Cheaters!June 20, 2011
From my list of 25 Random and Useless Things About Me…
24. I wrote a paper in college based solely on the first and last chapters and the lecture notes, got an A and was told “You not only read this book, you devoured it.” (The book was Narcissus and Goldmond by Hermann Hesse.) When the professor wanted to enter it into a contest I politely declined. In high school I also turned down the chance to go to the county science fair because I felt my 2nd place project was subpar and bogus.
We spent Father’s Day at my in-laws. They usually have a good variety of reading material lying around and yesterday was no exception. In Reader’s Digest was an article titled, “I help kids cheat” about a professional ghostwriter and the types of people who use his services. Of course the names were changed to protect the student (notice they did not say innocent) and author.
He writes entrance essays, papers, masters and doctoral thesis papers, lesson plans for future teachers, case studies for future nurses, etc., etc. The author says he writes for three types of people: those who are not native speakers who do not have the time or the teachers to help them have a better command of the language, those that are hopeless (how did they get out of high school to begin with?), and those that are rich and lazy and used to paying others to do their work for them and thus, in the author’s opinion, will make them great top executives one day.
Nurses and teachers were singled out but for different reasons. The author contends that nurses are in a field where intensive writing is not what they will be doing in the workplace. Future teachers however are raked over the coals for not doing their own work and cheating. As a parent I may just look at the teachers of my children differently, wondering how many of them actually wrote their own thesis papers.
I asked DH if he would have ever considered paying someone else to write a project report for him. USMMA has a strict honor code (yes, all institutes for higher learning have an honor code and a no cheating policy) as part of the regiment environment. Humanities and liberal arts classes are seen by most of the midshipmen as tedious classes to get through. Wouldn’t it be a huge temptation to an engineering student to pay someone to write your papers for English or History, or even your sea-year project?
As an English major having someone write my paper would be ludicrous, but as I stated above, I was not above employing for my own papers what this ghostwriter does–barely reading the work and being able to produce something the professors want to read. I was never asked to write papers but I was asked to edit and “make suggestions.” It would never occur to me or to DH to pay someone else to do the work for us.
There are references to it in pop culture–sadly, the one that pops to my mind is Grease 2 where the T-Birds pay Michael to write papers and he does it gladly so he can raise the money to buy a bike so he can impress Michelle Pfeiffer’s character as a ‘cool rider’. I just never realized it was a five-figure industry! If the ghostwriter didn’t have to pay half to the company that farms him, he’d make six-figures! And desperate people are willing to pay. I’m in the wrong job!
During my stint as an editor (not sure if I’ll ever go back) I’ve stated that the more little letters after one’s name, the greater the inability to write correct references. Seriously, I would spend the bulk of my initial edits telling authors they needed to supply the place of publication, the publisher, and pages. Ten years ago I would cut them some slack for not knowing the correct way to cite an electronic source but there is no excuse now that almost everything can be found in an electronic format–the age of e-readers is going to make this even more prevalent! Now I wonder if this inability to write their references is because they never had to write their own work before and their current assistant just isn’t up to the same level as the ghostwriters’ they’ve hired in the past. It makes sense…
I am even more determined to make sure T1 and T2 can write a paper, no matter what field of interest they go into. And I may just be a bit more cynical every time I see someone’s credentials, wondering who really earned that distinction–the person or the ghostwriter?