Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Cheaters Never Prosper...Wait, How Much? Step Aside...

John Warner, writing at Inside Higher Education, comments on a story from The Chronicle of Higher Education about the money to be made in what CHE calls the "new cheating economy." Warner notes that if he went to work for one of the research assistance (wink wink) firms, he could make more money that he's making teaching a course as an adjunct professor.

Warner's writing a blog post rather than a structured article, but he points towards probably one of the biggest factors in this weird topsy-turvy situation: The morphing of a college degree from a signal that the holder has developed some basic elements of a learned character into a credential for employment. Cheating undercuts the whole purpose of the former, but it makes perfect sense for the latter. Because you can't cheat your way into wisdom but you can certainly cut corners to obtain a credential.

Can a person fake understanding Plato? Not with anyone who understands Plato, I'm pretty sure (and that's a subset of individuals that doesn't include me anymore; it's been too long since I had to read him). Handing in a bought paper for a class on Plato won't make up the gap. But if that same person is being hired by, say, a financial firm, is it likely that they'll ever run into a situation where they would need to back up the ideas their hired ghostwriter put in that paper? Nope, all the HR department cares about is whether or not there's a piece of paper somewhere that says diploma on it.

I'm writing not sure of what a solution to this issue would look like. And part of that, I freely admit, is that I've got no good answer for someone who might ask me why they shouldn't cut some corners when the point of the degree is checking off a box on an application instead of developing an understanding of the world we live in and how we might want to live in it.


fillyjonk said...

I dunno. The whole thing is such a mess. I sometimes wonder if we just need to end the system to save it. Of course, then I'd be unemployed until we sorted things out and I'm not sure what I can do OTHER than teach college (I am not great enough at research for a research firm to want to hire me other than as the lowliest of techs, and that wouldn't pay my bills).

I have also heard of cases of students suing those sell-a-paper firms when they turned in a bought paper that got the low grade it deserved....and I admit I feel a certain schadenfreude there.

It also makes me sad that every fraudster out there with a degree they essentially paid for makes the one I worked for worth a little less.

CGHill said...

At least the spam offering me "Life Experience Based Doctorates" and other horse doodles seems to have dried up of late.

fillyjonk said...

Ah, yes. I remember getting an e-mail at my .edu e-mail address offering me a "dimploma." I made jokes for weeks about that.