Hart Essay Plagiarized Again?

In a blog post entitled “In Defense of Plagiarism: Why Tim Goeglein Got Thrown Under the Bus” blogger M. Thomas Eisenstadt claims a lot of things. He goes out of his way to praise plagiarism, for instance. But the one thing that caught this blog’s attention was the assertion that Professor Hart plagiarized his article from Thomas Callahan ’84.

Here’s the bombshell: A further Google search would imply that Hart plagiarized HIS quote from Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Callahan – complete with the exact misspelling of Rosenstock-Huessy’s name. Callahan’s father is the original Dartmouth student who quoted his then post-World War II professor, Rosenstock-Huessy, a German intellectual who emigrated to US in 1933. Callahan, the younger, is a true Republican patriot – who’s served his country on the frontlines in Rwanda, Sudan and Afghanistan. Compare that to Dartmouth English teacher Hart, a founder of the Dartmouth Review who was a Nixon and Reagan speechwriter (he was likely fired by Nixon, or at best couldn’t hack it), and is now… get this… supporting Barack Obama.

As you can see from this short clip, Eisenstadt is quite the character: even more outrageous comments after the jump. His assertion against Hart rests on two facts: (1) that both Hart and Callahan misspelled Eugen Rosenstock Huessy’s name, and (2) they both quote Rosenstock’s aphorism. Here is the article on Callahan:

“My father was class of 1947 at Dartmouth and used to quote to us one of his favorite professors, a philosophy professor named Eugene Rosenstock-Hussey: ‘The goal of education is to form the Citizen. And the Citizen is a person who, if need be, can refound his civilization.’”

And here, again, is the section from Hart’s essay “What is a College Education?

A notable Professor of Philosophy at Dartmouth, Eugene Rosenstock-Hussey often expressed the matter succinctly, ‘The goal of education,’ he would say, ‘is to form the Citizen. And the Citizen is a person who, if need be, can re-found his civilization.’

First, as a commenter pointed out on Eisenstadt’s blog, the article on Callahan was written by Lisa Birzen, an ’03. She would have been a freshman in 1999, and Hart’s article was previously believed to have been published in 1998. In fact, The Dartmouth Reveiw often publishes Hart’s essay in its freshman issue in the fall. The essay dates back to at least 1996—as far as our issues are archived online—and perhaps further. As far as his name goes, I’m guessing Eugen is often misspelled as Eugene—and neither is Huessy an easy name to remember how to spell for non-German speakers (I’m sure Eisenstadt has some experience with this). The dating of the articles makes it clear that Hart didn’t plagiarize from Callahan. Or does it? Eisenstadt insists that the most plausible explanation is that Hart plagiarized some earlier work of Callahan’s not online.

More likely is that Callahan – or his father – had written that quote somewhere else (maybe nowhere Googlable – maybe in some Dartmouth paper) and Hart had copped it.

It does seem clear from the irregular capitalization (Citizen) that Birzin or Callahan lifted the aphorism from Hart’s piece. What doesn’t seem clear, however, is why that might be considered plagiarism. For instance, if one were to read my recent review of Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” and saw the line “This was the noblest Roman of them All” and then reproduce that line while only referencing Shakespeare, it’s rather clear that that would not be a case of plagiarism.

Similarly, Rosenstock was a well regarded professor from the late 30s through the 50s; it is no surprise then, that at least two of his students (Callahan’s father ’47 and Hart, who matriculated in 1947) would be struck by a favorite saying of his. I don’t think Callahan made up his story. He probably just googled it to get the wording right and came across Hart’s essay. There is a major distinction here. Goeglein peddled Hart’s original thoughts on the western canon as his own. In the second case Hart reported Rosenstock’s original thoughts, and Callahan reported Rosenstock’s original thoughts. In this case, no one seems to have been claiming someone else’s thoughts for their own, i.e. Callahan didn’t plagiarize.

So did Callahan (another Bush administration official, by the way) plagiarize from Hart too? It seems to me like copying and pasting a maxim does not fall under the category of plagiarism, especially if it’s attributed to the originator.

What do you think? Comment below.

P.S. More here.