On Martin Luther King Day: Another Plagiarist Of Color

[For more on MLK Day, see When Records Are Sealed—A Meditation On Martin Luther King Day]

Not that long ago in internet history, the truth about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s nasty little plagiarism habit was confined to “white supremacist” websites.

For whatever reason, the indisputable fact that MLK ripped off other writers has evolved over the past few years from “evil racist lie” to shrugged-off common knowledge. When I see hip, semi-respectable sites writing matter-of-factly about MLK’s sticky fingers, it gives me hope that other “forbidden” topics will one day make the same journey to acceptability. (HBD, anyone?)

Anyway: what better way to mark Martin Luther King Day than by telling the story of another plagiarizing black “doctor” and lefty role model.

This one’s name is Chris Spence, and in a neat twist, he’s Canadian. That means he won’t get Monday off work—not that it matters now. He was forced to resign from his job as Director of Education at the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) anyhow, after his cut-and-paste career came to light this month.

Born in Britain, of Jamaican heritage, Spence moved to Canada at age three. After an injury ended his stint as a running back for the Canadian Football League’s BC Lions, he went back to school. Eventually, Spence snagged a Doctor of Education degree from one of Toronto’s more notorious hotbeds of leftwing lunacy, the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE.)

He joined the TDSB in 2009, and proceeded to steer the School Board in an even more “progressive” direction—something few would have considered possible.

On Spence’s watch, the Toronto District School Board:

While all this was going on, Chris Spence was busily burnishing his public image as a caring, concerned educator. A backstory that blended athleticism and academics made him the perfect male role model to the city’s “urban” youth, a To Sir With Love for Toronto’s immigration-created Jane-Finch ghetto.

That is, until the first week of this year. After being tipped off by an alert reader, the city’s doctrinaire liberal Toronto Star newspaper was forced to apologize after a January 5 op-ed “by” Chris Spence turned out to contain “substantial unattributed material from several other sources.” [Without school sports, everyone loses, see “Public Editor’s note”]

As tends to happen these days, this instance of plagiarism prompted a far-and-wide investigation of Spence’s other writings. Sure enough, a rival paper uncovered more embarrassing examples. [Toronto school board director Chris Spence may have plagiarized multiple articles, Megan O`Toole and Chris Selley,  January 10, 2013] His supposedly heartfelt post at his personal blog about talking to his son about the Sandy Hook massacre turned out to be some American woman’s personal account, but with the ages and names changed.

The most serious revelation of all: Spence’s 1996 Ed. D. thesis contained numerous passages copied from unattributed sources.

Sound familiar?

As one local education blogger noted, Spence’s cheating in that instance was particularly idiotic: OISE has such “ridiculously low standards that he could have written a 120 word essay about his feelings and still have been awarded an advance degree from them.”

Ironically, as Toronto columnist Barbara Kay pointed out, Spence was fired for doing the same thing countless students get away with every day, thanks to the Toronto District School Board’s own “progressive” pedagogical polices:

Because even if [a teacher] does detect [plagiarism], there’s no payoff — that is, no consequence for the student. Instead of dealing with it summarily as a matter between herself and the student, she must follow a time-consuming, documented protocol, during which parents are notified and all attend a meeting with administration, who may or may not compel the student to attend a ‘plagiarism/academic integrity course.’

But in the end it doesn’t matter, because inevitably the student is allowed to rewrite the assignment with no marking penalty. In truth, because politicians, school boards and administrators are obsessed with elevating graduation rates, and increasingly willing to pass students at any cost, it is correspondingly difficult for disempowered teachers to punish students for anything at all. [There will be no do-overs for Chris Spence, January 16, 2013]

 

These “standards” are in place across Canada. An Edmonton teacher was fired last year for refusing to abide by his school’s “no-zero policy”—that is, for daring to actually fail poorly performing students. (He’s now working in the private sector, where they appreciate him.)

Alas, that teacher didn’t get the same generous separation settlement that Chris Spence has ended up with: what amounts to about $200,000 in unpaid salary plus banked unused sick- and vacation days.

Some of that cash is apparently going into the coffers of a public relations firm: Spence has signed up as a client of Daisy Consulting, run by notorious Liberal Party operative Warren Kinsella (no stranger to controversy himself.)

It’s unclear whether or not it was Daisy’s idea for Spence to help repair his shattered reputation by announcing his intention to enroll in a Ryerson University ethics course. [Spence doesn’t make sense, prof says, Ryerson EyeOpener, January 15, 2013]

The punch line to this sorry saga of Affirmative Action in action: That course’s instructor says “Dr.” Chris Spence, once the city’s great black hope, isn’t qualified to take the class.

Kathy Shaidle (email her) has been blogging since 2000, and runs the site FiveFeetOfFury.