Truth

Thinking Critically about Plagiarists

Plagiarism

(Photo Credit: Elllo)

After learning that students are intentionally plagiarizing my piece, “Malcolm X’s ‘The Ballot or the Bullet’: A Summary,” I immediately thought about my intellectual property rights are being violated. This, of course, arms me with the power to pursue legal actions against those guilty of intellectual property infringement (namely, copyright infringement). The work I produce at Revolutionary Paideia is copyright-protected. To use it, therefore, one must give proper credit when quoting and paraphrasing material on the site—as one must do when using any source. When they stole the content, which that’s what plagiarism is—theft, academic theft, a statement about copyright and citing content on the site was present—as it has always been.

Although I have no intention to take legal action against the students, I urge them to engage in more ethical and responsible conduct in the future. Academic dishonesty can cause you to fail an assignment, fail a course, face expulsion and legal actions, and more unfavorable consequences. Let this incidence of plagiarism serve as a true learning experience. Technology has become so sophisticated that it can help teachers to identify the sources you plagiarize. When you plagiarize, therefore, you’re wasting your time: your teachers will discover your academic theft.

Instead of attempting to deceive your teacher, devote your energies to becoming effective writers. Think of yourselves as writers. While no one is expecting you to compose breathtaking prose like James Baldwin and Ta-Nehisi Coates, we do expect you to pen your own ideas in your own voice. When you settle for plagiarism, you settle for being a cheap copy. Don’t be afraid of your own writing and your own voice. The world needs to read and hear your original thoughts; it already has an opportunity to read and hear mine.

In my over 16 years of teaching writing at the middle and high school and undergraduate and graduate levels, I have found that students who plagiarize lack confidence in themselves and their writing. Although those teaching writing, including myself and your instructor, must work harder to assist students in developing into more skilled, more confident writers, this does not excuse you from committing academic fraud. Do you really want to be a fraud? Hopefully not.

Use this period in your academic life to experiment with writing. Write without pressure. Yes, learn the fundamentals of writing, such as the stages of the writing process, grammar, mechanics, and word usage; however, don’t be afraid to complete your assignments honestly. Writing is challenging. Even Nobel Prize Laureate Toni Morrison, author of fictional classics like The Bluest Eye, Sula, and Beloved, posits that attempting to formulate the right language to express one’s thoughts is difficult. If writing is hard for Morrison, then, of course, it’s going to be hard for you.

In Malcolm X’s “The Ballot or the Bullet,” he encourages his audiences, especially his black and other ethnic minority audiences, to resist fear, including the fear of what others will think of you when you do the right and difficult thing. You had an opportunity to complete your assignment without fear but you surrendered to fear. Why? Because you believed your teacher would reject your own responses to X’s speech. If she would have rejected your responses, so what! Brother Malcolm let us know in the speech that you should stand for truth—even in the face of opposition. If you would have received a less than desirable grade, so what! At least you would have submitted your truth. Unfortunately, you submitted a lie.

Minority students, especially black students, are already expected by many white teachers (and professors) to perform poorly and in dishonorable ways. Don’t prove them right. When you use a source like my summary of X’s speech, let it fill in gaps in your knowledge but don’t submit my work or someone’s else work as your own.

By submitting a plagiarized piece to your teacher, you failed Malcolm X, your teacher, your parents, and, most importantly, yourself. You will never experience genuine success being a cheater. When you cheat, you cheat yourself.

To your teacher, I implore you to give your students another opportunity to engage with this work or another work of Malcolm X, and allow them to express themselves freely, offering them an opportunity to gain more experience and confidence employing their own voices. As educators, we need to explore more deeply the factors that lead our students to plagiarize and work tirelessly to eliminate those factors.

Let’s all commit to do better and truly honor the legacy of Malcolm X, a legacy grounded in truth and justice.

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

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Disturb the Phony Peace

Disturb Peace

(Photo Credit: Master File)

To be a free black man, it’s a beautiful thing. When you don’t mind exposing false notions of peace, it’s a beautiful thing. Unfortunately, not enough people truly embrace their liberty—they’d rather maintain their status as docile, milquetoast, sycophants for individuals who enjoy dominating their lives. One of the core reasons why our nation is in such bad shape right now is we’ve failed to engage in bold, frank discourses in many spaces. Why maintain a phony idea of peace? Why not disturb disingenuous ideas about peace?

Just to keep people happy around them, too many folks will allow themselves to grow more and more miserable. When you have authentic disagreements about something or several phenomena with people in various spaces, let your candid views be heard. Don’t allow anyone to silence you; don’t be afraid of anyone. Yes, they will say, “you’re sowing seeds of discord,” “bitter,” “disgruntled,” “wicked,” “unsaved,” “sad,” “depressed,” “angry,” “holding grudges,” and etc. You, however, must not permit their distractions to prevent you from freely expressing your thoughts that have the potential to engender the change needed.

Any organizational leaders contending that their organizations don’t have any divisions in them are promoting lies and communicating a message that intellectual diversity, a diversity of ideas, is not welcomed. Expose this. Disturb this false peace.

Most clear-thinking people love freedom. Why is it, though, that many of those same people are often willing to surrender their freedom for the sake of an artificial peace?

Muster the courage to speak truth; speak truth to power.

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Did Trump Teach You that God is the Supreme Ruler?

Trump Black Church

(Photo Credit: The Washington Post)

With the arrival of President Donald J. Trump, a “newfound” understanding of God as the supreme ruler of all has emerged. What’s most troubling about this, however, is the “novel” recognition is more about expressions of anger, protest, and resistance than it is about the truth of our sovereign God. Being “woke” should begin with the reality that God has been the sole ruler of all long before Trump—even long before George Washington. If you want to oppose, criticize President Trump, that’s more than fine. Please, however, don’t act like God just became the King of all of humanity and phenomena. The Lord’s supremacy should always guide all of our thoughts and actions, regardless of political party or ideological persuasion.

Psalm 82: God the Supreme Ruler

Psalm 82 states, “God presides in the heavenly council; in the assembly of the gods he gives his decision: ‘You must stop judging unjustly; you must no longer be partial to the wicked! Defend the rights of the poor and the orphans; be fair to the needy and the helpless. Rescue them from the power of evil people. ‘How ignorant you are! How stupid! You are completely corrupt, and justice has disappeared from the world. ‘You are gods,’ I said; ‘all of you are children of the Most High.’ But you will die like mortals; your life will end like that of any prince.’ Come, O God, and rule the world; all the nations are yours.”

Justice and Political Action and Discourse in the Era of Trump

Presidents come and go, politicians come and go, kings and queens come and go, but God is eternal. His kingship is eternal and it’s not based on human votes or anything else of the material world: He serves by the divine authority of “the heavenly council; in the assembly of the gods.”

Yes, as Psalm 82 makes clear, we’re to resist injustice and wickedness and champion the rights of the powerless, the voiceless (“the poor and the orphans…the needy and the helpless”). Without a true understanding and commitment to the already eternal supremacy of God, the poor, the vulnerable, the oppressed, the marginalized will never find liberty from “the power of evil people.” If you, therefore, consider President Trump among “the power of evil people,” then a real sincerity toward God must govern your discourse, your approach, your resistance.

In short, God didn’t just show up on the scene when you surrendered your equanimity to the truth that President Donald J. Trump is your legitimate president of the United States—not simply to be called “45,”—but He’s always been the supreme ruler of all, for “all nations are yours,” even before any human was created.

Ground your protesting and resistance in the truth of God’s eternal supremacy, a supremacy that has always existed.

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Pop-Up Sermon: God’s Pulpit Isn’t a Bully Pulpit

 

Black Preacher

(Photo Credit: Christianity Expert)

Before you step into the pulpit, surrender your personal agenda(s), for the pulpit isn’t a space to take spineless, milquetoast shots at folks. Ephesians 4:15 calls us, ministers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to “speak the truth in love”—keywords: “truth” and “love.” Ministries become ineffective when preachers and pastors use their positions as weapons of carnal warfare, ultimately leading to their own undoing (II Corinthians 10:4). Pastors are called to “feed” and not beat, not condemn (Jeremiah 3:15). Unfortunately, in numerous churches across the nation, pastors beat more than they feed, essentially functioning as tools for Satan. If you’re a pastor or preacher who has developed acrimonious relationships with individuals, then work on ameliorating those relationships in private—not from God’s hallowed pulpit.

When bitterness and discord accompany you to the pulpit, they win; the anointing fails to flow. You inevitably begin to see that God cannot employ you in the ways He once was able; you inevitably begin to see that your spiritual gifts—like the gift of healing—do not work for you any longer; you inevitably begin to see that your personal and ministry’s finances dwindle significantly—as does church attendance. Why? Because you’ve “given place” to the Devil and not concentrated solely on Jesus (Ephesians 4:27). Issues, problems and people have taken Jesus’ spot. Why? Because you’ve become self-occupied instead of Christ-occupied.

Again, settle your issues and problems out of the pulpit—in private. For I Thessalonians 4:11 says, “Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before” (New Living Translation).

True Believers, we pray for a day when all pulpits are genuinely reverenced by those who frequent them.

#PopUpSermon

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison               

You Need A Reality Check

Reality Check

(Photo Credit: Globster)

Sometimes you have to give people a reality check.  Reality checks are beneficial for people.  They help to provide people with the necessary understanding of who they are and how they developed into the people they are today.  Too often people get selective amnesia and think that they simply arrived where they are without the help of anyone else.  It’s important to help people to realize they may only be as good as those who helped them to get where they are today.  Unfortunately, individuals can fool themselves into actually believing their own lies. When you live and believe your own lies, you’re delusional, and delusional people need to be placed in a mental facility for treatment.  Are you a delusional person needing to benefit from mental health services because you live and believe your own lies?

Don’t be afraid to check yourself into a mental health facility to receive the mental health treatment you need to overcome psychological problems.

The fundamental reason why people would rather live a lie than the truth is they don’t have the confidence in who they really are to live the truth. They believe the lies they live are going to mask the truth about them, but you can never camouflage the truth about yourself; the majority of folks will recognize the truth about you. When you attempt to hide the truths about yourself, you’re simply wasting time.  All of the time you invest in being phony could be used to make serious advancements toward becoming the person you long to be.

Do you realize that phony people are dangerous?  Why are they dangerous?  They are dangerous because they will inevitably become so frustrated that the only way they can live with themselves is to destroy the people around them.  If you don’t believe this, you haven’t been around people who are truly delusional.  When you have an experience with a really delusional person, he or she will aid you in understanding why he or she (and others like him or her) has the potential to cause you and others great harm.

We need to have greater national discourses in America about mental health.  Our national conversations about mental health, however, cannot overlook the importance of calling people to be themselves.  There must be stronger encouragement for people to welcome and appreciate truth, including truths about themselves.  When people have a better appreciation and embracement of truth, they will begin to love themselves genuinely.  A healthy love of yourself is essential.  You cannot truly love yourself until you embrace everything about yourself, including your ugly truths.

Recognize that your ugly truths are present to let you know that you’re still human and imperfect.  Keep working to improve those things about yourself that displease you.  You must, however, know that there are some things about yourself that you cannot change.  Some things about yourself are simply a part of who you were created to be.

When God created you, He made only one of you.  Be proud to be the person God wonderfully made you to be. He made you special; it’s your job to recognize it and thank Him for it.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Get to the Heart of the Matter

White Couple

(Photo Credit: Daily Mail)

When you desire to have a serious discourse with someone, be sure you’re ready to be transparent with him or her. Beating around the metaphorical bush with the person you’re communicating with can cause him or her to distrust you.  It can appear to him or her that you have something to hide.  If you truly don’t have anything to conceal from the person, then get to the heart of the matter; that is, let the person know what’s truly on your mind.  When you’re having an important conversation with an individual and you’re not as forthcoming as possible, one has to wonder if it’s really a conversation or not; it could just be a performance.

No one wants to feel like he or she is banging his or her head against the wall just to get you to offer a smidgen of candor.  The reality is many people aren’t prepared to engage in frank discourses with others.  One can posit that most relationship problems, including legal separations and divorces, are a result of a failure to have bold communication.  Too many people lack the boldness to have the conversations that need to take place.

People will never really know what’s bothering you if you’re not willing to tell them.  You will discover that it’s liberating to disclose to people how you’re really feeling.

Although it may not be what you want to hear, you reveal yourself to be a coward when you lack the courage to say what needs to be said.  This is why it’s vital to help people to overcome their fears.  By helping more people to overcome their fears, there will be a reduction in the number of people who allow the fear to communicate candidly to hinder or sever their various relationships.

Some people are afraid to have bold conversations because they are fearful of confrontation.  It’s almost impossible to go through life without experiencing confrontation.  Those individuals who aren’t afraid of confrontation and who aren’t afraid to have frank discourses with you are demonstrating maturity.  There will be some who will say they just love drama, but the reality is mature people never leave what needs to be said unsaid.

Being bold about what you say does not mean being intentionally hurtful to others.  You can speak truthfully to people without being abrasive. Just don’t let the potential of someone getting hurt by your words prevent you from saying what needs to be said, however.  Ultimately, the person who receives your candid words will be better off having heard your words.

When a person is honest with you, what he or she says to you may make you angry.  Give the person credit for being truthful.  Respond to the truth in a mature way.  You don’t want people to avoid speaking candidly to you because they know you will react immaturely.  The way we receive truth will unveil important revelations about us, even some revelations we may not be ready to receive.

It’s time to get real with the people around you, and it’s time to get real with yourself.  Have the essential discourses you need to have today.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Truth Should Never Hurt

Truth

(Photo Credit: Match Stic)

We live a world where far too many people do not embrace truth. Many people love to run from truth and make excuses about it.  When you fail to face truth candidly, directly and willingly, you will find yourself living a life saturated with problems. Most of those problems are self-imposed. One of the fundamental reasons why people feel that truth hurts is it does not change. You should not let it hurt you, however. When you present someone with truth, it will not change simply because he or she is your friend or family member; truth is truth—no matter who does not like or agree with it.

If people would invest more time in working to ameliorate the phenomena truth exposes that are wrong in their lives, then they would have a significantly less antagonistic relationship with truth. Instead of getting angry with someone who provided you with a substantive critique full of truth, accept the revelations of truth to place you on a path to experiencing dramatic progress.  Don’t hate truth-tellers—hate the fact that you’re not a lover of truth.

Those who have serious self-esteem problems or low self-esteem are often individuals who have the most challenging time confronting truth. As a means of avoiding truth, they will engender false identities and realities to attempt to palliate the often unsettling realities of truth.

Learn to accept the things you cannot possibly change and work passionately to change those you can. You have to realize complaining each day is not going to enhance your life.

Too many people love to laud themselves as being “real” and champions of truth. When you are an authentic person and lover of truth, you never have to say this yourself―others will do it. Most of the folks I’ve witnessed presenting themselves as “real” and champions of truth are complete phonies. They use multifarious deceptive characterizations of themselves to try to avert attention from the true toxicity of their facades.

Again, truth should never hurt. If you ever feel that truth hurts, then this indicates that you need to change your relation to truth. A misguided and unhealthy relationship with truth can be destructive. You can live a more liberated and victorious life when you allow truth to reign.

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison