Forward to next post: Open thread 150
Thesis: The primary way most Americans make money is the salary their job pays.
The primary mechanism of privilege in most Americans’ lives is that it enables those who have it to get jobs that are better and more lucrative than they could get on merit alone.
That said, here’s an utterly fascinating article by “Ed Dante” in The Chronicle of Higher Education: The Shadow Scholar: The man who writes your students’ papers tells his story. It begins with Jonathan Barkat’s editorial note:
Editor’s note: Ed Dante is a pseudonym for a writer who lives on the East Coast. Through a literary agent, he approached The Chronicle wanting to tell the story of how he makes a living writing papers for a custom-essay company and to describe the extent of student cheating he has observed. In the course of editing his article, The Chronicle reviewed correspondence Dante had with clients and some of the papers he had been paid to write. In the article published here, some details of the assignment he describes have been altered to protect the identity of the student.That is: it’s real. The author does what he says he does. Onward.
“Ed Dante” now:
The request came in by e-mail around 2 in the afternoon. It was from a previous customer, and she had urgent business. I quote her message here verbatim (if I had to put up with it, so should you): “You did me business ethics propsal for me I need propsal got approved pls can you will write me paper?”One of Atrios’ ongoing themes on Eschataon is the cast-iron stupidity of many of the people at the top of our media and business elites. They simply are not competent in ways that comparable leaders and executives were in the past. Personally, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the mainstream media’s large-scale grasp of information and their ability to analyze it went into a perceptible decline around the time that university degrees became standard for those jobs, and the salaries paid to top names went up.
I’ve gotten pretty good at interpreting this kind of correspondence. The client had attached a document from her professor with details about the paper. She needed the first section in a week. Seventy-five pages.
I told her no problem.
It truly was no problem. In the past year, I’ve written roughly 5,000 pages of scholarly literature, most on very tight deadlines. But you won’t find my name on a single paper.
I’ve written toward a master’s degree in cognitive psychology, a Ph.D. in sociology, and a handful of postgraduate credits in international diplomacy. I’ve worked on bachelor’s degrees in hospitality, business administration, and accounting. I’ve written for courses in history, cinema, labor relations, pharmacology, theology, sports management, maritime security, airline services, sustainability, municipal budgeting, marketing, philosophy, ethics, Eastern religion, postmodern architecture, anthropology, literature, and public administration. I’ve attended three dozen online universities. I’ve completed 12 graduate theses of 50 pages or more. All for someone else. …
You would be amazed by the incompetence of your students’ writing. I have seen the word “desperate” misspelled every way you can imagine. And these students truly are desperate. They couldn’t write a convincing grocery list, yet they are in graduate school. They really need help. They need help learning and, separately, they need help passing their courses. But they aren’t getting it.
For those of you who have ever mentored a student through the writing of a dissertation, served on a thesis-review committee, or guided a graduate student through a formal research process, I have a question: Do you ever wonder how a student who struggles to formulate complete sentences in conversation manages to produce marginally competent research? How does that student get by you? …
Of course, I know you are aware that cheating occurs. But you have no idea how deeply this kind of cheating penetrates the academic system, much less how to stop it. Last summer The New York Times reported that 61 percent of undergraduates have admitted to some form of cheating on assignments and exams. Yet there is little discussion about custom papers and how they differ from more-detectable forms of plagiarism, or about why students cheat in the first place. …
It is my hope that this essay will initiate such a conversation. As for me, I’m planning to retire. I’m tired of helping you make your students look competent.
It is late in the semester when the business student contacts me, a time when I typically juggle deadlines and push out 20 to 40 pages a day. I had written a short research proposal for her a few weeks before, suggesting a project that connected a surge of unethical business practices to the patterns of trade liberalization. The proposal was approved, and now I had six days to complete the assignment. This was not quite a rush order, which we get top dollar to write. This assignment would be priced at a standard $2,000, half of which goes in my pocket.
A few hours after I had agreed to write the paper, I received the following e-mail: “sending sorces for ur to use thanx.”
I did not reply immediately. One hour later, I received another message:
“did u get the sorce I send
please where you are now?
Desprit to pass spring projict”
Not only was this student going to be a constant thorn in my side, but she also communicated in haiku, each less decipherable than the one before it. I let her know that I was giving her work the utmost attention, that I had received her sources, and that I would be in touch if I had any questions. Then I put it aside.
From my experience, three demographic groups seek out my services: the English-as-second-language student; the hopelessly deficient student; and the lazy rich kid.
For the last, colleges are a perfect launching ground—they are built to reward the rich and to forgive them their laziness. Let’s be honest: The successful among us are not always the best and the brightest, and certainly not the most ethical. My favorite customers are those with an unlimited supply of money and no shortage of instructions on how they would like to see their work executed. While the deficient student will generally not know how to ask for what he wants until he doesn’t get it, the lazy rich student will know exactly what he wants. He is poised for a life of paying others and telling them what to do. Indeed, he is acquiring all the skills he needs to stay on top.
You know why it’s harder to nail a rich kid who’s committing plagiarism in middle school or high school? Sure, they tend to go to better schools and have more resources, but that’s not the real answer. What does it is their parents’ willingness and ability to sue schools for academically disciplining their children. Their reason? If you flunk their kid for cheating, he or she won’t be able to get into a good university and thereafter get one of those really good jobs.
Fear of lawsuits is also the biggest reason universities don’t back up instructors who accuse students of cheating. A common euphemism: “It’s difficult to prove plagiarism.” It isn’t that difficult to prove it in an academic context. The hard part is demonstrating it to tone-deaf lawyers, judges, and juries.
Back to the article:
As for the first two types of students—the ESL and the hopelessly deficient—colleges are utterly failing them. Students who come to American universities from other countries find that their efforts to learn a new language are confounded not only by cultural difficulties but also by the pressures of grading. The focus on evaluation rather than education means that those who haven’t mastered English must do so quickly or suffer the consequences. My service provides a particularly quick way to “master” English. And those who are hopelessly deficient—a euphemism, I admit—struggle with communication in general.The students who are hit hardest by this system are the ones who have to work while going to college, which curtails the time they can spend on research and writing, and who don’t have the money to pay for plagiarism. If they’re truly desperate, they can buy a previously used uncustomized paper, which greatly increases their chances of getting caught.
Two days had passed since I last heard from the business student. Overnight I had received 14 e-mails from her. She had additional instructions for the assignment, such as “but more again please make sure they are a good link betwee the leticture review and all the chapter and the benfet of my paper. finally do you think the level of this work? how match i can get it?”Read the whole thing. The comment thread is good too.
I’ll admit, I didn’t fully understand that one.
It was followed by some clarification: “where u are can you get my messages? Please I pay a lot and dont have ao to faile I strated to get very worry.”
Her messages had arrived between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. Again I assured her I had the matter under control.
It was true. At this point, there are few academic challenges that I find intimidating. You name it, I’ve been paid to write about it. …
I have become a master of the admissions essay. I have written these for undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral programs, some at elite universities. I can explain exactly why you’re Brown material, why the Wharton M.B.A. program would benefit from your presence, how certain life experiences have prepared you for the rigors of your chosen course of study. …
You know what’s never happened? I’ve never had a client complain that he’d been expelled from school, that the originality of his work had been questioned, that some disciplinary action had been taken. As far as I know, not one of my customers has ever been caught.
Postscript: One of my habitual vices is answering questions at Yahoo! Answers. I’m usually reliable, but last night I did something slightly wicked. Here’s the question:
URGENT!!! WUTHERING HEIGHTS?I sincerely doubt she’s read the book. Notice that her teacher has practically handed her the answer, but she hasn’t thought about the assignment long enough to notice that fact. Notice also that she’s trolling (in the original sense) for lots of responses containing lots of details about the book. She’s no first-timer at this.
I have a huge essay due (only 5 paragraphs) but it counts a lot for my grade. The paper is pretty much on the setting of Wuthering Heights, but not just the setting in the beginning of the book, the setting throughout the whole book. I have to make a thesis statement about the setting, it could be anything, and in my essay I need to prove the thesis statement right. I really can’t think of a thesis statement, can anyone help? I would love for a lot of responses for this .. any details would be good too about the setting or anything .. my teacher gave examples such as why it’s always stormy and ugly at Wuthering Heights but it’s nice at Thrushcross Grange, why could that be? I guess that might make for a good thesis statement .. PLEASEEEE help :)
If you tell querents too blatantly to suck it up and do their own work, Y!A is likely to hand you a disciplinary smackdown. Instead, I took my inspiration from the Flying Moose of Nargothrond’s Tolkien Homework Page, and came up with a coherent and defensible thesis about the setting of Wuthering Heights:
Here’s a thesis statement: Wuthering Heights is an early work of science fiction that takes place in a dimensional bubble separate from our own universe. We know this because any time someone gets too far from the Wuthering Heights/Thrushcross Grange/Gimmerton Kirk triangle (think Bermuda Triangle), they cease to exist as far as the story is concerned. Nothing outside the bubble is a solution to anything that happens inside it, no matter how logical that should be. Characters living inside it only leave if they’re desperate, and for some strange reason, they keep coming back. …Don’t feel sorry for her. When I finished explaining the skiffy angle at more length, I gave her the standard answer, plus some useful additional bits of info. If she thinks about it for two minutes, she can pull together her five paragraphs.
Yahoo! Answers is full of kids who think nothing of dumping their entire homework assignments into a single query, including the teacher’s assignment header. Some of them do that with research paper assignments. I see no reason to doubt that “Ed Dante” is telling the truth.