Related content turned up the Pinker/Gladwell debate, and an older Wente article - ostensibly about Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers”. Again she shows herself to be a ‘fan’ of Steven Pinker (and another author). Don’t know if this was noted at the time, but since Ms. Wente thinks students get away with plagiarism too easily, one might ask whether turning in something like this would be acceptable.
Aside from a short section in quotes, some of Pinker’s (at times identical) wording is not included in quotation marks (see sections in bold caps).
Wente: Mr. Pinker… wrote: “The common thread in Gladwell's writing is a kind of populism, which seeks to undermine the ideals of talent, intelligence and analytical prowess in favour of luck, opportunity, experience and intuition” – explaining his appeal to both the Horatio Alger right (Mr. Gladwell is extremely popular on the Dilbert circuit) and the egalitarian left.
Pinker, NYT: The common thread in Gladwell’s writing is a kind of populism, which seeks to undermine the ideals of talent, intelligence and analytical prowess in favor of luck, opportunity, experience and intuition… this has the advantage of appealing both to the Horatio Alger right and to the egalitarian left.
Earlier in the same NYT piece, Pinker uses the same expression Wente places in parentheses : a popular speaker on the Dilbert circuit.
Perhaps more problematical, Wente doesn’t summarize Gladwell’s wide ranging and eclectic book herself – it seems Pinker’s criticism of certain parts will do:
Wente: Mr. Gladwell claims that cognitive skills don't predict success, that intelligence scores do not relate closely to job performance and that above a minimum IQ of 120, higher intelligence doesn't bring greater intellectual achievements.
Pinker, NYT: It is simply not true that… cognitive skills don’t predict a teacher’s effectiveness, that intelligence scores are poorly related to job performance or… that above a minimum I.Q. of 120, higher intelligence does not bring greater intellectual achievements.
Later, Wente drops in a paragraph which seemed odd, as she doesn’t strike one as an expert in Chinese agriculture. The paraphrased criticism is similar to one in a review by Peter Cocianis, an academic “completing a history of world rice production and the international rice trade since the seventeenth century”. But first, it’s worth noting how Wente sets up this little bit of Gladwell’s book (she reduces the several Asian examples Gladwell lists to just “China”):
Wente: “Mr. Gladwell's most tortured explanation for differing achievement is his effort to figure out why Chinese kids (as a group) are so much better at math than Western kids. The answer, he says, is found in centuries of rice-based agriculture”.
Gladwell on NPR: “’why is it that kids from Japan, Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong [and] China vastly outperform their American or Western counterparts in math,’ …Gladwell… says he found the answer in the agricultural tradition of rice farming”.
Wente: “This explanation makes sense only until you realize that rice isn't cultivated in the north of China, that other Asians are also good at math and that Chinese kids born and raised in North America retain much of their advantage”.
Peter Cocianis, Open Letters Monthly, April 2009: “…paddy rice has for millennia been the leading food crop on Java, in Thailand, in Burma, and in the Philippines… Do the inhabitants of rice-growing southern China outperform the inhabitants of northern China in math? As anyone with even a cursory sense of Chinese history knows, northern China for millennia has been a wheat/millet/small grain-producing region rather than a rice region”.
It’s reasonable to wonder if she borrowed that, and if so, whether she could have given the Chinese rice expert, and his publication, credit. As for Pinker, perhaps he wouldn't object - after all, she's a fan and helps him sell books. And maybe he doesn't need whatever he makes from a piece in the NYT.
Context: Other attribution issues (aside from the most recent "John" debacle – which netted an Editor’s Note/clarification), are re-posted below, beginning with two the paper chose to address.
May 2011: In an article with a number of other borrowed, un-attributed quotes, Wente turns Dr. Mike Carron, a scientist at Mississippi State University, into a "fisherman".
Wente: “Red snapper are unbelievable right now,” one fisherman said. “You could put a rock on the end a string and they’d bite it.”
AP: "Red snapper are unbelievable right now," said Mike Carron, head of the Northern Gulf Institute in Mississippi. "Now you could put a rock on the end of string and they'll bite it."
Globe Correction: “A quotation about the abundance of red snapper in the gulf of Mexico, in a column of April 26, should have been attributed to Michael Carron, chief scientist of the Northern Gulf Institute”.
June 2011, Margaret and the New York Times:
Wente: …But it hasn't worked out that way, Mr. West writes. Instead, what we've built is a vast cultural dependency. Americans and Canadians are fighting and dying while the Afghans by and large stand by and do nothing to help them.
Dexter Filkins: …This isn’t happening. What we have created instead, West shows, is a vast culture of dependency: Americans are fighting and dying, while the Afghans by and large stand by and do nothing to help them.
Globe Correction, June 3: The words “Americans…are fighting and dying, while the Afghans by and large stand by and do nothing to help them” in the Focus section of March 12 should have been attributed to Dexter Filkins in the New York Times.
Unaddressed attribution: Wente and Helen Rumbelow, The Times, May 2011 (overlapping sections in bold caps):
Wente: ONE OF THE WORLD'S MOST AUTHORITATIVE SOURCES OF BREASTFEEDING RESEARCH IS MICHAEL KRAMER, PROFESSOR OF PEDIATRICS AT MCGILL UNIVERSITY. "The public health breastfeeding promotion information is way out of date," HE SAYS. THE TROUBLE IS THAT THE BREASTFEEDING LOBBY IS AT WAR WITH THE FORMULA MILK INDUSTRY, AND NEITHER SIDE IS BEING VERY SCIENTIFIC. "When it becomes a crusade, people are not very rational."
Rumbelow: ...ONE OF THE WORLD'S MOST AUTHORITATIVE SOURCES OF BREASTFEEDING RESEARCH: MICHAEL KRAMER, PROFESSOR OF PAEDIATRICS AT MCGILL UNIVERSITY, MONTREAL.
..."The public health breastfeeding promotion information is way out of date," KRAMER SAYS. THE TROUBLE IS, HE SAID, THAT THE BREASTFEEDING LOBBY IS AT WAR WITH THE FORMULA MILK INDUSTRY, AND "NEITHER SIDE IS BEING VERY SCIENTIFIC ... when it becomes a crusade, people are not very rational."
Wente and the Cato Institute website:
Wente wrote about Hernando de Soto in "The bad-paper trail: Where are the toxic assets?", Globe, May 2, 2009. Almost identical wording had appeared in de Soto's Cato Institute profile:
Wente: "delivering formal property rights to poor people can bring them out of the sway of demagogues and into the modern global economy…"
Cato Institute: “Delivering formal property rights to the poor can bring them out of the sway of demagogues and into the extended order of the modern global economy”.
Wente: “For his challenge to the status quo, the Shining Path, the Peruvian Marxist terrorist group, targeted him for assassination. His offices were bombed and his car was machine-gunned. Today, the Shining Path is moribund, and Mr. de Soto continues his passionate mission”.
Cato Institute: “For his efforts, the Peruvian Marxist terror group Shining Path targeted him for assassination. The institute's offices were bombed. His car was machine-gunned. Today the Shining Path is moribund, but de Soto remains very much alive and a passionate advocate…”