[H&F] "Plagiarism, Entitled Students, and Shooting the Messenger"
At History and Futility, the Oberamtmann has a post up, inspired by a recent essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education by an essay-writer for cheating students, examining just what's going on there and how this issue can be solved.
I am not sure what the proper answer is. While specialty essays that align closely with class material might help prevent buying old papers off the internet, it will not stop people like Ed Dante who write new papers. History might be the most difficult of these because research papers demand giving the students a lot of time. This means more time to find a paper mill and also gives procrastinators more reason to freak out when it is due the next day and they have not started yet.
The problem does not lie with the capitalistic, if immoral or amoral, essay mills. The problem is systemic within the universities. Students should all take a writing class when they get to college. They should be taught by English professors – not graduate students – and begin with a hard, deep instruction of grammar rules. I have a confession to make: I do not know my grammar rules. Well, most of them. I know how to write because I spent a lot of time reading while growing up. The only grammar rules I know well are the ones that haunt me, like passive voice (thanks, German!). There should be lots of short assignments. And no group editing. None. Zilch. It will just turn back to highschool “group” activities when I and you would do all the work, partly because they were lazy. Partly because we did not want our grades in their hands.
There should also be multiple professors. Maybe it should be a required year-long course. With history professors who come in and teach how to do basic citations, plagiarism rules, and setting up an argument. Creative writing professors can give lectures on developing one’s own voice. Bring in all the humanities professors in rotation. Make it heavy on technical knowledge, though. Do not make it fun. We can have it pass/fail if you like, with the chance to write a paper beforehand (in class) to try to graduate out of it. What do you think?