The question surrounding Dr. King's plagiarism is how it affects other researchers "Martin Luther King's Plagarism: Moral Issues for Researchers." Carlson has been criticized for his role in the controversy as well. When Kings plagiarism was discovered, Carlson did not act quickly enough according to some critics. However, it might be that Carlson understood the gravity of the discovery and wanted to make sure before he released it to the public. Carlson knew that his discoveries would harm the image of a national icon. Therefore, one cannot agree with curtains critics on this point. It appear that he was just being cautious about his own work. Carlson stated that the reason for his slow disclosure was that he was afraid that the information would reach the press and that they would sensationalize it, and he was correct about this assumption, in the end. The discovery of the King plagiarism was a source of media sensationalism.
Raymond reports that Carlson wanted to publish the entirety of the papers before releasing them to the public because he wanted something to be discussed besides the plagiarism. Raymond notes that despite his intentions, Carlson's delay is still criticized because it took three years. Carlson points out that many historical figures go through periods of criticism, but that does not detract from what they accomplished during their lifetime. The same could certainly be said for King, because Civil Rights Movement would still be the Civil Rights Movement, even if King had not plagiarized.
Turque and Joseph also question whether the plagiarism issue diminishes the legacy that King left on the Civil Rights Movement and on society. The conclusion that can drawn by these authors is that King was a lousy scholar, but that he was still a great man. Turque and Joseph bring up an interesting point that is relevant to the time of King's work, but that is not relevant today. Nearly a half a century has gone by since the days of the Civil Rights Movement. It is easy to forget what times were like then. Turque and Joseph suggest that perhaps King's professors held him to a lower standard than the rest of the students because he was black. This is certainly a possibility, but it is pure speculation on the part of Turque and Joseph. No one knows what King's professors were thinking.
All of the researchers examined in the course of this study were concerned about damaging King's reputation and the effect that it would have on the perception of his work and on the Civil Rights Movement. Turque and Joseph made the point that King's grades were good and that it was likely that he would have received the degree, even if he had not plagiarized. This observation does not fit the ideal of a student who would be motivated to plagiarize. If one felt that it was necessary because they know that they were not capable of doing the work, it is one thing. In the case of King, it would not seem that this was the case, making the motivations and mystery surrounding the plagiarism issue even more perplexing.
The fact that plagiarism occurred is not the question and the extent to which has occurred is an even more confounding to King Scholars (DePalma, p. 1; Johnson, p.21). Had the plagiarism only occurred in one or two instances, then it would have been easy to call it a mistake or to say it was unintentional. However, the extent to which it occurred does not lead one to believe that King's plagiarism was unintentional. His motivations will forever remain a mystery, and the only one who truly knows why he committed these acts is Dr. King himself. At the present time we can only speculate as to the motives of a person who lived long ago. There are many reasons why Dr. King may have plagiarized his work, including those that were acceptable by seminary students at the time. However, intentional plagiarism has always been a critical issue among college students and was taken just as seriously as it is today. Plagiarism was much more difficult to catch in those days, but if it was caught the punishment was severe.
Watson (p, A44) makes a point that King became an American icon and as such that the public tends to see him as perfection. Society has high expectation of those who do great things in our country. However, as Watson points out, they are still human and just because they are the symbol of freedom and hope, does not mean that they were perfect by any means. To judge Dr. King as anything more than human would be to forget that, we ourselves, are human too.
Was Dr., King and Ideal or a Man?
An examination of the evidence makes a clear that the plagiarism in King's work was extensive ("The Student Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr.: A Summary Statement on Research). Whether it was intentional or not, the question remains as to whether his actions should lead to his doctoral degree being revoked. The panel at Boston University had a difficult decision. They had to weigh whether one act negated the entireity of his life and his professional career.
In the end, one has to consider both the implications the actions of one's days of youth and how it affects the work that was accomplished later in life by Dr. King. Whether one agrees that Dr. King's decree should be stripped from him, or whether one agrees that what is in the past could not be changed by such an action, it does make society take a realistic look at whether Dr. King was man or an ideal.
An editorial in the New York Times, "What Dr. King Wrote, and What He Did," addresses the effect of the plagiarism on King's public image. Dr. King's record represents an ideal, as much as a man. Trust is a key part of academic scholarship and the plagiarism issue casts a cloud on Dr. King's good image. For Dr. King's admires, this cloud mires his work and discredits the ideals that the stood for. However, regardless of these issues, much of the world still agrees that Dr. King's contributions to the Civil Rights Movement far outweighs the sins of his younger days.
One has to ask the question if Dr. King had known that he would be a world famous leader in his early years, if he would have taken the same actions or not. Would a young man, who did not yet have the wisdom that he would have in later years, still make the same mistakes? This is like asking Dr. King to predict is own future. It is easy to judge someone else's actions from the standpoint of having all of the information available because as a part of our history. We know now, what Dr. King did not know about his later life. We do not have all of the information about our future, and neither did Dr. King. This still does not forgive an act of plagiarism, but it does highlight of the importance of society's ideals about Dr. King and his status as an icon. Dr. King was a human and had to live out his life just as the rest of us do. We do not know what our future holds and can only make decisions about what is happening in our lives at the present time.
If nothing else, the issue of plagiarism brings to light the ideal that Dr. King was a person just like any of the rest of us and that he was flawed, just like anyone else. More than anything else, it should inspire others to achieve their dreams and to pursue their own destiny because none of us know of what the future holds. Dr. King is one of many American and world icons to fall from grace. When an American icon is found to be less than ideal, society tends to judge them harshly, the but it should not detract from the works that they did because all of us have made mistakes. It is not known whether Dr. King would have still committed plagiarism, because he did it out of a tradition in seminary, or whether he would have changed his actions because of the implications. None of us will ever know the real answer to this question and anything else would be speculation.
Would Dr. King's speeches have been so dramatic and have had the ability of to change the ideals of others had they not contained selections from other people's works? This is also a question that cannot be answered. At the end of the day we are only left with a stack of papers and the words of a man who changed history. Dr. King still stands as one of the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement and his works, whether they are original or not…