A Thank You to Kids Lit
Children's Literacy Round-Up: May 5

News Stories Hit Close to Home

Three current news stories, all with some book-related tie-in, strike particularly close to home for me.

First, there was the Duke lacrosse scandal. I did my undergraduate degree at Duke. I had a wonderful experience there, and maintain a strong loyalty towards the school. I have been reluctantly following the current story. I was intrigued to read recently (in this Examiner article, for example) of parallels between the current incident and the 2004 Tom Wolfe novel I Am Charlotte Simmons. I doubt that Mr. Wolfe is clairvoyant, but he did write about the lacrosse culture at his fictional Gothic university, which many have thought to resemble Duke. Wolfe's daughter also attended Duke, heightening the speculation. However, at the recent NC Festival of the Book, Wolfe stated publicly that "Charlotte Simmons" was NOT based on Duke. According to Wikipedia, Wolfe actually did research for the novel by talking with students at Stanford University (where I have another connection - Mheir did his surgical residency there), as well as several other schools.

There's an interesting discussion of the Charlotte Simmons connection on the TrueTalk Blog. I tend to agree with Tom Guarriello that "Duke's lacrosse culture reaped what it sowed." That is, if you put athletes up on pedestals and tell them that they can have anything that they want, it's not earth-shakingly surprising when what they want goes too far. Sad and horrifying, but not surprising.

(On a happier note, the 2006 NC Festival of the Book was recently held at Duke, and in surrounding areas. There's a detailed story about it by James Bailey in The Independent Weekly. I'm sorry that I wasn't able to attend.)

The other two recent incidents have to do with my hometown. I grew up in Lexington, Massachusetts, home of the first battle in the Revolutionary War. "The shot heard round the world" was fired in Lexington (you can check out the Wikipedia entry about it here). Lexington recently celebrated the annual Patriot's Day holiday, which I remember fondly from my childhood. I rarely got up for the battle re-enactment at dawn, but I loved the Pancake Breakfast, and the parade.

Sadly, Lexington has been in the news lately because of the King & King controversy, in which parents are suing the school district because a teacher at Estabrook School read the book (about two princes who fall in love) to second graders. I have been impressed with the Superintendent of Schools, Paul Ash, for standing up for the teacher in question. You can find a current Boston Globe story here.

The other Lexington-related story, and this is a tiny bit of a stretch, concerns the recent plagiarism of Raytheon CEO William Swanson. The story is Lexington-related because, until recently, the Raytheon corporate headquarters was located in Lexington (it has since been moved to the adjacent town of Waltham). Apparently Mr. Swanson distributed a booklet to hundreds of thousands of people called "Swanson's Unwritten Rules of Management", consisting of a series of 33 aphorisms. It turns out that at least 16 of the 33 aphorisms were copied from a 1944 book written by California engineering professor W. J. King. Swanson has acknowledged that the King's work was "not properly credited." You can read the Boston Globe story about the incident here. According to the May 3rd Boston Herald, "Raytheon Co.’s overseers today froze Chief Executive William Swanson’s salary and cut his stock perks to register the board of directors’ “deep concern” over his cribbing material from other sources for his own management booklet."

Does it seem like plagiarism is everywhere these days? I will say that on the blog sites that I visit, people seem to be painstakingly careful to reference (complete with links) anything that they write that comes from somewhere else. Guess the corporate world just isn't up to the same standards as the blogosphere. Sigh!

At least I haven't heard of any book-related scandals associated with The University of Texas at Austin, or The University of Massachusetts at Amherst, my other two alma maters.