An article this week in the Chronicle of Higher Education really stirred me. The article is written by an anonymous writer who gets paid $66,000/year to write essays for students. The article goes in depth about some of the situations he’s been in, how he does it, and the types of students who get custom essays written. For those of you who don’t want to click through or who don’t want to read the whole article here are a few parts that really got me:
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.
That’s right my friends, this ghost writer doesn’t even write in one particular field – he writes in EVERY field. Whatever is asked for he researches and learns.
At busy times, during midterms and finals, my company’s staff of roughly 50 writers is not large enough to satisfy the demands of students who will pay for our work and claim it as their own.
Just think about that. 50 writers who are paid to do nothing but write students essays for them are not enough for this ONE company to keep up with student demand. And there are hundreds of them.
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.
ZOMG – $1,000 for 6 days worth of work? Did I just read that corrently? And wait – a student is PAYING $2,000 to have someone write their paper for them…
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.
I can’t argue that such a service is indeed perfect for the lazy rich kid.
I, who have no name, no opinions, and no style, have written so many papers at this point, including legal briefs, military-strategy assessments, poems, lab reports, and, yes, even papers on academic integrity, that it’s hard to determine which course of study is most infested with cheating.
Okay, I’ll stop with the quoting here, because honestly the article is so good that I could probably quote the entire thing. And from an educator point of view this frightens me.
The rich kids, we have all known since 1980s movies that the rich kids are going to hire someone to do their homework. Now they have a more anonymous way to do it. The ESL kids, man, honestly I just feel a little bad for them because in a lot of ways I can see how our educational system has forced them into having to cheat just to keep up.
What concerns me the most, as an educator, is the third group: the hopelessly deficient student. It concerns me that there is an entire group of students in college that shouldn’t be in college. They don’t have the ability, the intelligence, the gumption, the ambition for college – yet they’re forced to go by societal and parental pressures. They don’t care, they don’t want to be there, they’re hopelessly lost in classes above their intellect level.
A professor in my department told me the story of two students who turned in papers that were eerily similar. Upon questioning the students separately, the first one readily admitted that he cheated for the other student and not to do anything about it. “Please don’t do anything, I’ve been helping him pass his classes since we were freshmen in high school. He wouldn’t be able to pass the classes if it wasn’t for me.”
For me this essay illustrates two very important points:
1. Our educational and cultural system is flawed beyond belief that we send students to college who shouldn’t be there. College used to be seen as the place where the most educated in society went. Now it is seen by a lot of students as a four (to six) year party for anyone who can stomach the student loans to go. You don’t have to be bright or talented to go to college – you just have to be willing to take on debt.
2. What about the educators? Behind every essay or report written is a professional. Either a full time writer or a part time writer. Imagine the educator who teaches students and watches for plagiarized essays by day, and then by night writes custom essays for paying clients. To put it bluntly: if teachers are willing to do this on the side to get extra money, shouldn’t we be paying teachers more so they’re not tempted by services like this?!
Upon reading the article I decided to do a little investigation – how easy would it be to find someone to be a custom writer for me if I wanted the service? A quick Google search of “custom essays” gave me 1.8 million hits. Dang. Each one promising profession writing, guaranteed to not be plagiarized, written to your specifications, rewrites available, priced per page.
I did a Live Chat with one of their representatives (see the picture in this post). Wanna become a writer? Just email them your C.V. and they’ll get back to you. I wonder… do they have to make sure that you’re not fake first? Do they have to see if you haven’t lied about your education? Why would it matter – you’re just going to lie to your “customers” anyway. And how do they know that you didn’t just hire a service like theirs to get your Masters degree?
The entire idea of this disturbs me on a deep and fundamental level. And then another part of me thinks: Well, the students are going to do this anyway, so why not profit from it?
And I imagined a scenario where in my evenings I was writing lab reports for college level students and suddenly came across a request from one of my students. They wouldn’t know it was me. I wouldn’t know exactly who they were. But I’d know from the assignment that it was my student. What would I do?
How can we trust our educational system and the people who are produced from it when you can get a degree without ever attending a class or putting together a thought of your own? What are we going to become? Or better yet: Where can we go from this?