May 15, 2011 by k. liz
I call this “the beginning” because I have a feeling that this will prompt several posts on the subject, but I am not promising that yet. This actually coincides well with my post on Friday regarding a University’s attempt to eliminate cheating by allowing collaboration and internet use on exams.
This post however, follows a slightly different vein. I was reading an article from the Chronicle of Higher Education this morning called The Shadow Scholar. Now, I admit, the author has a very easy and enjoyable style, and his writing made me laugh out loud at times, but the subject matter is rather crushing to my spirit.
Synopsis: The gist of this story is a man informing us about his job. His job is solely to write academic papers for students in University, Grad School, and even in Ph.D. programs. He enlightens us as to why he began this job, what it entails, how many pages he writes (the man can write a 75 page paper in 2 days!) He also informs us as to how many different subject matters he has written on and the wide variety of students he writes for. He admits in his article that he realizes that he is contributing to an unethical sector of America, but also points out that he is not the one generating the unethical practices. If the students didn’t come to him, they would go to someone else. And here’s the astounding part – I teach at a University Prep School, and this man is making at least three times as much money as I am in one year. He shares that there are three types of students he writes for: ESL students, just bad students, and lazy rich kids. The article is really very interesting, and if you have a free 15 minutes, I really suggest reading it.
So, how do you respond to something like this? In all honesty, I find it deflating. After my love for God and my family, I think that education is one of the things I am most passionate about on earth. I feel that education is my way of giving to my country and my world. Through education, I can affect future generations, and thereby leave my mark on this world by changing the future leaders of the world. I am still in my first year teaching, but through my internships and little jobs I’ve had along the way, teaching has always been my favorite and the thing I wake up in the morning looking forward to doing. Maybe in my youth I am still overly-idealistic, but I don’t count that as a detriment. However, articles like this make me question not just education, but humanity as a whole – where are we going, what is happening?
Again, I am a follower of Jesus, and I believe that changes everything I think about the world, and I believe that because of sin, we are doomed to live in an imperfect world. However, even aside from religion, I am saddened by the fact that education has been so compromised. I don’t even know where to find fault. The author of the article states that it is easy to blame him, because he is the one writing these papers and assisting students in cheating. That is true, it is easy, but that is not the foundation of the problem. So, where is the foundation?
Students? Are students the problem, because they are paying these writers to obviously cheat for them? I think there is a problem there, especially when laziness is the primary motivation. Can I just blatantly say, I don’t want to end up at a doctor that made it through med school by dishing out thousands of dollars to have someone else do his research, unless that someone else is going to be in the exam room as well.
Teachers? I believe that a lot of the blame must of necessity fall here. Obviously, somewhere there is a disconnect between what should be believed about education by educators and what is being communicated to students. I realize that writing and work is EXTREMELY important for a student’s education, but I think that the teacher’s job should be to stress the importance of learning in the process. If the student cannot communicate his thoughts clearly and succinctly, then the teaching process needs to start before the paper.
Systems? Yes, there are problems in systems. We have classes with hundreds of students making it nearly impossible for the teacher to give the attention that the students need. We have schools that are only concerned with marks and pages and scores and scantrons.
So – it is not easy to point the blame to one person in particular. We have faulty systems, we have bad teachers, we have lazy students, and we have companies that will fix the problems of all of the above by writing “original papers.” I think that as long as everyone is “looking out for number one” we are going to struggle against the deficiencies in education. When I am concerned about myself as a teacher, I’m not going to put time into a student. When I care about myself as a student, I’m not going to be thinking about the impact of my education on the people I work with in the future, whether that be students, patients, customers, or co-workers. When I am only thinking of the system, I am counting dollars and not thinking about the impact of the individuals I am churning out into society.
If we as humans are going to be able to work together for good, then we must think of the people that we are affecting. We must think outside our own little bubble. We must be willing to take into account the impact of our actions.
Again, this post is extremely difficult for me to write, because as a follower of Jesus Christ, I believe that there are even bigger issues at stake. I don’t want to come across as humanistic, because I am not in the least. I believe that the only way to save our fallen condition is through a relationship with Jesus. Having said that, in a purely temporal and educational way, I think that if we want our educational systems to matter and to make an impact, it is only going to be by thinking of others. A selfish system of education will never benefit our world, it will only count heads and sign papers.
What are your thoughts?