If you haven’t read this yet, you should. It is the story of a man (using the alias Ed Dante) who writes essays and exams for students in higher education for pay. The article sheds light on this completely undetectable method of cheating, the inherent flaws in higher education, and the shocking number of people completing undergraduate and even graduate degrees with someone else’s work. The author claims to have written for on nearly every subject and completed 12 graduate theses in his time doing the work. He also has said that he plans to retire and wants to reveal to academia this underground ring of cheating.
Perhaps even more interesting than the article is the discussion which has followed, with many people berating the author for his involvement in cheating. Interestingly, it doesn’t seem that people are angry at the student cheaters, they are angry at the man making money and actually writing the essays. What is it that makes people so angry? People seem particularly mad that he makes money off the whole thing. Does that make it worse? On one hand you could argue that without him students would just find someone else to help them cheat. On the other hand, he knowingly allows and enables the cheating. Which is worse?
Interestingly, there is research on this topic. In a set of studies by Whitley and Kost (1999), people were asked to evaluate the people who help students cheat. In general, people in their studies viewed cheaters as being more morally culpable than those who helped them cheat. However, there was some evidence that when people are paid for cheating, they are viewed more harshly than when they do it to “help a friend”. Although this only rung true for women in their study, it seems to ring true for many responders to the story. There is surprisingly little research out there on attitudes towards cheating or those who help cheaters. But with the apparent rampant use of this method of cheating, as claimed by the author, it seems like an important area for more research to be done.