Sunday, December 26, 2010

Shadow writer as the latest and least detectable way in academic fraud. And what does this mean to us?

Jonathan highlighted a piece of news about a job known as shadow writer. What they do is that they write for other people.

Not ghost writers like those hired by rich politicians or celebrities to write their memoir. Shadow writers are hired to write your undergraduate and post-graduate assignments. It's a whole new level of cheating.

It's not plagiarise where you take people's ideas as yours without giving them credit. The work of shadow writer is to write an entirely new piece of work with citations and all.

This phenomenon should shock the entire academia as much as it did to Scot McKnight.

Here's the except of the confession of a shadow writer from the Chronicle of Higher Education website:

I've written toward a master's degree in cognitive psychology, a Ph.D. in sociology, and a handful of postgraduate credits in international diplomacy. I've worked on bachelor's degrees in hospitality, business administration, and accounting. I've written for courses in history, cinema, labor relations, pharmacology, theology, sports management, maritime security, airline services, sustainability, municipal budgeting, marketing, philosophy, ethics, Eastern religion, postmodern architecture, anthropology, literature, and public administration. I've attended three dozen online universities. I've completed 12 graduate theses of 50 pages or more. All for someone else. [...] I'm a hired gun, a doctor of everything, an academic mercenary. My customers are your students. I promise you that. Somebody in your classroom uses a service that you can't detect, that you can't defend against, that you may not even know exists. (Emphasis added)

Not only that. What's more shocking is that the shadow writer reveals that he is hired by seminarians too!

I do a lot of work for seminary students. I like seminary students. They seem so blissfully unaware of the inherent contradiction in paying somebody to help them cheat in courses that are largely about walking in the light of God and providing an ethical model for others to follow. I have been commissioned to write many a passionate condemnation of America's moral decay as exemplified by abortion, gay marriage, or the teaching of evolution. All in all, we may presume that clerical authorities see these as a greater threat than the plagiarism committed by the future frocked.

An interesting point made is that the job of this shadow writer is more than someone who just write paper for students. He became more like a "personal educational counsellor."

This kind of works are undetectable as long as the students who employed such services remain docile and quiet. At Trinity Theological College, we have a lot of students who are working adults. They are given up to seven years to complete their undergraduate degrees, taking their modules slowly according to their free time. Any one of them could simply engage such services to graduate.

Full time students are under closer watch as they spend more time with the lecturers. The lecturers might know the competency of the full time students by more interaction. But as I have said, as long as the students remain inconspicuous, he or she will be fine.

Anyway, isn't such news a big blow to the ego of the academia, especially in societies that chase after education certificates? On one hand, we have scientists and academicians who provide fraud reports and unreliable findings (for eg. "as much as 90 percent of the published medical information that doctors rely on is flawed"). On the other hand, we have shadow writers who are doing all the works for possibly many upcoming academicians in the future.

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