Really? Students are now so dumb that they can’t make the logical leap from “copying off your friend’s test is wrong” to “copying off Wikipedia is wrong”?

Isn’t this one of those stories that everyone secretly wants to believe is true because it “proves” that things were better in our day, that society’s going to hell in a handbasket, etc etc etc? It’s five minutes of generational ego trip. Toss in some philosophical navel-gazing about how the wild and woolly Internet is Changing Us and you’ve got tasty red meat cooked medium rare.

Professors used to deal with plagiarism by admonishing students to give credit to others and to follow the style guide for citations, and pretty much left it at that.

But these cases — typical ones, according to writing tutors and officials responsible for discipline at the three schools who described the plagiarism — suggest that many students simply do not grasp that using words they did not write is a serious misdeed.

It is a disconnect that is growing in the Internet age as concepts of intellectual property, copyright and originality are under assault in the unbridled exchange of online information, say educators who study plagiarism…

Sarah Brookover, a senior at the Rutgers campus in Camden, N.J., said many of her classmates blithely cut and paste without attribution.

“This generation has always existed in a world where media and intellectual property don’t have the same gravity,” said Ms. Brookover, who at 31 is older than most undergraduates. “When you’re sitting at your computer, it’s the same machine you’ve downloaded music with, possibly illegally, the same machine you streamed videos for free that showed on HBO last night.”

Emphasis on illegally. As Jonathan Adler notes, the “mash-up culture” is usually forthright about attribution, and there’s surely been enough media coverage of piracy of various types (music, pornography) that most young adults realize that stuff downloaded surreptitiously in torrent form isn’t exactly legal to download in the first place. In fact, the “I didn’t know plagiarism was wrong” excuse sounds suspiciously like something you’d say to a teacher who’s caught you red-handed in order to make your crime look like one of ignorance, not malfeasance. The real reason this is happening, like Adler says, is surely a combo of (a) copy/paste making plagiarism easier than ever for lazy students and (b) poorer instruction in American high schools on how to write effectively. Which, per the latter, means this story ends up being a generational ego trip after all. Hooray! Exit question: Am I right, teachers? C’mon. I’m right.