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Chris Spence, TDSB’s Director of Education, Admits to Plagiarizing Part of a Star Op-Ed

Toronto's top education official swiped passages from newspapers and blogs.

TDSB Education Director Chris Spence. Photo courtesy of {a href="http://www.facebook.com/toronto.dsb"}TDSB's Facebook page{/a}.

Chris Spence, whose job is to make sure that Toronto’s public school kids are learning, has provided them with a perfect object lesson in what not to do: this morning, the Toronto District School Board education director released a statement in which he admits to having plagiarized parts of an op-ed published under his name last week in the Star.

To his credit, Spence is really good at apologizing. In his statement, he admits to plagiarizing in “no less than five different instances,” and then throws himself at the public’s feet. “I apologize, unreservedly and categorically, to the Toronto Star and its editorial staff for the embarrassment I have caused them,” he writes. “I apologize with equal seriousness to all of the readers of that newspaper. I apologize, in particular, to my colleagues at TDSB, and to all those families and children we are privileged to serve. I have let them all down.”

He also resists making excuses. “There is no excuse for what I did,” he writes. “In the position I am honoured to occupy, in the wonderful job I do every single day, I of all people should have known that.”

The confounding part of all of this is that the op-ed in question—a little, 500-word dealie about the importance of athletics in schools, pegged to the recent labour disruptions at Ontario public schools—isn’t even all that research intensive. There’s almost nothing in there that Spence wouldn’t have known off the top of his head. A good chunk of the article is just him talking about his own experience in school sports, and how he used to play in the CFL.

In an article published this morning, the Star identifies some of the plagiarized passages, and they’re really nothing more than bland clichés that would have been easy enough to paraphrase. Like this sentence, which the Star has determined is from a New York Times article published in 1989: “Sport builds self-esteem and encourages teamwork. We learn the importance of goal setting, hard work and the necessity of dealing with disappointment.” Blech.

And so take note, TDSB kids: never plagiarize, but if you do plagiarize, at least steal lines that are good. The Star says other passages in the op-ed came from blogs and an online encyclopedia.

In his statement, Spence promises to enroll himself in a journalism ethics course at Ryerson. It should be very educational.

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