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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Confessions of an academic cheat

How to make a living out of lazy rich kids

A hair-raising article has made its appearance in a no lesser periodical than the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Ed Dante is the pseudonym of a writer on the East Coast of the United States, who makes a very good living writing papers for lazy or incompetent students who are willing to pay.

As he happily confesses, he works for an online company that employs about 50 writers who create original essays for cheating students -- 'scholars' who supply the guidelines of what is needed, and then stump up the bucks on receipt of the paper.  'On any day of the academic year,' he says, 'I am working on upward of 20 assignments.'

He excuses himself and his colleagues by adding that the clients are truly desperate -- so desperate, in fact, that they can't even spell the word: 'I have seen the word "desperate" misspelled every way you can imagine.'   It's also a truly bizarre situation -- these are young men and women in graduate school, without the writing talent to compose something as simple as a grocery list.

Which makes it easy for 'Ed Dante' to blame others for his suspect way of making a living -- 'I live well on the desperation, misery, and incompetence that your educational system has created,' he says.  And though he is fearfully busy, he would like to start a conversation -- a 'discussion about custom papers and how they differ from more detectable forms of plagiarism, or about why students cheat in the first place.'

My initial question would be whether it is plagiarism at all, because presumably the papers are all well researched, and all original.  (One hopes so, anyway, as it would retrieve a little light from the situation.)  I suppose it depends on whether a nitpicking lawyer would charge the wayward student with having pinched the work of the anonymous writer he has paid to write his paper.

The next question -- who on earth would pay to cheat -- is answered in the essay.  Three kinds of clients supply Ed Dante's income:  the students for whom English is a foreign language, the hopelessly incompetent writers, and the lazy rich kids.  Between them, they provide earnings of over $60,000 per annum.

And what about his future, now that he has blown the secret?  He is due to do even better.  Mediabistro has just broken the news that the pseudonymous Ed Dante has signed a contract with Bloomsbury Press to write a book about the business, called The Shadow Scholar.

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