The media frenzy over the Harvard teen accused of plagiarism provides a great opportunity to discuss ethics with our own teens. The nineteen-year-old's defense is that she has a photographic memory and that the copying was unconscious and unintentional.
It's wrong to copy passages from another person's book and pass it off as our own work. What about mimicking someone else's style of writing without lifting actual phrases or sentences? Is that plagiarism? How is plagiarism different from quoting and/or paraphrasing something from a book in a paper for school?
If Kaavya is telling the truth and it was unintentional, would that make a difference? And, given that there's a chance that she is telling the truth, shouldn't we err on the side of believing and trusting her? Aren't we called to defend when an accused person is pelted gleefully by others, even as Jesus did with the woman caught red-handed in plagiarism ... er, I mean adultery? In a culture where it's cool to be cynical and think the worst, it seems harder to be labeled naive than to "hope all things."