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Apparently Essay Mills Must Be Made Illegal

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I must confess, right at the beginning here, that I have written an essay for one of these mills. The things I do in the pursuit of journalistic research, eh? And God Help anyone who tries to use it as well.

But apparently this sort of thing must be made illegal:

Cheating “essay mills” could be criminalised, under plans being considered by the Government which would see perpetrators sent to prison.

Ministers have signalled they would be willing to back a private members’ bill which outlaws plagiarism and punishes those who profit from it.

It comes amid fears that the burgeoning essay mills industry – where students pay private companies to complete their university work for them – is threatening the quality of a British university degree.

One of the things that such essay mill productions are not is plagiarism. The mills are really quite keen on checking that what is produced is in fact novel.

The Department for Education (DfE) has now convened an expert group which will advise ministers on how best to tackle the issue of contract cheating, including legislative options.

Now that is true, yes, it is indeed contract cheating. It’s also entirely possible that we’d like to stop such cheating. Again possibly, this extends to desiring to protect, even increase, the quality of a British university degree.

The answer to which is to stop term time essays counting toward a degree. To stop coursework being a part of a degree even. For the technology is out of the bag – the article says there are near 1,000 essay writing services out there. Making them illegal in the UK will have no great impact because, you know, this internet thing?

It is thus necessary to adapt to their existence rather than try to abolish them. So, go back to a degree being determined by what is produced during a closed and timed exam. Finals that is, not coursework. The problem then goes away.

Note that we’ve already got a certain adaptation. It used to be that the exam was done with paper and whatever book of equations or quotes or whatever the examiner thought you should have. The spread of electronics has meant that that’s not really maintainable. Thus exams have tended – tended – to become what is called “open book”. We know enough people are going to lie, smuggle and cheat sources in. So, restructure the exams so that anyone can use any source they like and test them on what they can construct from them.

Yes, obviously, that would bias against turgid essays insisting that da poverty of da youf is down to the inherent contradictions within capitalism and the white supremacy of colonial hangovers but then the thing that’s wrong with that is?

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8 COMMENTS

  1. I understand that the ladies, for some reason, find that being judged on the basis of their course work is more favourable to them than examinations.

    So Tim, I suppose the wicked misogyny of your proposal means it’ll sink without a trace.

  2. Somewhere I’ve still got my little red book of science equations and constants from O levels. I still use it from time to time. I wish I knew where I’d put it.

  3. Forty years ago I was working as Assistent fuer Englisch in a West German Gymnasium. Towards the end of the year the senior teacher in the English department asked me to run my eye over some examples of coursework done by the pupils of each of the teachers in his department, and give my opinion on the standard of the work and the marks awarded (these counted towards the grades on their leaving certificate).

    It was quite startling how the worse the knowledge of English of the teacher was, and the worse the work of their pupils, the higher the grades were, The pupils of the department head, whose English was flawless, were already attempting to construct quite complex essays at the age of sixteen, and were awarded Bs and Cs by Herr Schulze. By contrast, the pupils of Herr Rauscher, whose experience of the native English language was limited to a couple of months working at Butlin’s, were barely beyond the level of “Ray Clemence is a great Goalman.” They got As and Bs.

    • Consultants are enough hired to produce reports that mirror what the senior management had already decided but which would have made them extremely unpopular if they had imposed it without an “independent expert” declaring that it was necessary. You, as a native Englishman, an expert on English, could make those comments without appearing biased and could return safely to England whereas Frau Schulze would have to live in the same toen as Frau Rauscher for years to come.

  4. So Tim is suggesting that producing something measurable as a test of whether the student can use the knowledge gained ? Teachers Unions will never allow it. Like the idea except how does that help assessing the degree of white privilege ? Oh, you mean real subjects, such as physics, engineering, maths and hopefully, language use. I long for the day when verse that has meter, rhythm, rhyme, alliteration etc in it instead of the incomprehensible flow of gibberish that is published currently.

  5. In my finals I had to do a research project which was therefore obviously original and we had three exam papers. That’s it. Research dissertation plus three papers. It was in Microbiology. Course work got you through the year but all annual exams had to be passed. Course work did not count. I got a 2.1 Hons in 1975 having been given a viva voce for a 1st. The last first given was 25 years in the past. No-one in my year got a 1st. Dammit! Researched for a Ph.D afterwards and got that. External examiner was the editor of the Journal of Biochemistry, Professor Edwin Dawes. The most stressful 3 hours of my life to that time. I hand wrote my thesis and it was typed up for binding once approved. All my own work. I think outlawing essay mills is a good idea. If you can’t write one you don’t understand your subject.

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