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Blog about plagiarism in Douglas Wilson's Omnibus


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I haven't been active in these forums for some time, but my mother sent me this link and I thought I should relay it: 

 

https://adaughterofthereformation.wordpress.com/2016/05/05/plagiarism-wilson-and-the-omnibus/

 

It is a truly fascinating, though not exhaustive, look at the rampant plagiarism in the Omnibus project. Some of the incidents cited are "simple" cases of failure to attribute translations, etc, while others involve actual copying from Wikipedia. (!)

 

I no longer attend the church where many homeschooling families used these texts, but I would be very interested to hear what those who are currently using them (or have previously used them) make of this.

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:scared:

 

Yes, that's plagiarism.

 

Oh my, the instance where they lifted text from wikipedia, and then in the endnote gave the Wikipedia endnote. No, you can't do that. No. Just no.

 

:thumbdown:

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That's too bad. I used Omni 1 and 2 when we first started homeschooling high school. The books were beautiful and easy for a newbie to follow, and my son loved reading the selected books. We seriously tweaked each volume, leaving out all the secondary books in the first and adding more, and leaving out the writing assignments in both, but ds got a wonderful education in that area.

 

It's disappointing to find such unprofessionalism and blatant disregard of what is right in books that claim to interweave morals and theology with history and GB study.

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Wikipedia has many authors, and its material is often either wrong or lifted from other works.  It is possible that someone copied the Omnibus material onto the site. 

 

That said, 100 instances of plagiarism is no small amount.  How disappointing.

 

 

 

Edited by Plink
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Wikipedia has many authors, and its material is often either wrong or lifted from other works.  It is possible that someone copied the Omnibus material onto the site. 

 

That said, 100 instances of plagiarism is no small amount.  How disappointing.

I would love to think the Wikipedia copying goes the other way, but really...what homeschool mom would sit around doing that. I mean, Omnibus types can be on WTM boards, we don't need to run around to Wikipedia sites on historical topics and type in Omnibus material for fun.

 

A friend owns Omnibus and pulled it out the other day. It was tempting as it looks so much more open-and-go than Tapesty (which I know is not without its flaws), but then I saw Wilson's name all over it and just handed it back over to her. Had no idea it is also very likely full of copy and paste. :(

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I can understand how a lot of these examples given could happen accidentally, though.  (Not all, obviously).  It is easy to plagiarize when you are stating a lot of facts or writing a simple narrative, especially when the narrative uses simple vocabulary and is chronological.  You almost have to reinvent the wheel to keep from doing it.  Facts are facts and a simple retelling of a story makes it harder to be original.  You will find exact matches in other literature somewhere.  I also think some of these can be attributed to sloppy editing when you cite page numbers and lines without the actual sources.  It should really be automatic to cite the sources.

 

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I am ... horrified.

 

I have been a fan of Rachel Miller (the blog author) for a few years now. I was distressed a few days ago with her anti- Classical Christian education post, but consoled myself that her specific critiques didn't apply to our homeschool. My distress skyrocketed with her subsequent post critiquing the Omnibus program specifically. Today's post was devastating. 

 

My boys have done Omnibus I, II, III, and IV (oldest ds) and I and II (second ds).

 

How would you discuss this with your children?

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Wasn't Wilson already involved in plagiarism? A couple different books with co-authors? I seem to remember in one instance, he forgot to cite rather a lot of text that was basically copied from another book, but...it was not his fault, of course. You know,just that pesky editing process...

 

Then didn't he later blast Mark Driscoll? about his plagiarism issues?

 

Oh, the irony.

 

 

Georgia

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Wasn't Wilson already involved in plagiarism? A couple different books with co-authors? I seem to remember in one instance, he forgot to cite rather a lot of text that was basically copied from another book, but...it was not his fault, of course. You know,just that pesky editing process...

 

Then didn't he later blast Mark Driscoll? about his plagiarism issues?

 

Oh, the irony.

 

 

Georgia

 

Yep.

 

Yep.

 

And, yep.

 

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It would be easy to go from Omnibus to Wikipedia. Any scanned copy could be copy and pasted. If it sounded good, it would be left in Wikipedia.

I don't know if that happened in this case

I seriously doubt that's what happened.

 

Also, iirc, every wiki has a record of all edits, additions, etc. It would be pretty easy to look and see if the same person copied all the content to wikipedia, rather than the other way around. If that WAS the case, someone would certainly have noticed by now.

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Does anyone think there will be repercussions or fallout from this? Surely Veritas Press will have to respond in some way.

 

Maybe they haven't even seen it yet. I linked to the blog post on their FB page and asked them to comment. 

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And they asked you to PM. Did you?

 

I just got home from breakfast, off to do it now.

 

ETA: Just heard back from them. Here's their response:

 

"Hello! Thank you for your question. We are aware of the article that you linked to, and are investigating this very seriously. There were lots of writers involved with Omnibus, so we are doing lots of research on our end."

Edited by Mergath
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They messaged again and said they're "working on a more detailed reply to everyone who inquired." Hopefully this is a public statement that will make everyone aware if they do find that there was plagiarism, as they seem to have deleted my original post off their FB page (I'm guessing so no one else sees it).  

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Wikipedia has many authors, and its material is often either wrong or lifted from other works.  It is possible that someone copied the Omnibus material onto the site. 

 

That said, 100 instances of plagiarism is no small amount.  How disappointing.

 

Actually, studies generally show that Wikipedia is about as accurate as traditional encyclopedias. I have not been able to find any source with information on how frequently articles in Wikipedia contain copied content. Do you have a citation for that?

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"Second, even assuming a problem in the production of the textbook, with open source material it would be more a problem with terms of use, and not copyright."  --Doug Wilson

 

I completely disagree with this statement, and am horrified that someone who purports to be a historian would say such a thing.  

Here's the thing.  Omnibus is a HISTORY text.  Quality sources are a critical part of the academic content.  The questions "How do we know this?", and "From what perspective was this written?", and "What are the underlying assumptions  that go along with this conclusion?" and "In general, how accurate and reliable is this work?" are a key part of understanding and critically evaluating any history source.  Readers, not always the students themselves but most definitely the teachers who assign such works, need to know whether the material comes from primary sources, or from the work of well-regarded historians, or from some other source.  If, later on, a particular source is deemed to be misleading, misinterpreted, mistranslated, otherwise unreliable, or flat-out wrong, a citation trail can help readers weed out the inaccurate information that was based upon it.

 

My family did a study of Shakespeare some years ago.  We found some college lecture notes on the web (which, sadly, no longer exist - they were wonderful!), in which the teacher clearly explained how we know what we know about Shakespeare's life.  The teacher included the specific excerpts from works written at the time (mostly Samuel Pepys' diary), as well as information such as birth records, etc.   Armed with the specific knowledge of the very limited information available, it was interesting to then evaluate the non-fiction children's books we got from our library.  Some were very, very careful to stick closely to the primary sources, without embellishment or over-broad speculation.  Others, to be frank, simply made stuff up.  Since then, I've been much more aware of the difference, and much more appreciative of carefully, accurately written history books aimed at children.  I now choose such books with a much more critical eye.

 

History texts that rely on Wikipedia for their content are simply not up to modern-day standards of accuracy and reliability. 

Edited by justasque
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Dude.  If they're worried about their integrity being on the line, their response to you was wack. 

 

Given the large number of instances of (alleged) plagiarism, I'm surprised they haven't removed it from their store until they've had time to research it more thoroughly. It's like they're saying, "We're very concerned about this. But not concerned enough to stop profiting from it."

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Given the large number of instances of (alleged) plagiarism, I'm surprised they haven't removed it from their store until they've had time to research it more thoroughly. It's like they're saying, "We're very concerned about this. But not concerned enough to stop profiting from it."

 

Exactly.  I saw your post last night, Mergath, and their response that they'll PM you.  If they had just made a statement of acknowledgement on their page that this was out there, and they were looking into it, it would not look nearly as bad on their part.

 

It's a vague icky feeling. I'm not sure I'd feel comfortable, no matter the outcome, of buying from them if they do not handle this correctly.

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It would not be hard to go from Omnibus to Wikipedia. A big chunk of Omnibus was on Google Books when I looked a few years ago.

 

Miller addresses this in her latest post:

 

 

 

Wilson’s 3rd point:

Let me take these one by one. First, of the almost 70 original sources cited in my post, fewer than 20 of them are from Wikipedia or other “open source†sites. When I cited Wikipedia as the source, I was careful to use the Internet Archive: Wayback Machine to verify that the Wikipedia information existed before the publication of each Omnibus volume. You can click on any of the Wikipedia links to take you to the archived page from a particular date that is older than the Omnibus publication date. So, unless time travel is an option, the Wikipedia sources predate the Omnibus volumes.

 

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Are there other curricula, outside of Omnibus via VP, that Doug Wilson has any part of?

 

Introductory Logic and Intermediate Logic (Canon Press), ​recommended in the 1st and 2nd editions of WTM but replaced by Traditional Logic (Memoria Press) in the 3rd edition, are co-authored by him. In Appendix 5 of WTM, 3rd ed., the authors explained that they made the switch because Traditional Logic is easier to teach in a homeschool setting, and I couldn't agree more. Besides that, I felt that many of the examples in the 4th edition of ​Introductory Logic didn't make sense. (i.e. They seemed illogical, which is particularly egregious in a logic text  :glare:.) Perhaps they were modified in the more recent edition.

Edited by Jane Elliot
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I'm just wondering: Does something like this affect anyone's decision to use a curriculum? I mean, if you were set on using it next fall, would you still use it, or would this be a deal breaker?

Yes.  When I buy a book to use with my kid, I'm delegating the work of gathering materials to an author.  I don't knowingly delegate the instruction of my child to unreliable people!  Yuck.

 

VP had better do a good job on this.

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To answer my own question: I bought and sold two volumes of Omnibus without using them. I had several reasons for rejecting it. The uneven writing quality concerned me. For instance, compare Nancy Wilson's essay on ​Pilgrim's Progress​ with the essay on the same work in ​Invitation to the Classics.

​​eta: I'm not finished. My computer is acting up and posted without my permission. :-) I will continue below.

Edited by Jane Elliot
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Continued: So besides the uneven writing quality, one thing that concerned me when I previewed ​Omnibus was that it handed everything to the child pre-digested. I've preferred the methods described in WTM's chapter "Great Books: History and Reading" where the student does the work of researching background information on a work and an author before reading. This is a valuable learning experience for them. I've told my kids to avoid using sites like Wikipedia and Spark Notes when doing their research and to write things in their own words. Finding out that the writers of Omnibus didn't even hold themselves to those bare minimum standards seems totally ironic to me. So, yes, this would have been a deal breaker for me, even if it was the only issue I had with the books (which, as I stated before, it's not) and even if I had already purchased it. 

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I'm just wondering: Does something like this affect anyone's decision to use a curriculum? I mean, if you were set on using it next fall, would you still use it, or would this be a deal breaker?

 

This would be a deal breaker.  In fact, it may even color my decision to purchase any of their products or through their company, because when faced with the challenge they've gone radio silent.  That tells me customer service is not a priority and their customers are not respected.  They have said NOTHING addressing the scandal in the past 4 days. 

 

So at first my thought was "ugh.  I'd really rather not use this unless it's re-released after being properly vetted. Who knows what else is wrong with it?"

Now it morphs to "really?  I mean, not even a statement saying they're looking into it?  Just nothing?  Oh, but they can answer questions from people who are looking to buy Omnibus as it is.  Thanks, but that was the nail.  We're done."

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So, I considered Omnibus but ultimately studied it carefully and did not like it or use it.

 

And I despise D. Wilson with a fire of 10,000 suns.  

 

Having said that, I wonder whether more typical history and literature textbooks are studied and critiqued in this fashion, and if they were, how that would play out.  They are all syntheses of other works and general public information, big time.  Unattributed direct quotes are much easier to find now--DD's high school routinely ran all papers through software that tested for this.  I wonder whether that is done for public school textbooks or not.

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This would be a deal breaker.  In fact, it may even color my decision to purchase any of their products or through their company, because when faced with the challenge they've gone radio silent.  That tells me customer service is not a priority and their customers are not respected.  They have said NOTHING addressing the scandal in the past 4 days. 

 

So at first my thought was "ugh.  I'd really rather not use this unless it's re-released after being properly vetted. Who knows what else is wrong with it?"

Now it morphs to "really?  I mean, not even a statement saying they're looking into it?  Just nothing?  Oh, but they can answer questions from people who are looking to buy Omnibus as it is.  Thanks, but that was the nail.  We're done."

I have an honest question, not meant to provoke or to support any party ... What is your expectation for a timeline?  How fast would you expect them to "check into it"?   Did you personally interact with their customer service & get an unacceptable turnaround time?

 

This is a serious charge, and I wouldn't want a company to make false accusation or have a kneejerk reaction one way or the other.  4 days of radio silence (if we are sure no response has been made to original inquiry), does seem to be entering on the long side of response time, IMO, but I'd probably still give them the benefit of the doubt that they are dealing with it properly.   I'd try to think the best of people ... while tapping my toes impatiently.  ;)

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I have an honest question, not meant to provoke or to support any party ... What is your expectation for a timeline?  How fast would you expect them to "check into it"?   Did you personally interact with their customer service & get an unacceptable turnaround time?

 

This is a serious charge, and I wouldn't want a company to make false accusation or have a kneejerk reaction one way or the other.  4 days of radio silence (if we are sure no response has been made to original inquiry), does seem to be entering on the long side of response time, IMO, but I'd probably still give them the benefit of the doubt that they are dealing with it properly.   I'd try to think the best of people ... while tapping my toes impatiently.   ;)

 

I've been following their page.  It should have been acknowledged on the 6th, certainly after they non-answered Mergath and deleted her question.  I'm not even asking for the results of a full inquiry, but a statement to the effect of "We are aware of the allegations of plageiarism being made of our Omnibus curriculum.  Our staff is currently reviewing the books and will be posting our findings as soon as possible.  Please bear with us while we take the time to give our full attention to this review."

 

I *might* have thought they hadn't seen it.  I *might* have thought they were addressing it.  BUT, their current actions are speaking otherwise.

 

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I'm just wondering: Does something like this affect anyone's decision to use a curriculum? I mean, if you were set on using it next fall, would you still use it, or would this be a deal breaker?

 

For me, it did.

 

We had already made the decision for oldest ds to do something other than Omnibus 5 next year (after having completed Omni, 1, 2, 3, and 4) a few months back, but we took our plans of having second ds do Omnibus 3 (after having completed Omni 1 and 2) off the table this week.

 

I am sad and shocked about the whole thing. Rachel had a follow-up blog post yesterday where she demonstrated plagiarism in each of the six volumes of Omnibus & none of the examples are from open sources. 

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For me, it did.

 

We had already made the decision for oldest ds to do something other than Omnibus 5 next year (after having completed Omni, 1, 2, 3, and 4) a few months back, but we took our plans of having second ds do Omnibus 3 (after having completed Omni 1 and 2) off the table this week.

 

I am sad and shocked about the whole thing. Rachel had a follow-up blog post yesterday where she demonstrated plagiarism in each of the six volumes of Omnibus & none of the examples are from open sources. 

 

I'm sorry, Heather. :(  I had been wondering since your first post. I hope you find something that works well for your family. 

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Wow this is unfortunate. I was already on the fence with using Omnibus because of all the controversial issue's with Doug Wilson (federal vision, racism etc) and aside from that I was re-thinking my great books approach. Now with this new information I can make my final decision to not purchase it. In all honesty my pull to the curriculum was the self paced option which would free up my time but we have so many options as homeschoolers. I'm glad this came out while I was looking into it and praying about using it. Makes my decision much easier. 

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I'm just wondering: Does something like this affect anyone's decision to use a curriculum? I mean, if you were set on using it next fall, would you still use it, or would this be a deal breaker?

 

Hypothetically speaking (if I had been considering a curriculum and then this happened), yes, this would be a deal-breaker for me. It's a trust issue. If I can't trust them to attribute their research, can I trust the information given to be truthful? If it's mere carelessness, what else were the authors/publishers careless with? If it's purposeful neglect to meet their needs (whether expediency or financial or...), what other corners would they cut? What parts of history would they leave out as not matching their bias? Ethical concerns such as this one really have far-reaching implications. 

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I'm just wondering: Does something like this affect anyone's decision to use a curriculum? I mean, if you were set on using it next fall, would you still use it, or would this be a deal breaker?

Plagiarism would be a toss the book out dealbreaker for me. College bound kids need to learn best practice academic conduct and how to cite sources. Using poorly sourced material is not going to help them at all. Sloppy work begets sloppy work.

 

That said, it's not like my family is in this guy's market or customer demographic.

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I would love to think the Wikipedia copying goes the other way, but really...what homeschool mom would sit around doing that. I mean, Omnibus types can be on WTM boards, we don't need to run around to Wikipedia sites on historical topics and type in Omnibus material for fun.

 

A friend owns Omnibus and pulled it out the other day. It was tempting as it looks so much more open-and-go than Tapesty (which I know is not without its flaws), but then I saw Wilson's name all over it and just handed it back over to her. Had no idea it is also very likely full of copy and paste. :(

 

I'm pretty sure some Wayback Machine type research can pretty well settle which came first, the Wiki or the Omnibus.

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I wonder if this will at all affect Wilson Hill's classes that are based on Omnibus?

 

Has anyone (who has a child signed up for one of these classes) asked them?

 

(Edited to add the "who has a child signed up for one of these classes" part. I'd ask, but I really have no pony in the race.)

Edited by RootAnn
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Omnibus seems like a great concept... in spite of some disagreements in the content, I had planned to use it. I hope someone more reliable produces something along the same lines, but more respectable. In the meantime, I will skip Omnibus and instead will stick with SWB's recommendations and history materials, and Roman Roads video lectures and study materials.

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