A disturbing article from several perspectives appeared last week in the Times. Titled “Cheating, Inc.: How Writing Papers for American College Students Has Become a Lucrative Profession Overseas,” it contained one ethically troubling paragraph and factoid after another, such as…
“Finally, a friend offered to help her break into “academic writing,” a lucrative industry in Kenya that involves doing school assignments online for college students in the United States, Britain and Australia. Ms. Mbugua felt conflicted.”
“This is cheating,” she said. “But do you have a choice? We have to make money. We have to make a living.”
“Cheating in college is nothing new, but the internet now makes it possible on a global, industrial scale. Sleek websites — with names like Ace-MyHomework and EssayShark — have sprung up that allow people in developing countries to bid on and complete American homework assignments.
“Although such businesses have existed for more than a decade, experts say demand has grown in recent years as the sites have become more sophisticated, with customer service hotlines and money-back guarantees. The result? Millions of essays ordered annually in a vast, worldwide industry that provides enough income for some writers to make it a full-time job.”
- “A Facebook group for academic writers in Kenya has over 50,000 members…
“…It is not clear how widely sites for paid-to-order essays, known as “contract cheating” in higher education circles, are used. A 2005 study of students in North America found that 7 percent of undergraduates admitted to turning in papers written by someone else, while 3 percent admitted to obtaining essays from essay mills. Cath Ellis, a leading researcher on the topic, said millions of essays are ordered online every year worldwide.”
Yes, I’d say that the statistics cited in the article make the 7% and 3% findings risible. What do you think are the real numbers? 15%? 20%? If that large a segment of graduating college students have cheated to get by, why is a diploma trusted as a credential? Would you want to be operated on by a doctor with a 20% chance that he or she cheated to graduate from medical school?
- “It’s a huge problem,” said Tricia Bertram Gallant, director of the academic integrity office at the University of California, San Diego. “If we don’t do anything about it, we will turn every accredited university into a diploma mill.”
What a hilarious state of denial. Every accredited university is already a diploma mill, and intended to be. The idea is to get jobs, not to be educated.
- “You can relax knowing that our reliable, expert writers will produce you a top quality and 100% plagiarism free essay that is written just for you, while you take care of the more interesting aspects of student life,” reads the pitch from Academized, which charges about $15 a page for a college freshman’s essay due in two weeks and $42 a page for an essay due in three hours….
“’No matter what kind of academic paper you need, it is simple and secure to hire an essay writer for a price you can afford,’ promises EssayShark.com. ‘Save more time for yourself.'”
“In an email, EssayShark’s public relations department said the company did not consider its services to be cheating, and that it warned students the essays are for “research and reference purposes only” and are not to be passed off as a student’s own work.
“We do not condone, encourage or knowingly take part in plagiarism or any other acts of academic fraud,” it said.
Talk about a Jumbo, denying outright what is undeniable and obvious! What utter, brazen gall.
“A major scandal involving contract cheating in Australia caused university officials there to try to crack down on the practice. A similar effort to confront the industry has emerged in Britain, but not in the United States.
Contract cheating is illegal in 17 states, but punishment tends to be light and enforcement rare. Experts said that no federal law in the United States, or in Kenya, forbids the purchase or sale of academic papers…
Of course not! Policy-makers literally do not care if degrees have any integrity, as long as they provide an avenue, however false, to employment.
- “In interviews with people in Kenya who said they had worked in contract cheating, many said they did not view the practice as unethical.”
This is because in Kenya, like Africa generally, society has accepted and rationalized corruption to such an extent that even rudimentary ethics alarms barely exist.
1) Are our cheating students corrupting the paper-writers, or are they corrupting our students?
2) Does anybody care?
7 thoughts on “Contract Cheating: One More Reason College Is A Massive Scam On Our Society”
Sad. But as a Nigerian living in Nigeria, it isnt unusual.
Sadder that the US and other more advanced countries that we are supposed to look up to are beginning to catch up with and emulate this insidious corrupt practice.
I wrote my project this year on “A Human Rights Appraisal of Nigeria’s Anti-LGBT Legal Regime”. Suffice it to say that MOST of my classmates were surprised that I chose to do my project research and couched my arguments in my own words.
I went to a relatively small university nearly forty years ago, and there was a lot of cheating then- long before the internet brought service up and prices down. I tutored on the side as fellow students had trouble using the CP/M computers and understanding the assigned questions. I was offered good money for the day to do his paper, but at the time I hated writing and just didn’t have the time outside my own work.
It was tempting, though, as my campus jobs left me no cash. I also have suspicions about a few papers in high school, so this cheating is in no way new.
But even as a teen not yet interested in writing, I knew the paper needed to sound like the student and their other submitted work. The student is unlikely to have absorbed the research enough from reading it alone, to talk through the salient points a month later. (Though lost to the ages now, I can still babble about this technical utility of my particular research paper- though its most common use since then is amusement park rides) I preferred a B- grade I earned over copying, I would not be able to defend my paper to any teacher if I bought/copied it.
And that’s the rub. A vast majority of this cheating would be ended if the staff was engaged enough to identify mismatched writing/speaking style, and a lack of depth in the student’s understanding in the topic they wrote about. The other half is to punish, decisively the cheats. But holding the young accountable is unfashionable, so we get kids who think the sheepskin means something, instead of the understanding behind it. It is disheartening when job hunting, that you know the competitor is incompetent and they get the job through faked competencies.
Never a bad time to tout my alma mater, St. John’s College. Paying for a paper is not only completely against the educational philosophy (as it is everywhere), it is completely pointless.
The entire approach of the school is to interact directly with the source materials. They don’t require research papers. They require you to read Plato, think about Plato, talk about Plato, and write about Plato. You are not required to research Plato, except to the extent that Aristotle, Lucretius, and Plotinus provide such commentary.
When the point of writing a paper is to explain what YOU think about a given problem, text, or issue, why pay for someone else thoughts when you already have your own.
Yeah, I wrote a lot of crap there, but it was my crap. But, it got better. My Senior Thesis on Kantian Ethics was completely original, on one of his more obscure texts, and, if I may say, a worthy analysis of his work.
To answer the questions:
2) Apparently not.
Although such businesses have existed for more than a decade, WHAT??
An online essay, Academic Dishonesty, gives a history. It notes, in brief, In antiquity, the notion of intellectual property did not exist. Ideas were the common property of the literate elite. Scholars freely made digests or commentaries on other works, which could contain as much or as little original material as the author desired. Scholars were an elite and small group who knew and generally trusted each other.
. . . . Cheating was prevalent on the Chinese civil service exams thousands of years ago, even when it carried the penalty of death for both examinee and examiner.
Cheating, the article continues, was widespread at college campuses in the United States in the late 19th and 20th centuries, involving an estimated 2/3rds of the students and was not considered dishonorable among them Fraternities often operated so-called essay mills, where term papers were kept on file and could be resubmitted over and over again by different students, often with the only change being the name on the paper.
. . . As higher education in the U.S. trended towards meritocracy, however, a greater emphasis was put on anti-cheating policies, and the newly diverse student bodies tended to arrive with a more negative view of academic dishonesty. . . .
And then came the new computerized, international models. Which could be why fraternities don’t seem to have as much money these days …. oops, that was sour grape juice dripping on the keyboard.
“The idea is to get jobs, not to be educated.”
I’m sorry, this is just elitist academic garbage. Why is it that if you want a college education to become employable, it means you don’t want to be ‘educated’? I would say it is because the elites in this country don’t need any type of knowledge for THEIR jobs, so they equate being educated to possession of trivia and anything they have defined as elite culture. I went to college because I wanted to have a better life than I could have without a college education. That is true for a majority of college students nationwide. I wanted knowledge because I had neither money nor connections. I was going to have to make my way in the world based on my own merit.
This post is deceptive because it does not point out the dichotomy of college experiences. There are some students who go to college to become employable. Other people go to college to get plausible paper credentials and network. The latter have always been more likely to buy their papers and pay others to take their tests for them. Take someone like Chelsea Clinton. She didn’t have to learn one thing at Stanford. She had million dollar jobs lined up just because of who she was. However, she needed some kind of plausible degree to allow those companies to plausibly say she was qualified. In reality, they could have hired her at 18 and she could have done just as good a job for them, since her pedigree and connections were all they wanted. However, it would have been blatantly obvious what was going on and apologists couldn’t say “No, she really is qualified because of her B.A. in…”. Just look at the apologist go with Hunter Biden right now.
The vast majority of us, without influence, connections, and money, are left to fend for ourselves with only our employable skills. How do we get those? Education. However, wanting knowledge to be employable and work in a job are dirty, dirty, things. Those aren’t the things the elites strive for. These people aren’t studying modern, art, or dance theory, or wine tasting, or theatre. They are studying science and engineering because there are people needed who can design airplanes, and plan road networks, and become physicians, and check the purity of the drugs we make. We need to put down those people, how dare they WORK for a living!
Now, on to the so-called ‘educated’ people. I was in a room full of such people for a discussion about ‘what makes and educated person’. As they went around the table, the elite personages filling the room haughtily said things like “They should have read Dante”, “They should have read x plays by Shakepeare”, “They should take a second language”, and other things you would expect from the ‘educated elites’. Then it was my turn and the moderator said to me ‘And do you think they should know anything about science?” . I thought about rambling off a long list of things they should know, but I know I would just be scoffed at, so I replied “I think they should know how light bulbs work”. The room erupted. I was accused of making a mockery of the proceedings. I asked an obvious question “So, how DOES a light bulb work?”. I was the only one who knew. I was the only one who knew there are currently 3 main types of light bulbs and each one works on a different principle. Each one requires quantum mechanics to explain.
I did have to read Dante, and Shakespeare, and take 4 semesters of a foreign language, and I know how light bulbs work. But, I went to college to get a job, so I am not educated.
The irony is, the people who cheat the most are the people who can afford to cheat and they are the same ones who would be considered ‘educated’. The ones who are less likely to cheat are not considered educated because they needed to learn in college to get a job.
Michael, I was the chairman of a non-profit educational advocacy organization, and attended many conferences and symposiums. The emphasis always was on college as a way to get better jobs. Always. At one session, a Clinton rep from the Dept of Ed went on and on about how a college degree was essential to being employed and getting a good job, and why this justified affirmative action, grade inflation, and making sure we eliminated all impediments to graduation. I stood up and asked why I had heard nothing about the value of education for its own sake. That it made better citizens and better, more productive, happier human beings. My comments were ridiculed. Literally, no one in the room would concede that education itself was the mission of going to college. And college does mot educate. Indoctrinates, baby-sits, credentials, but there isn’t a current that leads to education. Students are incentivized to seek easy courses that guarantee the highest grades.
I absolutely stand by my statement, and until and unless we realize that this is the true framing of higher education in rhetoric and policy up and down the bureaucracy, the scam will continue.
Comment of the Day, by the way.