In America, we value democracy and accept a variety of forms of democracy. The American public school board is one such unique democratic system established to 'guide and supervise' the public school district. The school board members are elected by the district citizens to represent them. The election of school board is a form of democracy, a rare kind (not like other elections of political offices) that its campaign finance is never an issue. I can attest to that as a school board member of my local community. I have reported honestly that I have received and spent zero dollars in each of my school board campaign. The school board members or trustees receive no compensation of any kind; the elected school board members perform their duties like volunteers. So in the Piper School District incidence, whatever decision the board made should have been done under the democratic school board guideline, an exercise of true democracy. There was hardly any misuse of power or corruption in the board other than the board was under 'public pressure' to make their decision. I use a quote notation on “public pressure” simply to highlight that this public pressure is by no means representing the majority of the school district voters or stakeholders. A few parents or concerned citizens could be loud enough in a school board meeting or diligent enough to collect a few dozens of petition names to make the elected school board members to bow under pressure. After all, the school board members are often not elected by a real majority since often the school board election receives less than 20% of eligible voters’ votes from the district.
The American public school boards face many issues like the Piper School incidence. So the Town Value or American Value questioned in Ms Pelton's article deserves some thinking. In my opinion with the Piper case in mind, we are not losing American value because the plagiarism is on the rise. Sure there are people who plagiarize. For example, Mary Burke, a Democrat running for governor in Wisconsin faced allegations of plagiarism - her jobs plan copied from other Democratic candidates and Dr. Monica Wehby, a Republican running for the State Senator in Oregon was accused of plagiarism as well – copying her health care and economic plans from various Republican sources. Another example, John Walsh was appointed to the junior Senator for the state of Montana after Senator Max Baucus was appointed the Ambassador to China. Walsh, a Democrat was heading into a tough reelection bid, but then Walsh was accused of plagiarism in his master’s thesis from the Army War College. In the above cases, they all lost their elections. So, even there is a rise of citizen plagiarism, we do have tools to judge the extent and intention involved to catch plagiarism, a sort of anti-plagiarism enforcement as done by Our Bad Media exposing the above cases.
Americans have not lost value in condemning plagiarism. Living under Internet and cell phone environment, using Google search and Wikipedia is not only legitimate but encouraged. The Piper students should be given the benefit of the doubt that they had used the search tools for the right intention. The teacher if suspecting plagiarism was rampant could easily give references to the Internet contents and post questions and assignments to lead the students to do research and thinking work rather than just copy and paste. If the project was over the entire semester, the teacher should bear some responsibility for not communicating with the students/parents leading them to the intended purpose of the project. After all, the ultimate duty of a teacher is to make students learn not to punish them.
However, the town value or American value was not lost on ‘justice’ regarding protection of the teacher's job or duty either. The public support including that of the teacher community and job offers Ms Christine Pelton received was a good indication that American value still included justice. It was utterly unfair for Christine to be pressured to resign; equally unjust even if she voluntarily resigned. The superintendent and the school board obviously had made a mistake in handling this matter ending with such an unfortunate result. Christine's intention was not at fault at all, she might be able to direct the class to avoid an unnecessary confrontation but her dignity and job as a teacher should have been protected by the school board and the school system. From this Piper School incident and many other incidences in our public school systems, I do see a serious Decline in American Value, but not about plagiarism, job discrimination or justice. What is it then?
In thinking about this question, I do believe that we are seeing a decline in American Value. What we are losing is the understanding and respect of true democracy our founding fathers left us, the old American value - the majority's position must be honored in reaching decisions. In our practice of two centuries of democracy, we seem to have shifted gradually and now rapidly from ‘seeking the majority opinion’ to ‘covering up or silencing the majority’ through activism based on self-interest, typically done by a vocal minority. Instead of conscientiously seeking out the true public (majority) opinion, the media spin the activists' views to be politically correct hence masking or covering up the majority view. This is happening in foreign affairs (wars we engaged in), national issues (healthcare, gay marriage, immigration, public debt, religious rights ...) and community issues (such as that faced by the Piper school board). Efforts for seeking true public opinions are silenced and never attempted. The end result is the dysfunction of democracy in our school systems, in our town halls and in our Congress. The political process is directed to win (unfortunately from activists positions) not to explore and follow the real majority wish. Sadly, the American politicians seemed to be taught and brought up to firmly believe in the view that the majority does not know how to vote or they don't vote. Hence the politicians only pay attention to the special interest groups rather than seeking the true majority opinion. Pondering on the Piper School incidence and our national political arena, I feel I can conclude that the serious decline in American Value is in the true value of democracy!