Confessions of a ghost writer

Would-be educators are the biggest cheaters, claims an academic ghost writer, who tells all to The Chronicle of Higher Education.

I, who have no name, no opinions, and no style, have written so many papers at this point, including legal briefs, military-strategy assessments, poems, lab reports, and, yes, even papers on academic integrity, that it’s hard to determine which course of study is most infested with cheating. But I’d say education is the worst. I’ve written papers for students in elementary-education programs, special-education majors, and ESL-training courses. I’ve written lesson plans for aspiring high-school teachers, and I’ve synthesized reports from notes that customers have taken during classroom observations. I’ve written essays for those studying to become school administrators, and I’ve completed theses for those on course to become principals.

Why would teachers be cheaters?  Public-school teachers are paid for time served and credits or degrees earned, not for skill or performance, writes Cato’s Andrew J. Coulson.  “This has created demand on the part of teachers for graduate degrees — not necessarily for the acquisition of advanced skills, but for the diplomas themselves, which amount to valuable cash prizes.”

About Joanne


  1. Right, credentialing not education. What’s new?

  2. georgelarson says:

    Another take on the article:

    Plagiarism and the mechanics of privilege

  3. In-class writing assignments sort the wheat from the chaff. I had them regularly, from junior high through college. It was real education.

    It is also possible to design in-class tests that identify who actually read the work in question. In the latter context, I remember the (50%) essay and (50%) very short-answer questions of my college sophomore exam on Moby Dick. The professor was deservedly well-known as a tough grader who never graded on a curve. She had been very explicit from Day 1 that those who had not read the entire book, carefully, would not be able to pass the test, since test questions would be designed to identify those who had limited themselves to partial readings and/or Cliff Notes. There were about 30 of us in the class and a number had had the professor the previous semester, so they told all of us that she meant what she said. There was one 98, one low B, one C, a couple of Ds and the rest failed; most catastrophically. Needless to say, there was concentrated panic and a heroic work effort for the rest of the semester. She also taught Structure of the English Language and Stylistics (required for all English majors/minors in the Arts College; not in the Ed College) and her grading on tests and essays reflected that background.

    Needless to say, this all happened in the days when you received whatever grade you had earned; no extra-credit, no make-ups and no concern on the part of the university if you flunked out. On the contrary, English and the core science courses were designed to weed out a third of every class.

  4. Richard Aubrey says:

    Whoever this person is, there’s some major talent there. Renaissance person? Polymath?
    Unfortunately, this seems to be the best paying job available for a person of this brilliance.

  5. I started school in the mid-50s and my early teachers were Normal School grads (1 yr post HS) or had some college. There was no kindergarten, either public or private, but we started in first grade with copying (usually from the board) and then wrote from teacher dictation before we did any free composition. That began with one-sentence answers to questions and increased gradually as we moved through the grades. Assignments included material from all academic subjects except math; we actually did math, as opposed to learning about math. We also were taught how to write a birthday greeting (cards were our artwork), thank-you notes and business letters. All work was graded for spelling and mechanics, as well as content. Other than the annual “what I did last summer” essay, I remember little creative writing; we did expository writing, business letters, sample newspaper articles, want ads etc.

    In HS, the college-prep track writing was more lit-based, including major research papers in junior and senior years, than the career tracks. The research papers required approval of the thesis statement and an outline, but I never remember handing in a draft for anything; by then we had had enough practice and instruction to write on our own.

    In college, I wrote many essays, in-class and out, in various subjects and research papers in English, French and history, plus various lab reports and clinical material, but never turned in any drafts until master’s and beyond. Was I unusually lucky – at a small-town public school – or was that the way most people were taught? I certainly think that journaliing – navel-gazing with no correction of spelling or mechanics – is a waste of time; my kids all hated it. In my day, if you wanted to keep a diary, it was done on your own time.

  6. Andrew Coulson seems clueless to what you are suggesting, Joanne. He’s saying that those going through the program are less qualified. You’re saying that teachers go back to school all the time because it’s cash in their pockets–which is true. It makes sense that students who have a job already–and a well-paying one–would be more likely to pay for a ghostwriter, and I agree with your analysis. But Coulson doesn’t appear to be suggesting that in the slightest.

  7. georgelarson says:

    If are educators and administrators are filled with people who purchased their credentials instead of earning them, is it a mystery why some educators are against testing and accountability? Shouldn’t a school district that spends XX thousands per year for 12 years entitle each student to a high school diploma and all that goes with it?

  8. Don’t ed schools require comprehensive exams for master’s and doctoral degrees? When I went through, in another field, master’s candidates had three 3-hour sessions and doctoral candidates had four sessions; both over two consecutive days. They were all essays and all done by hand; no resources of any kind allowed. It’s pretty hard to fake those and it was not unknown for someone to fail, and fail to graduate.