Monday, January 03, 2011

Attention Academics: Who's Really Behind Your Students' Papers?

Fred Butler over at Hip and Thigh blogged about a guy who writes term papers for college and graduate students for a living. This anonymous ghost-writer who tells his side of the story:

The Shadow Scholar

I'm not sure what was more interesting, the article or the comments from the educators that follow after. Be sure to read them both. My wife, who is a former public school teacher enjoyed reading it more than I did since she was a firsthand witness to the deleterious effects that mandatory end of grade testing and other performance-oriented measurement tools had on both students and teachers. In my opinion, one of the most disturbing parts of the article was when the ghost writer who goes by the pseudonym "Dante" said this:
. . . it's hard to determine which course of study is most infested with cheating. But I'd say education is the worst. I've written papers for students in elementary-education programs, special-education majors, and ESL-training courses. I've written lesson plans for aspiring high-school teachers, and I've synthesized reports from notes that customers have taken during classroom observations. I've written essays for those studying to become school administrators, and I've completed theses for those on course to become principals. In the enormous conspiracy that is student cheating, the frontline intelligence community is infiltrated by double agents. (Future educators of America, I know who you are.)
Well there you have it: America's future educators hard at work; that is, hard at work learning how to cheat the system so that they can later make money off the the system that they successfully cheated while telling the students that are subject to that same system that there are severe penalties for cheating that system. Oh the hypocrisy! But, of course, on a secular worldview, since we're all just "molecules banging around", it doesn't really matter as long as you don't get caught, right? Now, I can't just point out the utter hypocrisy of secular educators, for "Dante" had this bit to say about seminary students:
I do a lot of work for seminary students. I like seminary students. They seem so blissfully unaware of the inherent contradiction in paying somebody to help them cheat in courses that are largely about walking in the light of God and providing an ethical model for others to follow. I have been commissioned to write many a passionate condemnation of America's moral decay as exemplified by abortion, gay marriage, or the teaching of evolution. All in all, we may presume that clerical authorities see these as a greater threat than the plagiarism committed by the future frocked.
Given the state of what professes to be Christianity in America, this doesn't surprise me at all. Though I wouldn't have been able to sleep had I even seriously considered doing this in seminary, we have to keep in mind that in evangelicalism, false converts are a dime-a-dozen nowadays. Sometimes those false converts turn into full-blown "wolves with a calling". People like this are not only cheaters in seminary today but they go on to become pastoral goat-herders tomorrow that cheat men out of eternal life through various false teachings and worldly amusements. Just "visit" the Museum of Idolatry for some examples.

Also, what "Dante" says about most students' inability to articulate themselves intelligently and coherently is consistent with what I've observed in our on campus weekly evangelism:

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?

And then he goes on to say this:
I live well on the desperation, misery, and incompetence that your educational system has created.
You have to appreciate such brutal honesty. Its amazing how people can make a living off of a broken system. But given the fact that we live in a broken world, again, I'm not surprised.


  1. When you are devoid of the Spirit of Truth, would you expect otherwise?

    Nothing new under the sun as can clearly be attested with the words of Isaiah, published in full here so there is no doubt I was cheating when commenting on this thread:

    Isa 8:13 But the LORD of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.
    Isa 8:14 And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
    Isa 8:15 And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken."
    Isa 8:16 Bind up the testimony; seal the teaching among my disciples.
    Isa 8:17 I will wait for the LORD, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob, and I will hope in him.
    Isa 8:18 Behold, I and the children whom the LORD has given me are signs and portents in Israel from the LORD of hosts, who dwells on Mount Zion.
    Isa 8:19 And when they say to you, "Inquire of the mediums and the necromancers who chirp and mutter," should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living?
    Isa 8:20 To the teaching and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn.
    Isa 8:21 They will pass through the land, greatly distressed and hungry. And when they are hungry, they will be enraged and will speak contemptuously against their king and their God, and turn their faces upward.
    Isa 8:22 And they will look to the earth, but behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish. And they will be thrust into thick darkness.

    Just to emphasize the important point, I repeat it here:

    Isa 8:20 To the teaching and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn.

  2. The regrettable thing, as the first commenter noted under my original posting: Pastors have the bad habit now-a-days to copy and paste someone else's sermon notes. It is easy with the use of the internet. As my commenter stated, there is something suspicious with a guy who for several years preaches boring, rabbit trailing sermons who all of the sudden one Sunday morning preaches articulate messages with a tight outline and alliterated points.

  3. My wife grades papers for an online university.

    The students, by and large, cannot follow written direction, or write. I'm convinced there is a relationship there. There are times when they have to write a 1 page paper (yes, 1 WHOLE page) that they submit 3 lines which seem to have been written stream-of-conscious after a drug binge.

    One student turned in a "research" paper which was actually an "opinion" paper...her bibliography? It was *herself*! She actually cited herself.

    This online university my wife works for has a special program which all student papers are run through. It can tell you the percentage of what has been plagiarized, and where it came from (even multiple sources).

    Many students cheat. They get caught many times with this university. If a school would like to preserve its standards, EVERY paper ought to be given in electronic form.

    I doubt "Dante" always uses original work. I can't imagine a man researching and writing a 30 page paper at a college or master's level for only a few hundred would be interesting to run one of his papers through that program.

  4. I know a fellow who linked to this article as proof that the humanities are a farce but the Decline effect suggests that even people in the sciences should display some humility:

    The blogger who said humanities are a farce didn't notice that nursing student papers are ripe for plagiarism, too.

    I suppose at one level some folks would say R. L. Dabney told us so but there are obviously other things Dabney was fixated on that weakened by association a few of his points about the inevitable downturn that would come with public education of any kind. :)