Ghosted: Confessions of a Model Essay Writer by Tiny Splinter
Oh, let’s take the jargon ‘model essay writer’ out of the way to start with and tell you what I really did. I aided and abetted students who wanted to get a qualification without actually doing the boring academic stuff that goes along with it. In short, I helped them to cheat….
I did this by researching and writing essays and dissertations for them. Mostly the research and writing I did was for a variety of business degrees – MBAs and the likes – but I have been asked to write in a variety of subjects: law, politics, psychology, nursing, education. Within business studies I have written pieces of work on human resource management, accounting, economics, international trade, business strategy, leadership, business law, oh, the list goes on and on. I have even produced a series of draft pieces of dissertations to be shown to lecturers and supervisors as ‘word-in-progress’.
Each piece of work is unique, of course, and written to order. It is this originality that gives it its value. The piece can be put through computerised plagiarism algorithms and come up clean. That is, the student could prove that the piece of work had not simply been lifted wholesale from writing already published and tried to pass it off as their own. And yes, I always knew that my writing was going to be used for those purposes….
I had more than one argument with my agent to the effect that changes the student wanted to make to a piece of work I had written would reduce the value of the work in some way. I have argued my way in and out of doing major rewrites of pieces (depending on whether I was going to be paid to do the rewrites) and I have written arguments for students to use with supervisors to justify their choice of research topic.
And I have to admit there have been times when I have had such low opinions of the demands of some students that I have grave doubts about whether they could last three minutes in a job based on their qualifications.
Why did I do it?
Well, to start with I rather liked eating occasionally, and heat, and having a home to work from. Getting tertiary qualifications hasn’t seemed to make a damn bit of difference to my employment opportunities.
Besides, there is a certain capitalist irony in being paid to write essays on business subjects. Little twists like selling three rather similar essays on Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, for example. I could write three far quicker than the three students doing them individually themselves. The same could be said of essays on Ford assembly lines or the Toyota Way: getting model essays written is a jolly efficient and energy-saving way of getting your mitts on an MBA. This irony, of course, is the rub and the reason I have no guilt whatsoever over my actions.
Let me run this past you.
I love learning, researching, putting it all together and answering difficult questions in new and interesting ways. Hell, I self-funded all my own education achievements, apart from a single loan of £500 that I would have to repay if I ever came into glory and riches. I would still be happy to shell out my own money to go back and do another degree. Tomorrow. This afternoon. When is the next bus in to the university?
So offering me a job where I get given the information needed to learn any given course – the lecture powerpoint, the course booklet, and even some of the textbooks – is just fabulous as far as I am concerned. Sure, it might not be a course I am particularly interested in to start with, but I usually am by the end of it, and I haven’t had to pay to learn it. In fact, if I will write an essay or a report on it, I will get paid. Score!
But that isn’t my reason for not feeling guilty.
I do not feel guilty because model essay hunters are not headhunted by corporations. MBA graduates are headhunted by corporations. Truly classy corporations seriously looking for the very best of minds would ignore the piece of paper and look at who was producing the best work, and model essay writers are not very hard to find. Instead companies take the easy way, and just choose from the candidates put in front of them. How do I know they do this? Well, hell, I have done a research project on it. I have done so much research on Human Resource Management I could write the reference list almost without referring to a single textbook.
But surely, you say, universities do all they can to stop people cheating, they warn them against plagiarism and cheating and threaten them with expulsion.
Yes they do. To an extent.
Yet fees are starting to creep up, and model essay writers will be rubbing their hands in glee.
The more prestigious the university, the larger the fees. The larger the fees the more temptation there is to cheat rather than to fail. The higher the fees and the greater the temptation to cheat, the more likely the business world is to be filled with rich twits who have blagged their way through.
Can you think of anyone in a position of power that might fit that description?
Now it has to be said that I am prone to a bit of cynicism. I believe business is aware of what is going on and condones it, if tacitly, because it suits them to do so. I don’t think making it known would make a blind bit of difference to recruitment strategies. If anything, the use of model essay writers could be seen as a positive success: it succeeds in keeping the higher echelons of business in the hands of individuals who are already privileged enough to pay the fees and get someone else to do the hard graft. Do we not encourage our industry leaders to take risks and delegate to others?
Is commissioning a model essay writer so different from commissioning a speech writer, or an accountant? Perhaps what businesses are really looking for in new employees are individuals with the mindset to take the path of least personal effort and most personal glory.
In the end, I don’t feel guilty because I have provided the industrial complex with a few more idiots who might end up doing something so disastrous that they topple the whole house of cards. I wonder how many model essay writers it would take to cause another global financial crash? Now there’s an interesting question. I might look into that…