Monday, November 15, 2010

Did you ever feel like there just isn't enough puke in the world? That there might even be a shortage of puke?

Some people exist purely for the purpose of making sure we never, ever run out. Like this guy:

The Shadow Scholar.


  1. Okay, I'm in an unusually good mood this AM.

    1. I think it's hilarious that his example assignment is about trade liberalization and unethical business practices, as my own students recently wrote papers tangentially related to this bet a bunch of folks think HE'S unethical. I, incidentally, don't. I think he's making a buck off the willingness of others to be unethical.

    2. But, my interest is not in moral debate. I love this: "With just two days to go, I was finally ready to throw myself into the business assignment. I turned off my phone, caged myself in my office, and went through the purgatory of cramming the summation of a student's alleged education into a weekend. Try it sometime. After the 20th hour on a single subject, you have an almost-out-of-body experience."

    One of my jobs is to take sociology and political science research and "massage" it into written material that other people can actually understand. It's hysterical. Do you want to know about ESL education in XXX County? I can tell you all about it, even though I've never set foot in a school in XXX county. How about illegal immigrant numbers in ZZZ County? Again, I can do that. And I know exactly what he means about 20 hours --> out of body experience.

    As a matter of fact, I'm doing some of that now. It's about the "climate" for employees (faculty and staff) at a law school.

    Would you like to know the general theme? Staff think faculty are stuck-up idiots who couldn't find their asses with both hands, while faculty think staff are incompetent nincompoops who spend too much time on Facebook...

    ...but nobody's getting fired, because America loves mediocrity.

  2. On Wednesday at noon eastern time the Shadow Scholar is doing a live chat at the Chronicle.

  3. I don't want to pull a hipster "I heard about them years ago" but back in 1996 or 1997 "Harper's Magazine" ran a piece on Canadian college paper mills written by an expatriate American*. In fact, most of the people who wrote for this paper mill were Americans, stuck in Montreal for one reason or an other, and they would grind out these works of academic fraud at an astounding rate. I almost forgot to say that the author was a woman, and she felt that the position she was in was highly ironic; brilliant people living on the outskirts of society forced to do the intellectual drudge work that lazy, syrup-fed slugs were unwilling to do themselves. The greatest irony was that in the back pages of that very magazine was an ad for one of these (US based) paper mills. The piece made me want to beat the college football team to death with a 12 lb. sledgehammer.


    * I think she was a failed grad student, or had been doing some teaching in the Canadian system and was not renewed.

  4. We all want our schools to adhere to higher standards so that we can provide a decent, meaningful education to our students while maintaining our personal and professional integrity.

    To do this, the administration would have to tolerate and even support the failure and/or expulsion of a significant number of students each year. That will never happen because schools can't afford to lose the tuition of the dunces and cheaters, so they allow their product to be degraded by these incompetent "students."

    So, isn't part of the problem of low standards in higher education that there are too many colleges pandering to a too-small supply of competent students? Isn't there a business model for this type of problem, which includes limiting supply?

  5. I've suspected students of getting help from other sources, but haven't been able to find evidence (either through a plagiarism checker or some string searches via Google). We don't necessarily have a lot of rich students, but desperate people do desperate things.

    However, some of the improvements I see are too great sometimes, whether they are ESL students or just plain ol' always-been-here citizens.

    And... in the unlikely event they get caught? Maybe a year suspension at best. If they have the $$$, the risk:reward ratio is acceptable, unfortunately.

  6. How to foil people like this: have your students write their assignments in German. I would bet that I have NOT, as he insists, "seen some of his work." And I suppose there could be an equivalent to him who writes people's posts for upper-level German courses, but well...I bet they're not making USD$61,000 per year.

  7. Posts = assignments, of course. (Sorry, it's early.)

  8. @Jae/Jennie

    Da wäre ich mir gar nicht so sicher.

  9. My community college requires at least one in-class passing essay and that helps me find a few students each year who are clearly not writing their own out of class essays.

  10. I thought the guy was hilariously douchey. If you admit you lie for a living, why expect to have any credibility? I don't believe half of what he said, particularly his implausible claim about how much he makes.

    When I got to the part about how his profs refused to recognize his genius by letting him get academic credit for editing his novel, I knew exactly who he was; I've heard from these types before. They don't have the intellectual muscle to actually earn a degree, so they go on about their unrecognized genius and how it's the educational system that fails.

    Given how full of bullshit he his, he found his calling. I refuse to be chided by someone who admits he writes application essays. If you help the unqualified cheat their way in, you have no ground to stand on complaining about universities not serving dumbasses well enough.

  11. I rely entirely on hand-written in-class essays for which no notes are allowed for my lower-division classes, which sure does separate the sheep from the goats.

    third-year classes are harder.

  12. A diagnostic handwritten in-class essay works wonders. You file 'em, you compare the suspicious papers to 'em, you turn both in to the Ministry of Few Consequences, the end.

  13. What I don't get is how the hell the grad-school theses survive the defense. I mean, surely it's obvious when the student has to discuss "hir" work in-depth with a committee that s/he has only the vaguest grasp of the subject matter. Right?

    On another note, when I was TA-ing in grad school, some undergrad who obviously thought (wrongly) intro philosophy was going to be a bird course asked me to "edit" his paper. It was three pages of scribbled notes in barely-legible handwriting. I told him to come back with an actual draft. He offered me $200.00 to do one for him. I told him to go f*** himself and reported the incident to the prof. No idea what happened after that.

  14. ...I told him to go f*** himself and reported the incident to the prof. No idea what happened after that.
    - Electric Maenad

    He manages a Wendy's now.

  15. Whatladder, I wish I thought this guy's claims were implausible but I personally know someone who supports herself and three children on the money she earns writing bogus essays. It happens.

    Surly, I agree with you completely. Our problem is low admissions standards combined with implicit rules not to fail the asses of as many students as should fail. Under such circumstances, degrees mean little or nothing.


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