[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Re: [xmca] FW: The Shadow Scholar - He writes your students' papers.

One thing that I find rather fascinating in all this, aside from the core issues around plagiarism and the ways the system puts pressure on students to engage in it, is that from the perspective of scholarship this single person (the Shadow Scholar) may have contributed a sizable amount of knowledge to society. Granted it sounds like most of the writing was for undergraduates whose papers are (often barely) read by a professor and then never again, I'd be curious to know if any of the work produced by this man was then taken up and actually contributed something useful to one of the many fields it sounds like he wrote for.

Not to say that this would be any sort of excuse for his behavior in facilitating plagiarism, but perhaps a silver lining...


Rafi Santo
Learning Sciences Doctoral Student
Indiana University

On 1/10/11 6:57 PM, Julian Williams wrote:
Dear all concerned with plagiarism and intellectual theft

I agree (with whoever it was down the list) -  its a good idea not to take a position on this potentially contentious issue.

However ... i think it was Marilyn Strathern - by the way is it punishable if I attribute this wrongly? -  who said plagiarism involved the first faltering steps of the infant student/academic to get to grips with the Knowledge Economy... anyway you can find some of her own words on intellectual property etc on youtube if you are interested.

We academics are all keen to protect our 'own' intellectual , and so everyone else's private, property, are we not?


Ps: as a maths educator. I wonder if it is OK for a mathematician (or anyone else actually)  to claim that root-2 is irrational without attribution to Pythagoras - given that he never published?

From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu] on behalf of Karen Heckert [heckertkrs@yahoo.com]
Sent: 10 January 2011 23:12
To: xmca@weber.ucsd.edu
Subject: Re: [xmca] FW: The Shadow Scholar - He writes your students' papers.

Thanks, Nancy. While the situation is not as bad as I thought, it is still
"ungood." The amount of coercion in American education has passed the limits of
my antiquated imagination - sort of a cross between 1984 and George Lakoff's
"conservative" family style, where punishment is considered nurturance, and
regimentation is considered teaching.

From: Nancy Mack<nancy.mack@wright.edu>
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity"<xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
Sent: Mon, January 10, 2011 3:28:38 PM
Subject: Re: [xmca] FW: The Shadow Scholar - He writes your students' papers.


Nancy Mack

Professor of English
Wright State University


----- Original Message -----
From: Karen Heckert<heckertkrs@yahoo.com>
Date: Monday, January 10, 2011 3:16 pm
Subject: Re: [xmca] FW: The Shadow Scholar - He writes your students' papers.
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity"<xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>

Turnitin owns the copyright to all the papers I wrote for those
classes? The
rights to all the papers written by all the students that are
forced to use it?
That's bizarre. Outrageous. How can a professor compel a student
to give up the
rights to their own work? I sincerely hope you're mistaken.

From: Greg Mcverry<jgregmcverry@gmail.com>
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity"<xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
Sent: Mon, January 10, 2011 9:25:42 AM
Subject: Re: [xmca] FW: The Shadow Scholar - He writes your
students' papers.

I have to agree with Jenna wholeheartedly. While blatant
cheating as
described by the "Shadow Scholar" does cross some ethical boundaries,
students are ill-prepared for academic writing. Jenna gave a wonderful
account of these issues in higher education. The line, "But we
do our
students a deep and lasting injustice by placing the blame
solely on their
shoulders," really resonated. The probelm, however, starts much
earlier in

We, as educators, simply do not do justice when it comes to teaching
students to use multiple sources in primary and secondary school.

I hear it all the time when providing professional development
to teachers
in the US. When I start talking about student combining ideas
from online
sources a teacher (usually high school) shouts out, "The middle school
doesn't teach students to cite sources." To me that is the crux
of the
problem. Educators equate a complex intertextual process of
constructing new
ideas from old with the act of putting a comma in the right
place using APA
or MLA.

Instead of addressing the issue teachers look to software such
as TurnitIn.
While the courts and I disagree I have issue with students
having to
unwillingly give up copyright of their work to TurnitIn which
then owns the
rights to that paper, makes a profit off the work, and offers
the original
author no credit. It seems like a business model built on
plagiarism to
catch plagiarism. I have to agree with those that comment taking
a sentence
(find the one with the semicolon) and throwing it into Google.

I think though, instead of trying to catch plagiarism we need to teach
students to use multiple sources and introduce academic
discourses much
earlier in education. It is the only way to stop the cycle of Colleges
claiming high schools are to blame and high schools laying the
blame at the
doors of middle schools.


On Mon, Jan 10, 2011 at 9:02 AM, Jenna McWilliams
I have loved reading this thread over the last several days.
It's an issue
that interests me enormously, and one that I've thought about
a lot. So
pardon the lengthy ramblings below....

A few iterations of myself ago, I was a college composition
and literature
instructor. Anyone who’s taught this particular category of
courses knows
that cheating is an enormous issue: take the ramped-up
pressure on young
people to set themselves apart from their peers in an era that
has seen the
highest rate of college enrollment in the history of America;
add to that
the increasingly fuzzy borders around what counts as
‘plagiarism’ in this
mixed up, multimodal, shareable world; and toss in a
generation of students
who have received little guidance, if any, from adults on
navigating issues
of plagiarism, copyright, appropriation and sharing of ideas
and content.
What you get: students who either don’t know or don’t care
about why
universities care so much about the ethics of plagiarism.

But we do our students a deep and lasting injustice by placing
the blame
solely on their shoulders. One reason students plagiarize is
that it’s easy:
Writing instructors often distribute the same essay
assignments semester
after semester; they use essay prompts that are so worn, and
so widely used,
that even students who honestly intend to just find supporting
resources for
their essays online may end up having their entire papers
mapped out for
them. (cf. Is Willy Loman a tragic hero?; Take a position on
gay marriage.)
If we want our students to leave our classes and universities as
independent, creative thinkers, then we need to offer them
opportunities to
think and write about things other than the stuff that every
student in the
history of college has already had to slog through.

Here’s the two-pronged approach I started to implement right
before I left
teaching in favor of gainful employment and health insurance
(I lived in
Massachusetts at the time, was an adjunct instructor and
therefore not
offered health insurance, and could not afford to purchase
insurance on an annual income that stayed safely below
$20,000–even with the
part-time job I worked on top of teaching a full course load every
semester.): I developed writing assignments that a.) required
students to
draft original writing and b.) offered a way in to
conversations about the
difference between ethical appropriation and plagiarism.
Here’s one thing I
tried: I asked students to draft a creative rewrite of a
source text–they
could write a prequel, add a scene into the text, or rewrite
or extend the
ending. Then they were required to analyze how their rewrite
changed the
story, and in so doing, to demonstrate an understanding of the
themes and
characters of the text. I only had time to try this once, but
if I were to
do it again I would also have students think and write about the
appropriation / plagiarism issue as it relates to this
assignment. I don’t
think it’s a perfect assignment by any means, and students who were
determined to cheat could still find a way to succeed, but
it’s certainly
better–and more interesting–than the hackneyed old prompts
that end up being
so easy to lift from teh Google.

Being more creative instructors doesn’t solve the cheating
issue, but it’s
certainly better than the strange alternative of simply adding
more policing
to our learning environments. Did you see that NYTimes article
about Caveon,
a security program that detects cheating by comparing
students’ responses on
standardized tests (
Apparently, lots of students are using their phones to give
each other the
answers to test questions. Caveon also mines the internet for
sites where
students discuss their answers on high-stakes tests like the LSAT.
Presumably, it notifies the makers of the test, who then
remove the flagged
items from the next version.

As you can imagine, this is a lucrative endeavor: "As tests are
increasingly important in education — used to determine
graduation, graduate
school admission and, the latest, merit pay and tenure for
teachers —
business has been good for Caveon, a company that uses “data
forensics” to
catch cheats, billing itself as the only independent test
security outfit in
the country."

Well, at least students find out early what it’s like to live
in a country
that generally believes that the best defense is a good
offense: That
catching and punishing wrongdoers will deter others from going
down the
wrong path. Never let the facts get in the way of a good
theory: We’ll keep
passing ridiculously harsh drug laws even though they don’t
deter people
from buying, selling, and using illegal drugs. Our
politicians, supported by
right-wing pundits, will resist extending unemployment
benefits in the worst
economic recession we’ve seen since the Great Depression. Why?
Because>  they’ve decided, in direct contradiction of the
evidence, that America’s 15
million unemployed adults are lazy bums who just need a swift
kick in the

That’s the world our students are headed for, so they might as
well learn
the lesson early that it’s a world that prefers punishment
over dialogue,
short-term fixes instead of enduring solutions, and using
bandaids to fix
gaping wounds.

Look: students cheat on standardized tests because they know
that the
stakes are really effing high. They cheat because they don’t
see any reason
not to–because it’s not clear why ‘authentic’ achievement on a
multiple-choice exam is even worth striving for. They cheat
because they
don’t see any connection between the contents of those tests
and the subject
areas that matter to them as human beings. They cheat because
the tests are
stupid but the scores are important.

So instead of fixing a broken system with an overreliance on
standardized>  tests, we just add more cops–this time, in the
form of computer programs.
Sure, that should work just fine. Just like it worked to add
more proctors
to testing locations. Just like it worked to collect students’
cellphones>  before they began the exam. Just like it worked to
guard test questions like
they were matters of national security.

The low road is easier to walk, but it doesn’t offer much
opportunity for
scaling mountains. In the coming decade, I would like to see
us take the
higher road a little more frequently.


Jenna McWilliams
Learning Sciences Program, Indiana University


On Jan 10, 2011, at 8:50 AM, Larry Purss wrote:

  I don't want to take a position on this topic, but was
curious about what
seems a contradiction between issues of "control and trust"
in a manner
similar to Engstrom's article on the use of technology in
middle schools
putting computers in the hallway.  I wonder if the
concepts  "control" and
"trust" are primary or basic constructs when discussing
institutional>>  structures or containers.  I was wondering
when reading Engstrom's article
if the terms control and trust were explanatory terms
within  2nd person
actor narratives or if Engstrom abstracted these terms as
explanatory 3rd
person narratives of what he observed in the middle school
environment.>>   Do
others see a contradiction or tension in the discussion of
plagarism or is
it a clear case of civic virtue?


On Mon, Jan 10, 2011 at 12:40 AM, Rod Parker-Rees<
R.Parker-Rees@plymouth.ac.uk>  wrote:

  And I can also confirm that this extends to submissions
to peer reviewed
journals, too. I have had the experience of receiving a
paper which was
noticeably more lucid than the email which accompanied it, a
quick bit of
googling revealed that the paper was the work of a student
at a UK
university where the submitter had been working as a
visiting academic.

xmca mailing list

J. Gregory McVerry
Neag Fellow
University of Connecticut
New Literacies Research Lab
twitter: jgmac1106

" [Champions] have to have the skill and the will. But the will
must be
stronger than the skill." -Ali
xmca mailing list

xmca mailing list
xmca mailing list

xmca mailing list
xmca mailing list
xmca mailing list