Service of Cheating II

December 2nd, 2010

Categories: Cheating, Deception, Education, Ghost Writing, Lies

cheat1

I’ve written about cheating-at least six posts-and a range of deceptions [eight] and lies, white and the other kind. But what Carol Gatto, founder and publisher of wejustgotback.com, sent me recently-The Shadow Scholar, from the Chronicle Review— was both eye-opening and depressing. I suggest you read the whole article, but here are highlights.

The author uses a pseudonym because he writes undergraduate, masters and doctoral program admission essays, theses, papers [on business ethics and a range of other subjects], proposals-you name it-for student clients of his employer, a custom essay company. He says he makes a good living for a writer.

teacherHis clients include future seminarians, nurses, lawyers, school administrators and principals, elementary, special ed and high school teachers. Of all the subjects he found “education is the worst.”

Following are excerpts of his observations:

“They couldn’t write a convincing grocery list, yet they are in graduate school.”

“From my experience, three demographic groups seek out my services; the English-as-a-second-language student; the hopelessly deficient student and the lazy rich kid.”

writing-sampleSome client writing samples:

“sending sorces for ur to use thanx.” And “did u get the sorce I send please where are you now? Desprit to pass spring project”

“but more again please make sure they are a good link between 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?”

“Thanx u so much for the chapter is going very good the porfesser likes it but wants the folloing suggestions please what do you thing?”

“thankx so much for uhelp ican going to graduate to now.”

Observation about scholastic writing:

In the Chronicle Review article, the author’s style was clear and succinct. But his comment on how he wrote for the eyes of academia was also telling and perhaps the subject of another post. “Over the years, I’ve refined ways of stretching papers. I can write a four-word sentence in 40 words. Just give me a phrase of quotable text and I’ll produce two pages of ponderous explanation. I can say in 10 pages what most normal people could say in a paragraph.”

This article puts in perspective one of the reasons New York Mayor Bloomberg may have selected Cathie Black, former Hearst chairman, to head the New York City School system.

The author notes, “….I understand that in simple terms, I’m the bad guy. I see where I’m vulnerable to ethical scrutiny. But pointing the finger at me is too easy. Why does my business thrive? Why do so many students prefer to cheat rather than do their own work? Say what you want about me, but I am not the reason our students cheat.”

Why do you think that none of this writer’s clients are caught? How can teachers not observe that inarticulate students produce good papers? What do you think the reasons are that so many students cheat? To take the words from the headline of a previous post, “Who are they fooling?”

 caughtredhanded

11 Responses to “Service of Cheating II”

  1. Frank Paine Said:

    Depressing, isn’t it? Yet this is just the most recent example of something that has raised its ugly head over the last two decades or so.

    I remember that a bit over twenty years ago, I was first alerted to this kind of thing by an article (in an alumni magazine, I believe) that reported that my alma mater, which is Stanford University, had recently established remedial reading and writing classes for incoming students that demonstrated a need for them. This took my breath away–Stanford has a rather good reputation, and it had never occurred to me that it would accept students who could not read and write intelligibly before they arrived on campus. What a blow to my pride! And what an indictment of the failure of secondary school education. These students were not stupid–they were simply ill prepared by their schools. Yes, and some of them had started with the disadvantage of cultural backgrounds that did not give them good reading and writing skills in English, but others had demonstrated that they could pass muster anyway. I know a young Guatemalan lad whose ability exceeded that of most young men educated here.

    But I digress. This caused me to think back upon my own Stanford education. One of my major lessons from that experience came from someone else in an English literature course, who asked me why, in a paper I wrote, I did not consult “the critics”. That question made me think, because it had never occurred to me to consult “the critics” (whoever they were), and consulting “the critics” was not a stated requirement for the paper. I realized then that I came from a background that required me to do my own thinking, and that doing my own thinking had become a deeply ingrained habit.

    What is the connection between these two “stories”? Nothing more than that the the educational system that does not require students to do their own thinking is doing students no favors. And that the student that can’t think, can’t write. And the circle closes, because the student that can’t think/write, will be unsuited for anything requiring serious inquiry. I was tempted to add that this person would also have limited career prospects, until I remembered a number of supposedly highly educated people who were later found to have been plagiarists. At least one of these people became one of the great cultural icons of the 20th century. He suffered no consequences for his plagiarism.

    Is it any wonder that texting, which lets you get away with anything, is so popular?

    P.S. I take full responsibility for all spelling and grammatical errors in this post!

  2. Lucrezia Said:

    Illiteracy in this country is reported to be sky high in contrast to other countries, which means either dumb and/or lazy students, or poor teachers. So in defence of anyone not knowing how to spot plagarism or other forms of cheating, perhaps they just don’t know what they’re looking at. One cannot land a teaching job in the public school system in New York, without an MA in education. The fact that one can’t read, write, count, or understand scientific basics is apparently not important. Until that situation is rectified, and the educational sector gets its act together, we can expect all sorts of embarrassing episodes with no one being at fault – except perhaps the teaching community which prides itself on protecting the employee at society’s expense.

  3. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Lucrezia,

    I find this whole thing horrendous.

    I don’t blame the man who is eking out a living writing night and day under tremendous pressure. In fact, I think he should 1) be making much more money and 2) have an amazing job with huge perks and fairly normal hours as he is obviously versatile and very bright.

    Frank,

    You are so right about being able to think first before being able to write. I believe that writer’s block happens when a writer has zero idea what to say.

    When I think of the money that some of these people pay a school–$55,000 + a year–and the ghost writer gets $66,000 a year, I wonder if they wouldn’t be better off having him tutor them at $8,000 each.

    I can’t fathom why anyone thinks they have advanced themselves by graduating with an empty brain having paid so much money not only to the school but to the ghost writer.

    Can you imagine a school running on the honor system these days? I wonder if there are any.

  4. Lucrezia Said:

    No honor systems please, and it has nothing to do with academics. An honor system presupposes that a student will turn in cheating classmates. While that sounds fine, it isn’t. It encourages tattling and snooping, which was at least partially responsible for the all too longtime successes of the Soviet and Nazi regimes. Cheating will catch up on the individual sooner or later, and the consequences stand to be much greater than the immediate rewards.

  5. Carolyn Gatto Said:

    Jeanne, in your reply to Frank you asked if there are any schools that run on the honor system these days. The answer is yes. The University of Virginia, my alma mater, has had a student-run honor code since 1842. It says students will not lie, cheat or steal, and it extends beyond academic life to personal matters. The sole sanction for confirmed violations is dismissal from the University. My peers and I took the Honor System very seriously when we attended UVa, but, not surprisingly, support has waned over the years. A sad reality and reflection on the priorities of today’s students.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Carol,

    It is a sad reality. People who are content to get away with murder short change themselves and everyone around them.

    Lucrezia,

    I disagree with your interpretation of the honor system. I don’t see people ratting on others. The system is to keep one person in check, me, at least, that is how I interpret it and how Carol describes how it worked/works at UVa.

    However, I think that if people continue to dismiss rules of conduct and carry on helter skelter, accepting no standards, allowing cheating to take place in front of their noses, without reprimanding or holding those who break rules in some kind of check, the kind of rulers who thrived in Soviet and Nazi regimes will find places here and may even be welcomed if only to bring back some kind of order. How horrendous will that be.

  7. David Reich Said:

    I have mixed feeling about this… On one hand, I’m glad many people can’t write, because that helps keep me in business, writing news releases, bylined articles, corporate memos, position papers and even the occasional letter for clients.

    But it is pretty sad that so many otherwise-educated people can’t write a clear or concise sentence. The popularity of texting, with all the abbreviations, certainly isn’t helping matters. Although it’s ok for people in business to hire writing professionals, it is totally unacceptable for this to be done with school-related work.

    And for people planning to go into communications-related fields, there should be no excuses for poor writing. For everyone else, it’s ok. It just means more work for me.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:

    David,

    If someone can’t write, this person won’t know the difference between your excellent prose and their –or a colleague’s–poorly drafted white paper, release, brochure etc. etc. In fact, have you noticed that a person who isn’t used to writing will often object to a change of a semi-colon whereas a writer is comfortable having their copy improved by editing?

    Knowing how to do something so as to be able to judge what’s good doesn’t apply only to writing. If a person has very limited exposure to food–say they eat only Kentucky Fried Chicken and they’ve never tried any of your wife’s delicious broiled bird–how can they tell the difference between good and excellent or mediocre food?

  9. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Matt Mecs shared the following on Facebook:

    There is a new website – turnitin.com – that colleges are now using. When you upload a paper, it shows what % of it was taken from the internet.

  10. Martin Beckfield Said:

    The greatest complement ever paid me during my long life was by the finest teacher I had in four years at a supposedly great, and certainly very rich, New England university. He accused me of submitting an essay written by somebody else. (The teacher was subsequently dismissed “for not publishing,” but that is another story.)

    This happened in an English literature class in which there were only three of us, and him. We knew each other well. Once a week we had to submit a thousand word paper on the book we were studying that week. I even remember the subject of the paper, a discussion of the role played by the four knights in T.S. Eliot’s “Murder in the Cathedral.”

    Professor Young told me that since the quality of both the ideas and the writing in my paper was far beyond anything I was capable of, he assumed I had plagiarized it from some source and had stayed up half the night unsuccessfully trying to track down from where I had stolen my material. A very annoyed man, he gave me a lousy mark.

    Strangely, it never occurred to him that I might have hired someone else to write the paper, especially as this was an institution with a history of hired guns doing student’s work, the most notable being Henry Ford II, later chairman of an automobile company, who was caught when he forgot to open his senior thesis and take out the ghost’s bill before turning it in to his professor.

    Corruption has always been around. What’s wrong now is that we’ve got people so hyped up on how “everybody, no matter how dumb, should be a college graduate.” We need to return to a merit system and throw out our egalitarian ideal. We also need to properly remember that college is where you can get an education and not only a stepping stone to job.

  11. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Martin,

    I can’t believe that Henry Ford’s ghost stuck the bill in the assignment! Argh.

    I agree that not everyone is meant to go to college, which doesn’t mean they are dumb. They might be better off spending their time learning other things at 17-21/25, such as becoming an apprentice to an artisan or plumber or electrician or home builder or chef or….

    Not everyone can afford to take the time away from the workforce and/or to pay the hefty fees attached to college.

    But anybody who goes should take full advantage and sign up for a little more than they think that they accomplish and add courses that will make them stretch and work hard.

    As for that professor’s accusation being the greatest compliment in your [long] life, I can see what an impression it made on a young you but I would imagine that you have received many more and even greater compliments since.

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