Stunned and Outraged: The Academic Ghostwriter Who Carts the Illiterate to College Degrees

The Barometer knew it was bad, but even she was shocked by new levels of cheating at colleges and universities revealed in “The Shadow,” by Ed Dante ( thankfully , a nom de plume) in the November 12, 2010 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education. The article was also reproduced in The Reader’s Digest and passed along to the Barometer from a teacher who was stunned and outraged.

Mr. Dante confesses to having written 12 graduate theses and 5,000 pages of essays, term papers, and all manner of academic assignments for “English-as-a-second language students, hopelessly deficient students, and lazy rich kids.” He worked full time from 2004 through 2010 at a company that employs a staff of 50 writers to do college-level writing for desperate students. And, by the way, he, like the Barometer, has seen “desperate” spelled in ways that would embarrass the science of phonics. His article is a great read – an eye-opener, but for a surprising reason to the Barometer. Sure, the cheating, including by a large client base of seminary students, is appalling. But, in compliance, we always need to look for the root cause. Why so much blatant cheating?

Cheating may not be the problem, but, rather, a symptom. This is the kind of cheating we cannot fix through honor codes, expulsions, and shame. From Mr. Dante’s article and the Barometer’s experience, there are too many students at colleges and universities who have no business being students at colleges and universities. In short, the national goal of giving (or at least the providing the you-might-or-might-not-have-to-pay-these-back loans for) everyone a college education finds us with two problems: (1) there are a great many students in colleges and universities who cannot do college- and university-level work; and (2) a shortage of skilled tradesmen and tradeswomen. Not everyone wants to study Chaucer, but put them in a welding class and their work is as inspirational. Many a plumber hated pre-calc, but please don’t ask me to inhabit a world without them and their skills. In the one-size-fits-all world we, through our demands for and pressures of “get a college education,” have created monsters that cheat unabashedly. Asking young people to suppress their true talents in order to have them pursue an elusive goal because we have predefined a singular path to success finds more students turning to a Dante for everything written, from college admission essays to case analyses for business degrees.

We are trying to stop rampant cheating through spotty enforcement, occasional outrage, and the use of computer programs theoretically designed to detect differing writing styles, and on good days, maybe catching prose lifted from others. Perhaps our time would be better spent guiding young people toward their skills and passions. When one of the Barometer’s sons registered to take a shop class, another mother in the neighborhood sniffed at her son when he asked if he could join in on the shop fun, “Shop is for losers.” God bless the losers who framed my home, installed my cabinets, built my desk, and fill in what you will here. I can’t get through a day without acknowledging what a carpenter has done to make my work possible. And, of course, there was one carpenter back in the day who did change the world just a tad. Indeed, he was a carpenter’s son.

Discount these proud professions of skill as being for naught, vestiges of the pre-Apple era, and you will find professions with discounted values. Indeed, you will find a group of pseudo-educated brats who are achieving on the backs of the truly educated who toil in term-paper sweatshops. We are producing a class of, at best, mediocre college graduates who will be living, quite helplessly, in a world that lacks talented and trained individuals who know how to pound a nail, unclog a drain, install a gas line, and fix electrical lines. We made them all go to college. What a waste of resources. There’s your outrage.

About mmjdiary

Professor Marianne Jennings is an emeritus professor of legal and ethical studies from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, retiring in 2011 after 35 years of teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in ethics and the legal environment of business. During her tenure at ASU, she served as director of the Joan and David Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics from 1995-1999. In 2006, she was appointed faculty director for the W.P. Carey Executive MBA Program. She has done consulting work for businesses and professional groups including AICPA, Boeing, Dial Corporation, Edward Jones, Mattel, Motorola, CFA Institute, Southern California Edison, the Institute of Internal Auditors, AIMR, DuPont, AES, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Motorola, Hy-Vee Foods, IBM, Bell Helicopter, Amgen, Raytheon, and VIAD. The sixth edition of her textbook, Case Studies in Business Ethics, was published in February 2011. The ninth edition of her textbook, Business: lts Legal, Ethical and Global Environment was published in January 2011. The 23rd edition of her book, Business Law: Principles and Cases, will be published in January 2013. The tenth edition of her book, Real Estate Law, will also be published in January 2013. Her book, A Business Tale: A Story of Ethics, Choices, Success, and a Very Large Rabbit, a fable about business ethics, was chosen by Library Journal in 2004 as its business book of the year. A Business Tale was also a finalist for two other literary awards for 2004. In 2000 her book on corporate governance was published by the New York Times MBA Pocket Series. Her book on long-term success, Building a Business Through Good Times and Bad: Lessons from Fifteen Companies, Each With a Century of Dividends, was published in October 2002 and has been used by Booz, Allen, Hamilton for its work on business longevity. Her latest book, The Seven Signs of Ethical Collapse was published by St. Martin’s Press in July 2006 and has been a finalist for two book awards. Her weekly columns are syndicated around the country, and her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Reader's Digest. A collection of her essays, Nobody Fixes Real Carrot Sticks Anymore, first published in 1994 is still being published. She has been a commentator on business issues on All Things Considered for National Public Radio. She has served on four boards of directors, including Arizona Public Service (1987-2000), Zealous Capital Corporation, and the Center for Children with Chronic Illness and Disability at the University of Minnesota. She was appointed to the board of advisors for the Institute of Nuclear Power Operators in 2004 and served on the board of trustees for Think Arizona, a public policy think tank. She has appeared on CNBC, CBS This Morning, the Today Show, and CBS Evening News. In 2010 she was named one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Business Ethics by Trust Across America. Her books have been translated into four different languages. She received the British Emerald award for authoring one of their top 50 articles in management publications, chosen from over 15,000 articles. Personal: Married since 1976 to Terry H. Jennings, Maricopa County Attorney’s Office Deputy County Attorney; five children: Sarah, Sam, and John, and the late Claire and Hannah Jennings.
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