest, the "Iskolar ng Bayan" their parents lauded; the very reason lawmakers like Tito Sotto get away when they copy and paste from sources other than their own got a mere passing grade.
A token of appreciation for complying with the requirement.