Friday, July 26, 2013

When Is Claiming To Take Full Responsibility Just A Platitude?

When it is proclaimed by Chris Spence, the disgraced former Director of the Toronto District School Board who lost his job earlier this year for extensive plagiarism.

In what the Toronto Star describes as a 'far reaching interview,' Spence says “there are no excuses for what I did; I didn’t give credit where credit was due.” Yet in the next breath he blames the work of a number of assistants over many years for the unattributed material.

Spence talks about the 'soul-destroying depression' that has engulfed him since the scandal broke, but also blames his own “blind ambition” and relentless Type-A drive that left him little time to write his own work.

“I’m not looking to point fingers, but did I write everything? Absolutely not. I had support … as early as 1994,” said Spence, who by then was a full-time teacher, full-time grad student and writing movie scripts and books.

“When I look back at the blogs, the speeches, the presentations, I’m going to say that a large, large percentage, you had support to get some of that work done. But I recognize that I approved everything, I signed off on everything. I take full responsibility for that.

“I was out in the community a lot, presenting a lot, and I never really had the kind of time that you need to sit down and put pen to paper.”

I guess this is the 'blame the underlings' defence, made famous by politicians and senators.

Yet Spence claims to take 'full responsibility.' The man is clearly contrite.

Never admitting that he purposely stole other people's words and ideas, something that is obvious when the evidence is examined, Spence suggests that he read many things, and those ideas just kind of jibed with his own thinking and then - presto! Quite frankly, I used to hear more creative excuses from my students.

Oh, and he also adds that he was juggling too many professional tasks to be thorough in his footnotes. And what footnotes might they be, Dr. (at least until his plagiarized Ph.d is completely reviewed) Spence?

Clearly delusional, the plagiarist hopes some day to be “back working with kids. I’m an educator at heart, that’s who I am. I think I have some gifts and talents; I hope I get an opportunity to share and make a difference in the future.”

My disgust with Spence remains unmitigated. His betrayal of both educational principles in general and his position as Director in particular renders him unfit for any further public position.

But there may be some light ahead for the disgraced one. Perhaps a new career awaits him. Confessionals in this day and age are very popular on the road to rehabilitation. Can an appearance on an Oprah-type show be expected as the next step? He has certainly laid the groundwork for it here.


  1. Sounds a little like Edward Burkhardt blaming the engineer of the train that incinerated Lac Megantic, Lorne.

    1. He does, doesn't her, Owen? I guess there is no shortage of role models in the world today for someone like Spence.