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The Shadow Scholar

A couple of weeks ago the Chronicle of Higher Education published a medium-length article [link] written by a man using the pseudonym Ed Dante who worked for a “custom essay service,” a company that offers term papers on spec for a fee; the author claims

In the past year, I’ve written roughly 5,000 pages of scholarly literature, most on very tight deadlines.

And that he has received $66,000 in compensation for his effort. There are various comments on the article that run the numbers, analyzing what he got paid per word or per hour, whether it is physically possible for someone to write that many pages, etc. I won’t repeat the analysis here; I’ve read more than one article in the Chronicle over the years that made for a gripping read but that probably in the final analysis wasn’t entirely true. It isn’t really the Chronicle’s job to be historically accurate; it’s a trade publication.

But this one little quote did jump out at me:

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.

I don’t really have much to add here; I’m guessing if the courses really are about “walking in the light of God and providing an ethical model for others to follow” Mr Dante must be writing for students at liberal seminaries. Yeah. Which makes the next sentence about passionate condemnations seem out of place. Certainly there is an industry manufacturing talking points about abortion etc. but I’d be surprised if it needed a lot of custom essays. And of course there’s the whole liberal-conservative thing; I’d expect papers for students at conservative seminaries to either be about things too obscure for a custom essay service, or to be about things like “leadership” and “church growth methodology” that don’t fit either of the categories he describes.

I heard about this article from Jordon Cooper [link, twitter], but he doesn’t appear to have linked to it from his blog.

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