Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Desperate misspellings

Ed Dante “The shadow scholar: The man who writes your students’ papers tells his story.” The Chronicle Review, November 12, 2010, available at

Is it possible that this alarming article, written with such beguiling candor, is itself a fraud? And perhaps the Chronicle is also in on the joke, as this issue also includes an article on the many fabricated voices assumed by the essayist. [1]

Surely meant to raise the ethical hackles of anyone who has graded a writing assignment, or designed a rubric to regularize that grading process, this discussion of the incompetence or disinterest of a wide range of students in undergraduate, graduate and professional educational programs invites indignant response. His client base is primarily students who fall into the categories of the “English-as –second –language student; the hopelessly deficient student, and the lazy rich kid.” What unifies these non-writers, says Mr. Dante, is that the Academy has failed them. So he picks up the slack, churning out apparently acceptable papers based on the snippets of full-text resources readily available from Amazon and Google Scholar, basing his arguments on the identification of significant issues according to Wikipedia.

Clearly it is our fault for setting unreachable standards and then not knowing our students well enough to know that those polished – and costly – final papers could not have originated with Dante’s clients – our students – who cannot spell desperate consistently.

[1] Carl H. Claus, “The put-ons of personal essayists.” The Chronicle Review , 19 November 2010. Available at

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