An East-coast writer recently shared the details of his career with The Chronicle of Higher Education. It’s not the story of a novelist, poet or a journalist. It’s the story of a person who makes money by helping students cheat.
Under the nom de plume Ed Dante, he reports that he’s written over 5,000 pages of academic text, all to be handed in by someone else. He works for an online company that allows students to pass their classes without putting in the work, and he makes about $66,000 a year. He is paid based on the number of pages for a given assignment, and the deadline. He has no qualms about lying about his academic background in order to reassure a client. This form of cheating is virtually undetectable.
The writer does not seem particularly proud of what he does. He describes himself as having no style. The students he must deal with are desperate and inarticulate. “Whenever I take on an assignment…I get a certain physical sensation. My body says: Are you sure you want to do this again? You know how much it hurt the last time. You know this student will be with you for a long time. You know you will become her emergency contact, her guidance counselor and life raft.”
Dante groups his clients into three categories: “English-as-second-language,” the “hopelessly deficient” and “lazy rich” students. But in the end, after detailing the horrors of corresponding with those unable to write their own papers, he blames the academic system for these students’ problems. “The focus on evaluation rather than education means that those who haven’t mastered English must do so quickly or suffer the consequences,” he writes. Even for native speakers, mastering written English can be a challenge.
Yet it seems that this writer’s exhaustive story, including the tale of how he began getting paid by frat boys to write their papers when he was a college student himself, seems to be a lengthy confession. Certainly the story is interesting, but he also seems to want his guilt expunged. “Say what you want about me,” he writes, “but I am not the reason your students cheat.” Dante even wants us to know that he’s “nice to people.” He seems to want sympathy for being a failed novelist, it’s almost as if he wants us to think that it’s noble that he’s making his living as a writer. He doesn’t want to be blamed: “pointing the finger at me is too easy.”
What do you think? Are academic institutions responsible for producing students who cheat?
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