All of us make mistakes. If you are human, you make mistakes. If you are in politics, you make a lot of them.
Colorado Republican Gubenatorial candidate Scott McInnis was caught with his hand in the plagiarism jar, twice -- he allegedly copied significant portions of a document he was paid to write on the subject of "water" resources from another source. According to the Denver Post, the first time, Scott McInnis' writing was virtually identical in parts to the writing of Colorado Supreme Court Justice Gregory Hobbs. The second incident was reported by the Post to include "striking similarities between a 1995 speech and 1994 column by McInnis and a previously published Op-Ed in the Washington Post."
Plagiarism is one of those crimes people learn about in kindergarten. Between making art projects with colored paper and white paste (the kind with a plastic built-in stick in the cap that someone must have tried to eat at some point because it says "non-toxic"), and balancing a pencil the size of of an aspen trunk on your shoulder while you learn to write your name on a pad of paper with lines four feet apart, kindergartners learn the fundamentals of how to get along in the world. "Clean up after yourselves. Don't call names. Keep your hands to yourself. Tell the truth. Recycle the scraps. Don't take cuts in line. Keep your lips zipped while the teacher is talking and, whatever you do, don't copy off of someone else's paper."
Most of us were reminded about the evils of plagiarism every subsequent year in school, along with admonishments to "Learn the metric system -- when you grow up, that's all they'll be using."
I decided to ask some experts on plagiarism what Scott McInnis can expect to have happen if the allegations are proven. Fortunately, they were all off from school for the summer, so they were easy to find on Facebook or by texting. Here is what they said:
Denverite Brandon, 6 years old, said, "He should have his allowance taken away, and he should have to stand in the corner and think about what he did."
How long should he stand in the corner, Brandon?
"One minute for every year old he is."
Five year old Asia from Littleton said, "His teacher should write a note and pin it on his shirt. Then when he gets home, he will get in trouble."
Sisters Avery and MacKenzie chimed in from Glenwood Springs. Eight year old Avery commented: "Copying someone else's work is sooo wrong... I think copy-cats should not be allowed to play or work with other people until they learn to do their own work, or be honest."
Little sister Mackenzie, age 3, added: "What's copying? Oh, a copy-cat! ... I think we should take his Barbies away."
Eight year old Patrick from Aurora said, "He should have to sit in the hall until the end of the day."
Nine year old Reagan, also from Aurora, added, "He should have to stand up in front of his whole class and tell everybody what he did wrong without crying."
Frances, 16, from Denver shared, "He should apologize and give credit to the person he stole from, and not be allowed to write anymore. He should have to pay a fine, too."
Lyzette, age 8, from Denver contributed,"He should not be allowed to have fun-time no more, and take away his most important toys until he says he's sorry."
Five year old Warren from Lakewood was willing to give the guy a break: "Maybe he didn't know it was a bad thing."
What if he knew it was a bad thing, so he blamed it on someone else?
"Then he should have all his toys taken away."
Thirteen year old Meg from Parker said the crime required, "An automatic "F" on the paper and a detention at school. At home, he should have a MAJOR grounding... probably like 2 weeks."
Eleven year old Taylor was of similar mind. "The 'F', detention and grounding --- no electronics, no TV, no iTouch, no Wii, no friends over, and no movies."
Seven year old Nick from Denver thought about it a while and said, "He should have to bring lunch from home every day for a week, instead of buying his lunch at school."
What kind of lunches do you get from home, Nick?
"Gross stuff. Vegetables. Stuff in a bowl."
Fifteen year old Sam from Michigan chimed in, "A 'zero', then detention, and behavior 'points' from the school."
Four year old Emily from Highlands Ranch was not so gentle. "His parents should spank him."
Sara, 16, from Grand Junction added, "Cheaters at my school are removed from the class, given an 'F' for the whole semester and made to take the class again later. If you are caught, you've probably been cheating all along."
Do you think the punishment is too harsh?
She replied, "Yeah a little, but it's not like us kids are running for governor of a state or anything."
Mo, age 9 from Superior replied: "They should have to stay in from recess... wait... why? What do you mean? For school? I didn't do that!"
Perhaps the answer to the McInnis dilemma can be found in the wisdom of future defense attorney, seven year old Savannah from Colorado Springs: "He should tell the truth, then the teacher might go easy on him."
According to national news reports, McInnis has apologized. He should hope the jury of public opinion will be more lenient than these experts were.
(Author's note: I think I might have stolen that line about the pencils from someone. I'd blame it on my assistant, but I don't have one.)