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The Disorderly March VIII

November 17, 2010

I suppose it’s ironic – here I am, after all my complaints about the Orderly March, getting ready to go to “school,” albeit only for the things I’m interested in.  I have a friend who’s already burning out even though he’s barely started – he does great in the classes he likes, and flames out in the ones he doesn’t, and is thinking of abandoning the whole project.  I told him, you don’t have to do it “their way,” the Orderly way – go ahead and take the classes you want and ignore classes on Our State Constitution and Freshman Physics or whatever.  You won’t get a degree, but you’ll get an education.

I told him to read Shop Class as Soulcraft, from which I’d read a long excerpt in the New York Times magazine.  The TL;DR is basically this:  if you’re intelligent, you’ll get good grades in high school and score well on the ACT/SAT/Etc.  Therefore, you must go to college.  If you do well in college, you must go to grad school.  If you get a graduate degree, you must put it to use in some kind of office or academic environment.  So basically, anyone with a brain ends up becoming a “symbolic analyst” and we all spend our time complaining that it’s hard to get people who can fix our cars right, or our plumbing, or whatever – because we’ve refused to allow anyone with a brain to not end up in an office.  Author Matthew Crawford (so hot!) had a masters degree and ditched all that to fix motorcycles, getting not only more satisfaction but more money than he ever got writing abstracts of academic papers for some journal mill.

Speaking of papers, this edition of the Disorderly March is brought to you by the Chronicle of Higher Education – that’s right.  They just published an article by an anonymous author (whose claims and sources they verified) who makes his living writing papers for college students.  I nearly busted a gut laughing at some of it.

The request came in by e-mail around 2 in the afternoon. It was from a previous customer, and she had urgent business. I quote her message here verbatim (if I had to put up with it, so should you): "You did me business ethics propsal for me I need propsal got approved pls can you will write me paper?"

…A few hours after I had agreed to write the paper, I received the following e-mail: "sending sorces for ur to use thanx."

I did not reply immediately. One hour later, I received another message:

"did u get the sorce I send

please where you are now?

Desprit to pass spring projict"

This student, who submitted the paper written by article author “Ed Dante” (a nice play on Edmond Dantes of the Count of Monte Cristo, another great impostor), wrote to him afterwards to say, “thanx so much for uhelp ican going to graduate to now.” 

I tried to edit this part down, but I just can’t.  Here’s to every Transcriptarian who ever threw a resume with an “honest C” on the reject pile because only a 4.0 is good enough:

I have completed countless online courses. Students provide me with passwords and user names so I can access key documents and online exams. In some instances, I have even contributed to weekly online discussions with other students in the class.

I have become a master of the admissions essay. I have written these for undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral programs, some at elite universities. I can explain exactly why you’re Brown material, why the Wharton M.B.A. program would benefit from your presence, how certain life experiences have prepared you for the rigors of your chosen course of study. I do not mean to be insensitive, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been paid to write about somebody helping a loved one battle cancer. I’ve written essays that could be adapted into Meryl Streep movies.

I do a lot of work for seminary students. I like seminary students. They seem so blissfully unaware of the inherent contradiction in paying somebody to help them cheat in courses that are largely about walking in the light of God and providing an ethical model for others to follow. I have been commissioned to write many a passionate condemnation of America’s moral decay as exemplified by abortion, gay marriage, or the teaching of evolution. All in all, we may presume that clerical authorities see these as a greater threat than the plagiarism committed by the future frocked.

With respect to America’s nurses, fear not. Our lives are in capable hands­—just hands that can’t write a lick. Nursing students account for one of my company’s biggest customer bases. I’ve written case-management plans, reports on nursing ethics, and essays on why nurse practitioners are lighting the way to the future of medicine. I’ve even written pharmaceutical-treatment courses, for patients who I hope were hypothetical.

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. But I’d say education is the worst. I’ve written papers for students in elementary-education programs, special-education majors, and ESL-training courses. I’ve written lesson plans for aspiring high-school teachers, and I’ve synthesized reports from notes that customers have taken during classroom observations. I’ve written essays for those studying to become school administrators, and I’ve completed theses for those on course to become principals. In the enormous conspiracy that is student cheating, the frontline intelligence community is infiltrated by double agents. (Future educators of America, I know who you are.)

I love the bit about the seminary students most of all. 

There’s quite a bit of debate in the comments section, including a lot of “comment removed by moderator.”  A lot of finger-pointing (the system, the paper miller who screws up the “curve” by lowering the grade of the honest student, the students, the teachers, the parents), but very little is said about the real motivator – the employers who demand a 4.0 before you can even get a preliminary interview.  This commenter notes that the “invisible hand” will eventually sort them out:

I think that schools and even paper-writers like the author have very little blame here. If students cheat, they are left with a diploma with little practical knowledge behind it. At which point three things will happen: they will do nothing with their degree and just continue to be a useless rich person, they will get hired and fail to get promoted because they cannot do their job competently in spite of their degree, or they will get promoted based on their degree not their performance – which is the fault of the employer.

And this one made me laugh:

Mr Dante, is your firm hiring by any chance?  If so, could you please create and submit a resume for me? Once I land the position, I will be in touch about some papers I will need you to write for me.

If there is one thing that has set me up and over my peers and competitors in the workplace, it’s the year I spent, in the 7th grade, under the iron fist of Mrs. Urudia at Clayton Junior High School, 35 years or so ago.  We did not talk about how books made us feel, or express shame at our culture’s oppressive past, or write poetry about the emo agony we felt when mom made us clean our room.  We spelled, we diagrammed sentences, we learned the rules of grammar.  English boot camp, basically.  I could no more tell you what the subjunctive clause is now than I could speak Mandarin, but if I were to see it used incorrectly, I’d know how to fix it.  Thanks to Mrs. Urudia, I have snagged newspaper columns, published novels, and been hired for technical writing jobs – editors used to say, “your writing is so clean, I never have to lift my pencil.”  And that, children, is the secret to being a successful writer – not all this balderdash about “luminous prose.”  Make your editor’s job easy, and you will thrive.  Everything I needed to know about English, it’s funny to think, I learned in the 7th grade.



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