During the third quarter of each school year, I assign a research project to the eighth graders in my communication arts classes at South Middle School. They are required to write a 1,000 word essay, which this year will center around whichever aspect of the civil rights movement the students choose to examine.
Before the project gets underway, each student is made to understand that plagiarism will bring an automatic zero. It is really not something I feel the need to explain, since my students are intelligent and Joplin R-8 schoolteachers do an excellent job of teaching students why cheating is wrong and what the consequences will be if they try it.
That is why it is such a shame when I discover that plagiarism is being blatantly practiced by some of the people whose decisions in the state legislature make a big difference in my students' lives. I wrote recently about how Rep. Ron Richard, R-Joplin, sent out a capitol report which was almost word for word the one sent out by his legislative leader, Speaker of the House Rod Jetton. At the time, I wrote that I recalled another Joplin legislator had used the same Medicaid report, also claiming authorship. At the time, I could find no evidence in print about which legislator it was, I was relying solely on my memory. I have since uncovered the same column, with Joplin Republican Marilyn Ruestman's byline on it.
Quite frankly, we elect our state legislators because we expect them to be our voices in government. We do not put them in Jefferson City to parrot the voice of Rod Jetton or anyone else.
Apparently, Rep. Richard did not get the word that his plagiarism was out in the open. I have received his most recent Capitol Report, in which the second part of the two-part Medicaid series is featured. Once again, the message is almost word for word the same thing Rep. Jetton wrote in part two of his Medicaid report.
And Rep. Ruestman did exactly the same thing.
This paragraph opens Rep. Jetton's column:
"Last week, I wrote about the past changes to our Medicaid program. I talked about the fast rising, uncontrollable costs and explained that we had over 1 million people on the program. I also critized (sic) those who have made unfounded claims, trying to scare everyone on Medicaid."
Compare that to this paragraph in Rep. Ruestman's column:
"Last week, I wrote about the past changes to our Medicaid program. I talked about the fast-rising, uncontrollable costs and explained that we had over one million people on the program. I also criticized those who have made unfounded claims, trying to scare everyone on Medicaid."
The only changes were the correction on the spelling of criticized plus putting a dash in fast-rising and changing the numeral 1 to the word one.
And now the same paragraph in Rep. Richard's column:
Recently, I wrote about the past changes to our Medicaid program. I talked about the fast-rising, uncontrollable costs and explained that we had over 1 million people on the program. I also criticized those who have made unfounded claims, trying to scare everyone on Medicaid."
The same process is followed through each paragraph of the columns, which I will try to post later today, to allow Turner Report readers to make complete comparisons.
Remember the words in Rep. Ruestman's column, "Last week, I wrote," and the opening words in Rep. Richard's column, "Recently, I wrote."
No, Rep. Ruestman, you did not write anything. You took someone else's work and you claimed it as your own. The same holds true for Rep. Richard. Southwest Missourians should expect more from their elected officials. No offense to Rep. Jetton, but we didn't elect him to represent the Joplin area, we elected Ron Richard and Marilyn Ruestman. If they are fully in favor of the Medicaid reforms, then please let them have the courage...and the decency...to put it in their own words.