The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Monday, July 14, 2003  

No, Not Your Father. Listen to Adam Bonin.

It looks like Blair Hornstine isn’t headed to Harvard after all.

Noted Philadelphia attorney Adam Bonin, who is far more sympathetic to Hornstine than I -- blogger TBogg, with his “whiny, completely unlikable” characterization of the had-to-be valedictorian of Moorsetown (N.J.) High School, is closer to my view of the matter -- recently advised Hornstine, via his blog, Throwing Things: “Blair, whatever you do from here, don’t sue Harvard.”

Good advice. Blair, listen to Mr. Bonin.

You know, I thought it was interesting that Hornstine, in a defense of the plagiarism she committed within the pages of the Camden Courier-Post, relied on the Ruth “Protégé of Andrew Sullivan” Shalit Defense, or better yet, what might be called the Ruth Shalit/Ann Coulter Obfuscation:

Hornstine wrote [emphases added]:

[Isaac] Newton’s statement . . . captures the very essence of academia, and it simultaneously highlights an often-overlooked, sometimes invisible [sic], but tremendously significant part of scholarly [sic] research: the footnote.

The importance of properly citing works that have been relied upon to make new conclusions cannot be understated. Proper citations are important. It is essential to give proper credit to those whose findings serve as the foundations for new arguments and achievements. Just as movie credits thank the actors and production crew that [sic] make the creation of the latest Hollywood blockbuster possible, footnotes are a means of recognizing the importance of others in making academic [sic] advances.

Recently, I was advised by the editors of the Courier-Post that I had not properly cited work for articles that I submitted. These voluntary [sic] articles were not written for class assignments. I kept notes on what I had read. When finalizing my thoughts, I, like most every teenager who has use of a computer, cut and pasted my ideas together. [Ed.: Ruth Shalit, please call your office.] I erroneously thought the way I had submitted the articles was appropriate. I now realize that I was mistaken. I was incorrect in also thinking that news articles didn’t require as strict citation scrutiny [sic] as most school assignments because there was no place for footnotes or end notes. [Ed.: Has Hornstine never read a newspaper?] . . .

Footnotes provide not only an outline of the logic of the author, but also a detailed road map to the past. Like bread crumbs [sic] dropped along a path, footnotes and citations allow aspiring academics [Ed.: To say nothing of the general public.] to follow previous scholarship to better enhance our general knowledge.

If Newton’s pronouncement is to remain true, proper citations are essential. If we are to truly augment our general knowledge in any field . . . science, history[,] or literature, to name a few . . . footnoting is necessary. Footnotes are the glue that holds our knowledge together; without them, academic progress would surely be stunted. I hope that [sic] others learn from my unfortunate, unintentional omissions.

Nice try, Blair. But still: Listen to Mr. Bonin, the smart attorney who’s not your father. Don’t sue.

(By the way, do female graduates of Harvard, unlike their male counterparts, continue to receive diplomas from both Harvard and Radcliffe Colleges? And when will someone sue to end this injustice? Doesn’t the awarding of two degrees confer on an unfair advantage on the women graduating from the college? Just asking.)

[Full disclosure (Warning, gratuitous self-flattery ahead!): I was valedictorian of my high school graduating class. When that news was first announced, I was truly shocked. Although I very much wanted to receive the honor, I was certain my rival, Tim H., would beat me to the top spot. I spent considerable time preparing for what I thought was that eventuality. I can’t imagine going to court to secure that place for me and me alone.]

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