Sunday, November 21, 2010

Are the Elites Better Cheaters

I had seen this article a few days ago. Its title tells you the topic: The Shadow Scholar: The Man Who Writes Your Students' Papers Tells His Story. I had not read it all the way through and missed this excerpt which was brought to my attention by one of my favorite colleagues.

"From my experience, three demographic groups seek out my services: the
English-as-second-language student; the hopelessly deficient student; and
the lazy rich kid.

"For the last, colleges are a perfect launching ground‹they are built to
reward the rich and to forgive them their laziness. Let's be honest: The
successful among us are not always the best and the brightest, and certainly
not the most ethical. My favorite customers are those with an unlimited
supply of money and no shortage of instructions on how they would like to
see their work executed. While the deficient student will generally not know
how to ask for what he wants until he doesn't get it, the lazy rich student
will know exactly what he wants. He is poised for a life of paying others
and telling them what to do. Indeed, he is acquiring all the skills he needs
to stay on top."

As far as I know, law professors do not hire others to write their articles. But what if you could write a paper and it got a good grade whether it was deserved it or not. It's kind of the same thing. How does that work with law professors? There are four versions. The first three deal with the outside review of articles. In the worse cases, I know about the referee and the candidate work together to craft a good review. Then there are cases in which the subject matter is as much a political movement as it is an area of scholarly research. In these case the experts share the same political inclinations and the possibility of getting an honest review is close to zero. Once in awhile one of these articles will work its way into an honest reviewer and there are some concerns about what is written. If the candidate is liked enough, the negative comments are ignored. Finally, most reviewers do not say negative things. Why? There are may reasons but one is that it is rarely in the self interest of an elite to put anything negative in writing. After all, if the rational self-interest label ever fit anyone it is elite law professors. The last reason is the symposium matter. That is, you are asked -- usually by a buddy -- to write something for a collection. It is accepted without any review at all. (Even the student review process is better than this but not by much.)

The privileged will always find a way to work the system. After all, they created it and they own it!

P.S. After writing this another colleague read it and suggested that law professor do have others write their articles. They lift straight from the work product of their RA's. He also indicated that the bogus review letter problem extends to reviews of teaching.


David R. Maass said...

I had a roommate in college who fell into all three categories (actually, his English wasn't all that bad). He bought all his papers by the page and paid grad students to do his problem sets. After two years he realized he really didn't need the degree and pretending to be a student was interfering with his jet-set social life, so he dropped out.

That being said, I knew many more people in college who probably didn't have to worry about getting a job and certainly could've gotten by with a lot less work than they did but who were honestly intellectually curious.

Anonymous said...

I can think of nothing worse for a good man than to become a great lawyer.

I should have chosen a different area of study....