The Great Connections Seminar

The Great Connections Seminar
Discussing ethics

Friday, November 19, 2010

Why are there Shadow Scholars?

This week the Chronicles of Higher Education featured an article that's been widely read around the internet: "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.

You would be amazed by the incompetence of your students' writing. I have seen the word "desperate" misspelled every way you can imagine. And these students truly are desperate. They couldn't write a convincing grocery list, yet they are in graduate school. They really need help. They need help learning and, separately, they need help passing their courses. But they aren't getting it."

"It is my hope that this essay will initiate such a conversation. As for me, I'm planning to retire. I'm tired of helping you make your students look competent."

Searing words.

My question: why is this happening? The author puts some blame on professors who can't/won't judge what's going on. Yes, that's a problem, but part of a bigger issue.

My hypothesis: this is a long-term effect of progressive, egalitarian education and  the degree inflation caused by government-financed education. Progressive education teaching methods have left teachers incompetent and students ignorant.  Now that "everyone" must have a college degree to get the most basic of jobs, many academically incompetent students are trying to graduate college, or even get graduate degrees.

For many, many students, learning has very little to do with going to college - getting through and getting the degree does. The Shadow Scholar is one solution.

Many of the ESL students he mentions could be very bright and even succeed in business or other fields that don't require mastery of English. In the big picture, going to college may be a complete waste of time and money for them, as well as other students, except for the fact that they need a degree to get most less-than-basic jobs.

Evidence in the article to support my thesis: business is booming in the recession. Why? The Feds are pouring money into student loans so out-of-work people can "go back to school."

It's a sorry, sorry situation.


carterson2 said...

I am going to enjoy following you via RSS. Keep posting and I will keep reading...

BTW, what do you think of ?

Marsha Familaro Enright said...

Thanks - and thanks for letting me know about Great idea! I'll post about it next.