What A Fine, Fine Role Model This High School Principal Is…If The Idea Is To Graduate Short-Cut And Rationalization Addicted Students Who Try To Tap-Dance Their Way Out Of Trouble!

 

Abby Smith, a graduating student at Parkersburg High School in West Virginia, noticed something vaguely familiar about  the speech given by the school’s principal, Ken DeMoss, at her graduation last week. Later, she went home and looked for a video of a speech actor Ashton  Kutcher (formerly the goof on “The 70s Show,” the goof who succeeded Charlie Sheen on “Two and a Half Men,” and the guy who took over froim Bruce Willis when Demi Moore decided she wanted a husband with hair) gave at the 2013 Kid’s Choice Awards. Then she edited DeMoss’s speech and Kutcher’s together, and posted them on YouTube.

There’s no doubt about it, as you can see above. The principal ripped off the speech.

Some might say that what Smith did was mean and unnecessary. No, it was responsible, essential, and gutsy. Students are taught in school, or are supposed to be,  to do their own work, a lesson especially hard to convey when the internet makes plagiarism  easy to do and hard to detect. The distinction between being inspired by another person’s creative output, using it as a foundation for an original work, borrowing phrases and ideas (with attribution), and, in contrast, stealing intellectual property and presenting it as your own, is a crucial one for students to understand. When a role model, a school administer, flagrantly does what the school must teach students not to do, and worse, does this  in front of students, and even worse than that, does it in the course of a speech about the virtues of hard work, such cynicism, laziness, and cheating must not be allowed to pass unnoticed, and I hope, unpunished.

After he was caught, “Kenny” issued this epicly horrible statement, incorporating rationalizations, unethical apologies, multiple logical fallacies, a Jumbo and, of course, lies:

“Hello this is Kenny DeMoss, Principal of Parkersburg High School, with an important message for all staff, students, and outgoing 2019 graduated seniors. When I began my closing remarks at graduation, I didn’t think that my speech would be the center of attention. The graduates should be. It was an awesome graduation! It is really sad to think that the focus has fallen more on about my closing remarks and I am deeply sorry for that. I am the kind of person who never wants to be the center of attention and for me this is very difficult right now because we deal with way more pressing and important matters on a daily basis from mental health, to students being kicked out of their homes, to abuse, to students having to worry about their next meal. As a proud father and a man of faith, I want to sincerely apologize to those I have obviously offended. It was never my intent to take credit for what I said or give specific credit because of how I prefaced my speech. When I began my speech, by saying “Many of you don’t know much about me other than being a principal, a teacher, or a coach. In these three professions, I have had the chance to hear and share many great ideas and thoughts that have helped me be who I am today, and I want to share that with you.” When I made that statement, that was my preface that these ideas and thoughts that I am about to share, I have heard before, from others, and along with my personal beliefs, have shaped me into who I am as a man, a father, and leader. In hindsight, I wish I would have cited more. Yes, I’ve seen the online speech by Ashton Kutcher. However, in my experiences, as I have stated, I have heard and seen many similar speeches at coaching and leadership clinics and at professional development that many of you have not. The format of Ashton’s speech I liked the most, because it had the most impact on me. The order of the main points I should have done differently. Being intriguing was completely my word. Trying to be intriguing has helped me pursue and obtain three master’s degrees. I believe being really smart is the most interesting thing about a person. I’ve learned that as a principal and as a coach. Ann Landers once said “that opportunities are disguised as hard work so most people don’t recognize them”. Ashton said basically the same thing, so did I, and so did Ann Landers; neither which I specifically cited. I did not get all my ideas from Ashton. Format yes, thoughts and ideas were from my heart. Steve Jobs said “don’t just live a life; build one”; and I even gave him credit for that. It’s totally my fault for not being specific, but I would have to give credit for the format to Ashton, and many of the other things I’ve heard to various people, and at the closing of a graduation it’s my job to get them out of there and celebrate, and unfortunately when I don’t cite everyone, I’m personally taking a hit. Lesson learned for me. Saying something in which I receive no money for, or academic credit, or a transcribed grade is what led me to not be as specific as I should have been, instead of prefacing with a blanketed statement. In the future, anything that is spoken by me or any other administrator to the public, if it has been said by anyone else, it will be cited. Moving forward, I wish the class of 2019 the best of luck. I hope you have a blessed life and all your dreams come true. Thank you and have a wonderful evening.”

In other words, “Huminahuminahumina, LOOK ! A CUTE PUPPY! T’was brillig, and the slithy toves. Did gyre and gimble in the wabe: All mimsy were the borogoves,. And the mome raths…did you hear the one about the elevator with a baker, a football playerand a rabbi inside?”

Now you have to fire the guy, because that is disgraceful–dishonest, cowardly, pathetic. Some annotations…

  • “When I began my closing remarks at graduation, I didn’t think that my speech would be the center of attention…”

No, because you couldn’t imagine that anyone would remember a Nicklelodeon special from six years ago.

  • “It was an awesome graduation!”

…with the notable exception of the principal’s plagiarized speech, which embarrassed the school…

  • It is really sad to think that the focus has fallen more on about my closing remarks and I am deeply sorry for that.”

Translation: I’m sorry I was caught. A non-apology apology, actually blaming those who shifted the focus away from the graduation, expressing regret that they did it, not remorse for what he did.  #9 on the apology scale.

  • “I am the kind of person who never wants to be the center of attention and for me this is very difficult right now because we deal with way more pressing and important matters on a daily basis from mental health, to students being kicked out of their homes, to abuse, to students having to worry about their next meal. “

ACK! YUCK! ICK! GAG! You ASSHOLE! This is the most disgusting  sort of Rationalization #22-mongering (“How can we be so pettyas to get upset over a few similarities in a speech when there are so many really terrible things going on in the world? Where are our priorities?”).

  • “As a proud father and a man of faith, I want to sincerely apologize to those I have obviously offended.”

Ugh! The Dad Card and the God Card! “I’m a good person! How can you think badly of me?” Utterly shameless. Then “Kenny” shifts the goalposts, and makes the episode seem like one more political correctness episode where someone is “offended.” (Apologizing for something that isn’t what the misdeed was is another hallmark of a #9 Level Apology.) No, you jerk, you need to apologize for not having the respect for the students you lead to prepare your own speech rather than ripping off some else’s.

  • It was never my intent to take credit for what I said or give specific credit because of how I prefaced my speech. When I began my speech, by saying “Many of you don’t know much about me other than being a principal, a teacher, or a coach. In these three professions, I have had the chance to hear and share many great ideas and thoughts that have helped me be who I am today, and I want to share that with you.” When I made that statement, that was my preface that these ideas and thoughts that I am about to share, I have heard before, from others, and along with my personal beliefs, have shaped me into who I am as a man, a father, and leader.”

A lie. Nothing in that intro suggests that what follows is a nearly verbatim recitation of another speech from a different context, or excuses the plagiarism. In any college in the nation, this explanation would be considered laughable. If what follows are supposed to be the words, thoughts and ideas from other sources, then the speaker must give proper attribution. DeMoss knows that. What he is doing now is giving a lesson—a bad one—on obfuscation and denying accountability.

Then comes a true Jumbo, as Kenny flails away,  trying to  deny what is the obvious elephant by his side: the speech is res ipsa loqitur. It’s a steal,he knew it, and he can’t blame Kutcher, or Ann Landers. They weren’t principals responsible for inculcating habits and values into students. He was. Then…

  • …at the closing of a graduation it’s my job to get them out of there and celebrate, and unfortunately when I don’t cite everyone, I’m personally taking a hit.”

Did I mention that Kenny is an asshole? To be fair, he’s a championship level asshole: he’s actually trying to make himself the victim here! “Oh, it’s my responsibility to take the hit and I can take it, as unfair as that is,because I had to get everyone out in time to celebrate, and I made that sacrifice, even though it means I was unable to give all of the proper credit to the speech I ripped off, as it was my intention to do.”

Who believes that?

  • “Lesson learned for me. Saying something in which I receive no money for, or academic credit, or a transcribed grade is what led me to not be as specific as I should have been, instead of prefacing with a blanketed statement.”

That’s it; firing is too good for this guy.  You did receive money for giving the speech, you astounding, shameless fool! You are paid to be principal, and giving a graduation speech that doesn’t contradict the values you were supposed to teach the students is part of your job.

28 thoughts on “What A Fine, Fine Role Model This High School Principal Is…If The Idea Is To Graduate Short-Cut And Rationalization Addicted Students Who Try To Tap-Dance Their Way Out Of Trouble!

  1. “Being intriguing was completely my word. Trying to be intriguing has helped me pursue and obtain three master’s degrees.” Does he mean ‘inquisitive’? Because I don’t see how being intriguing would be an asset to acquiring multiple masters unless he was just accumulating them to show off.

    • He’s just blathering, desperately. Kutcher’s word was “sexy”—he couldn’t steal THAT. So his cut and paste substitute was “intriguing.” But you’re right: the word doesn’t make sense. Heck, most of the masters’ degree holders I know are many things, but intriguing isn’t the word that comes to mind to describe them. Boring is closer…

  2. Reminds me of my college president who ultimately was shown the door after he used an Amazon book review as a speech. A guy with a Ph.D. plagiarizing at a school with an honor code and honor court. It wasn’t easy getting him gone. The chairman of the board of trustees wanted to give him the king’s pass: “He’s a good guy and he’s done a great job for the college.” Translation (mine): “He’s good at raising money.” There just have to be consequences for certain “failures in judgment.”

  3. ” a man of faith”

    I want to know which faith thinks it’s okay to steal someone else’s work because you don’t think anyone will notice it. I don’t know of a single one…

  4. I admit my eyes glazed over on the apology. I suppose the length and putting me to sleep might make a listener think it was a sincere effort.

    As a serious introverted speaker, I have no patience with his complaints about doing a speech. If that speech is customarilly part of the position, suck it up. It’s only once a year. He could borrow and credit an inspirational stanza, Dr. Seuss is popular. He could write something really short and concise. No one really cared what he said if it was brief, they want to get on with celebrating the end of the year. He could even ask his secretary to help write it, but I would think someone with three masters could manage to write a short speech and read it without plagiarism. I have to wonder how authentic his degrees are?

  5. Some might say that what Smith did was mean and unnecessary. No, it was responsible, essential, and gutsy.

    I am not quite seeing how deliberately looking up a speech and exposing the principal for plagerism is different than a school newspaper accidentally discovering the new superintendent had a bogus degree and informing the school board….

  6. Wait. He plagiarized , , . Ashton Kutcher? Who does that? At least Biden plagiarized someone of historical value. But . . . Kutcher? The Mind does boggle. Can you imagine what will happen if Kutcher plagiarized his speech from someone else?

    jvb

  7. “Makes plagiarism easy to do and hard to detect”
    Uh, no. It’s easy to detect, thanks to the internet.
    Abby Smith deserves credit more for her sense of integrity and for her courage than for her sleuthing, which was pretty good.
    A few years back, one of my students submitted an essay not at all in keeping with her classwork. So, take a key phrase (or two) from the suspect essay, stick that into a Google search, and the original essay will show up. Plagiarism confirmed. Not hard at all.
    Abby Smith did something similar and found her principal’s fraud. Then, she took the next important step. She didn’t shrug and say (to herself] “So what?” She acted.
    That she is criticized for this reflects the rot in our society.
    My curriculum emphasized respect for authority, but, a higher moral value was placed on integrity, recognizing the right thing to do, and doing it.
    We need people like Abby Smith. People imbued with just enough skepticism to question. People who aren’t afraid to stand up to authority.
    I’m not surprised she has been criticized for exposing a fraud. In my case, a special ed teacher argued that my student should have been given credit, just for finding the article she copied almost verbatim.
    Plagiarism is easy to do. Yep. Hard to detect? Well, not for the likes of Abby. Acceptable, or easily ignored, well, not for the likes of Abby, either. Thank goodness.

    • The fact that it’s easy to detect when you are looking for it or when it is badly done doesn’t mean it’s not difficult as a regular matter. The main reason it is hard is that EVERYTHING might be plagiarized, and we can’t check everything, and that smart plagiarist who takes an article and copies its content while using similar words and phrases while mixing up sentences and organization will not be caught with a simple Google search.

      For example, this comment was largely taken from a 1576 illuminated manuscript by a Polish monk.

  8. I just sat down and watched the video, and wow…it’s nearly word-for-word. Pretty brazen, now trying to deny it.

    ‘DeMoss said the widely-circulated video cut out a preface that was supposed to make clear he was going to be folding others’ ideas and thoughts into his speech.

    In an email Friday, DeMoss said he’s putting the incident behind him.

    “Me and my family are the only ones being hurt here.My accuser isn’t. I love kids and love this school and this will only make me better,” he said.’

    He really should shut up now. He just keeps digging himself deeper and deeper, and looking less and less like a kid-loving person. The bolded comment brought me up short (I hope I did the tags correctly).

    • Accuser, my foot. There’s no accusation going on it, it’s res ipsa loquitur; she’s just exposed it for everyone to see. Now I definitely think he should resign.

      If he and his family are suffering, it’s his fault, not hers.

    • If the school doesn’t fire him, that tells us a lot about the state of public education. The man can’t think, has scrambled ethics alarms, and he’s been overseeing the education of children. Anyone who follows this story and says, “Hey, no big deal” is ethically disabled.

      No prelude short of “I am now going to recite, with a few minor edits, a speech Ashton Kutcher gave 6 years ago on Nickelodeon for kids, because personally, I got nothin'” would have made that performance anything but a lazy steal. This fool doesn’t even think he did anything wrong. And others are being hurt: the school and its students, every second this incompetent remains in the job.

      • “ The man just stated he wants someone to make ‘his accuser,’ a student, suffer for telling the truth. !!!“

        Just incredible.

  9. I’m pretty sure I have nothing to add, except any educator who would plagiarize a dweeb like Ashton Kutcher for a high school graduation is unqualified for any position educating our children at any level.

    They should fire him for sheer incompetence, along with all the other reasons you so aptly provide.

    • Ashton Kutcher appears to PLAY dweebs on television – but I don’t think that he actually is one – he has made some investments that required foresight and thinking outside the box. I think that he is actually pretty intelligent for an actor. I am not a fan, but I would say he is not an actual dweeb.

      • Agreed. In fact, real dweebs, fools, clowns, dummies and bimbos are almost always the opposite. See: Carol Wayne, Tom Smothers, Woody Harrelson, Jayne Mansfield, Lucille Ball, Buddy Hackett, Ted Knight, and so, so many others. You have to be smart to know what’s funny about being dumb.

        • Well, let me ask you both this: Dweeb or not, in what world would plagiarizing a guy like Ashton Kutcher, Woody Harrelson, or Buddy Hackett (for example) be considered an intelligent place to go if you’re going to plagiarize somebody?

          Not in mine.

          • Oh no, on that I agree completely. That’s why it is such a lie for the principal to claim he would have given credit to Kutcher under any circumstances. There are a lotof people capable of giving excellent speeches that one would never want to reference as a source, and if you wouldn’t, you can’t use the speech at all.

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