Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Academic Cheating......

I read a rather disturbing article in this month's Readers' Digest, written by a "man" who makes a living writing other people's academic papers for them. I say "man" because the article was written under a pseudonym, and while it had a man's name, that might have been just a ploy.

I wish I could find a link to the article online, because I'm afraid I won't do it justice. And I left my copy of the magazine at school. If you are at all interested in the topic, it's well worth the $3.49 (or whatever it costs for a single issue) at the grocery store.

The basis of the article was that cheating is rampant in all areas of academia. The author specifically mentioned people in education - EDUCATION!!!! - and those in the seminary - SEMINARY!!!! - as representing a large percentage of his clientele.

He wrote about how easy it is (for him at least) to produce a 75-page paper with little more than a Google search, Wikipedia, and an appropriate quote or two. He used examples from a customer, a woman writing a thesis for a business degree, and he included her emails verbatim. They were almost unintelligible. Didn't she ever communicate in writing with her professors? Weren't they suspicious that she produced almost flawless academic writing but couldn't spell or even string a couple of sentences together that made sense?

Apparently not. According to the author, not ONE of his "customers" has ever been caught or even had it suggested that his or her work was anything less than original.

This just burns me up. And I'm pretty sure it would burn me up even if I didn't have a doctorate. Sometimes I get a sudden cold chill, worried that I inadvertently failed to document a source properly in my dissertation, and "they" are going to come snatch my degree away from me. I wouldn't mind them taking the piece of paper, but for God's sake don't take the extra pay I've earned these 7 years I've had my doctoral degree.

I heard recently about someone I know personally (but not very well) working on an advanced degree but having someone else do some of the work (I'm assuming the writing and/or research). That's just wrong. I have no proof, of course, and I suppose on some level it isn't any of my business (at least that's what Hubby says), but it still gets my goat. Should I be bothered? Does it affect me in any way? Maybe not. I don't think it cheapens my degree any for this person to get an advanced degree by cheating. But if he or she has no compunction about cheating in a masters program, what other (un)ethical issues does he or she bring to the classroom?

I have mellowed somewhat over the years (really, I have), but right after I finished my doctorate I was much more sensitive to this topic. About the time I finished my degree, there was a huge scandal in our state, one county over from us, in fact, about a number of teachers getting online degrees from some institution that turned out to be bogus. They lost their jobs and their teaching certificates, and some of them were outraged. One man dared to be interviewed on the news complaining. He said, and I quote, "I don't think it's right. I worked hard for ten months for that doctorate."

I could have hunted that man down and cheerfully throttled him with my bare hands.

Ten months. TEN MONTHS!!!! You hear that, Neena? You and I must be the slow members of our respective classes, because I know I worked hard and I'm pretty sure you have worked hard too. It took me four years, and that was with me taking two courses some semesters AND working full-time. And being in charge of the yearbook for three of those years.

I don't know how these people live with themselves.

1 comment:

Kelly said...

I read this same article and it totally burned me up, too! My younger daughter is in graduate school and works as a graduate assistant. She said the first thing they do when kids submit papers is run them through the program that checks for plagarism. A stickler for honesty all her life, I always told her that, for those who cheat, it will catch up with them someday. Sadly, she now tells me that I'm not correct in that statement.