The Mouse Goes up the River
President Clinton Gets His Cutie Mark

Suspiciously Good Writing

Via Ed Philp, an excerpt from a dialogue between T, an adjunct professors of philosophy, and C, a hired gun who writes academic papers for university students in return for payment:

T: ...In those cases I was alerted to plagiarism by the sudden appearance, in a paper that is otherwise a morass of grammatical errors, of a series of flawless sentences with complicated structures. The correct use of a semicolon is a big red flag for me. As is the use—and often misuse—of specialized jargon or technical language that I’ve not discussed with them in class. Then I type those sentences into Google, and they all wind up being smoking-gun cases of plagiarism. My favorite case this semester was plagiarism within plagiarism. When I informed this student that I suspected her paper was plagiarized, she said to me, “I got my paper from one of the students who was in your class last semester. How was I to know that she had plagiarized?” Which indicated to me, along with a number of the other email responses I got from students, that many of them don’t even know what plagiarism is.

C: I don’t disagree. But not knowing what plagiarism is isn’t really the problem. It’s unfortunate that right now the university is cracking down so hard on plagiarism. And the reason the university is cracking down so hard on plagiarism is because their product is less and less valuable these days. When students plagiarize, there’s an implicit recognition that “I’m just doing this for the grade.” That’s why they do it. And that’s the way that the majority of students look at the university, and have been for some time now. At my college, the frats had rooms full of file cabinets full of plagiarized papers. Plagiarism is old news. It’s really not just that plagiarism is getting easier to do, with the Internet. The problem is now that the grade doesn’t even get you the job.

T: That’s certainly true of my students, of whom I know, that unlike where you went to school, not a single one of them is taking it for anything but a grade. Or maybe one of them per semester does. They are taking this class because they need a series of credits.

C: My point in saying that is not to blame lazy students. I think that the system, grading in general, grading as a gold standard of employability, college as the necessary step between high school and employment, all of these things alone aren’t necessarily wrong. But when you get them all together in this network, and college is going to define your future, the grades will determine where you go, one, for a fifth of you, those of you who are going to grad school or law school or med school. For the rest of you, to get that job, you need that paper that says, “Diploma,” which means you need to pass. That’s all that matters.