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

The article that Elizabeth refers to is attached, with links to Perry's article and other resources on the topic in the references. p

-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of elizabeth anne daigle
Sent: Thursday, January 13, 2011 9:12 AM
To: xmca@weber.ucsd.edu
Subject: RE: [xmca] The Shadow Scholar - He writes your students' papers.

I see this matter from another perspective. The idea that Turnitin is less 
authentic than policing plagiarism by knowing students' writing voice more 
personally overlooks the shadow scholar's point: Professors accept this. This is 
what they want. He writes fluidly on topics entirely foreign to him before being 
contracted to compose on them.
This shadow scholar makes his living as a professional bullshitter.

William Perry wrote in 1963 of a Harvard student with the same skill 
accidentally taking an exam for a course he wasn't enrolled in and getting an 
(Interestingly, when I searched to find a url I discovered a host of pages where 
students are seeking help writing essays on Perry's essay.!)

Perry concludes that in academia we prefer students who can "bull" over students 
who merely "cow." Those who cow don't have the habits of mind of academia, they 
don't have the discourse, they just deal with the 'facts' of the content. 
Bullshitters can 'learn' any material (a la the shadow scholar), and so they are 
the ones we court as student scholars. Bartholomae (J Basic Writing, 1986; 
sorry, can't find it online) posits the same-- we want those who are "like us."

I'm working on my dissertation on academic bullshitting. One of my participants 
told me of a doctoral course she took-- She worked very hard on her first paper, 
but she got a low grade, without specific comments about why or what to change. 
(This, I'm finding, is quite common.) For her second paper, then, she found an 
article published by that professor and mirrored it: "He started with an 
anecodote, I started with an anecodote, he wrote x, I wrote x, he introduced his 
theory in this sentence structure, etc etc." The result? HE LOVED IT.

And so part of the issue I see with the shadow scholar--and especially with 
higher ed's response to the article-- is that it is seen as yet another problem 
with kids these days, and a problem of the system that doesn't teach them how to 
quote and cite properly, and it's a matter of ethics and research skill, and if 
only we teach students what really counts as "intellectual property" (whatever 
the hell that is), then they will be enlightened and not take such a dark, easy 

One little bit in the shadow scholar's article is that one-third of his clients 
are "lazy rich kids" who give him precise criteria for what the paper must 
include, how to structure it, etc. These kids have been well-schooled. They know 
the school game. They know the schooly discourse. They could write their own 
bullshit essays if they felt like it, but it's even easier to pay someone else 
to write them.

But bullshitting isn't simply reserved for the lazy-but-schooled kids. I worked 
with Peter Smagorinsky (my major professor) on a study where a high school 
senior, an eager and honest girl who was a very successful Student, bullshitted 
an essay because the content knowledge required was beyond her grasp. But she 
knew her own writing strategies and had a strong sense of efficacy about being 
able to be successful with school writing. She knew what school writing needed 
to be, so she pulled it off. Not to be deceptive, but because she needed to, and 
she could. 

So, it seems like academic bullshitting is reinforced (and rewarded, to the tune 
of $60,000 a year). Is the shadow scholar reflecting the students' abilities to 
complete the assignments? or the tacit criteria for assessment? or that the 
assignments themselves are so cliche and mindless that to not bullshit (or not 
to inadvertently write what some bored student wrote sometime before) becomes a 
task in itself? 

...and what is it that outrages higher ed?--that not only does this person do  
such a thing but that he take such a public stage to point out the naked 

Elizabeth Daigle

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