November 15, 2010

HIGHER EDUCATION BUBBLE UPDATE: The shadow scholar. “In the midst of this great recession, business is booming. At busy times, during midterms and finals, my company’s staff of roughly 50 writers is not large enough to satisfy the demands of students who will pay for our work and claim it as their own.”

UPDATE: A reader emails:

I am a shadow scholar. As a PhD candidate in theology, I was not at all surprised by the account in the Chronicle of Higher Ed. I’ve been running an ‘editing’ and ‘tutoring’ business for four years now. I’m not nearly so cavalier as to just do the work for my clients (usually), but I do understand that one of the big draws for that sort of behavior is the essentially useless nature of many higher ed. courses. I have done almost 100% of the coursework for my wife’s Masters in education. Why? Because the assignments have absolutely nothing to do with, you know, making her a better teacher. They are simply the mandated hoops she has to jump through to move up the pay scale and specialize in her chosen field. Seriously, she (and many like her) are more than willing to do the hard work when there is some discernible point, but when she is asked to write a paper on the importance of making every student feel special, you have to wonder whether or not it’s worth her time. Many of my clients have jobs and lives. They can read, write, and think critically, but they are forced to waste time reading and commenting on inane observations made by life-long bureaucrats in order to get the credentials they need to move forward in their careers. So no, I don’t find it unethical at all to help out hard-working, creative, responsible professionals get their federally-mandated approval stickers in order to fulfill their professional callings. There is a cheating problem out there, and it does take some soul-searching to turn down good money proffered by lazy students, but a large part of the problem is the content of courses and the entire notion of a system that demands credentials rather than demonstrable skills. It is delusional to suppose that good teachers are made by years of diversity training, yet that is, in my experience, exactly what goes on.

If you choose to post this, please withhold my name.

And reader Corey Hall emails:

This all goes back to your “Credentialed, not Smart” meme. The piece of paper at the end of four years (or five, or six) is more important than what that piece of paper is supposed to mean. I think you may have addressed this in the past as well, but a college degree is the new union card. That most jobs REQUIRE a college degree is laughable. These days it’s simply a first pass filter to weed out “undesirables”.

Sad, but probably true.

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