Honesty? No, thanks.  

Posted by inkstainedhands in , ,

I was browsing a Jewish classifieds website today, looking for a possible part-time job opportunity. Truthfully, I don't have that much time in my schedule right now, especially with midterms coming up this week and all the other work that has been piled on, but my usual reaction to discovering that I don't have the money to permit myself even a cheap shopping trip is to start looking for sources of income. As I was looking at the different ads, once caught my eye. The title was "Writers needed." Perfect, I thought. I'm a writer, and writing gigs are generally short and sweet and convenient. So I read on. This is what the ad said:

If you love writing, have a bachelor's degree, and are very flexible in schedule, please email me your writing sample of a college paper as well as your phone number and availability. Disclaimer: This job involves writing essays for college students that are either too busy, too tired, unwilling, or otherwise unable to write their own, so if you worship Rabeinu University and feel that this is wrong morally, ethically, or halachically (it is not!) , please don't apply to this ad or write letters sharing your concerns.

When I got to the part about sending in a sample college essay so they can determine whether you are good for the job or not, I became a bit suspicious. By the time I finished reading the ad, I was fuming.

I was angry not just because of the idea of having other people write your papers for you. I am aware that this kind of cheating is, unfortunately, common in colleges because there are plenty of students who would rather give money than do the work and feel they can buy their way through college. I don't particularly care what the excuse is, although the person who wrote this ad listed several -- that students might be busy, tired, unwilling, or unable to write their college papers so they employ the help of a paid writer to write these essays for them. My belief is that if you are in college, you should be doing your own work. If you're incapable of doing it, then why should you still get the same grades as someone who puts in hours of their time into an essay? Grades are supposed to reflect your abilities as a student and your grasp of the material and the basics of the English language, not your ability to pay. Does this sound harsh? Yes, it does. But I am not apologizing for it, because that is how I see it.

What made me especially angry about this ad was the way it addressed Jewish law and values. What gives this person the right to state that helping students cheat is not morally, ethically, or halakhically wrong? Sure, it's a great way to prevent people from feeling guilty for working for them or receiving help from them, but where is the truth in this person's claim that it is perfectly all right to do this? What happened to honesty, which -- last time I checked -- was a value that is supposed to be important to Jews who believe in the Torah and in emulating G-d?
I wrote about the issue of copying homework nearly two years ago, back when I was in high school and had just started this blog. You can read that post here.

Also, I read a while ago a very interesting article titled The Shadow Scholar, about a writer whose main source of income is writing essays for college students. At times I found myself shaking my head in disbelief as I read all the things he does. He takes online courses for the students in order to write essays. He does papers on all different subjects for both undergraduate and graduate students.

I have a lot to say on this subject. I could rant about it for pages. But what I really want is to hear what others think. Am I the only one whose blood boils when I read things like these? Does anyone know someone who has taken advantage of these services? Also, are there any practical solutions to combat this in colleges?

This entry was posted on Sunday, March 6, 2011 at Sunday, March 06, 2011 and is filed under , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .



NO, you're not the only one, and that ad sounds like someone trying to explain away his misdeeds by rationalization....

March 7, 2011 at 11:01 AM

UGH! Anyone who worked hard in college will feel incensed at this. The cheaters and slackers will not. There. Now you know everyone's reaction :)

I worked for hours on all my essays, got my A's, and answered all the "how did you do it"s with "I worked really hard." No one wants to hear that.

This is not the former USSR. You do not bribe the professor to get a good grade. Your work either does or doesn't deserve it. Competence speaks, not money. Anyone want to patronize a therapist/doctor/accountant who bought his grades?

What you should do is write a comprehensive article on the halachic ramifications of this practice and have it printed in the same circular. Be sure to name-drop.

Thanks for making this public.

March 7, 2011 at 11:58 AM

As an English major, I totally agree. If someone needs help, he/she should go to the writing center, which will assist them organize their thoughts and help them move along with the writing process.

Cheap (or in this case, probably not cheap) short cuts that avoid doing work doesn't help anyone other than the guy who ends up with the cash in his pocket. It's an utter disservice to anyone involved looking to "benefit" from this sort of shady and illegal scheme.

It's a joke that this is merely an activity that countermands halacha - it is an offense that is halachic and secular - it's violating the university's plagarism policy, not JUST halacha, which should be at the forefront of our minds in the first place.

Someone clearly flouting both G-d as well as (levhavdil) secular law clearly couldn't care less about anyone and anything. Who wants to be that type of person?

March 8, 2011 at 1:15 PM

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