22 September 2010

Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?
    - "Yip" Harburg, lyrics and Jay Gorney, composer

Even though our government is trying to make us believe that the economy's again on an upswing, I find that really hard to believe. The national Bureau of Labor Statistics provides compiled statistics that completely undermine the Administration's efforts to rally and cheer us. As of the end of August, 2010, the unemployment rate is stagnant at 9.6%, Payroll employment is down by 54,000, employment cost is up, and productivity is down by 1.8% in the second quarter of the year. What does that tell you? Not much, if you don't have a working knowledge of economics.

How about this, then? The same agency reported in the same time frame, government employment fell when 114,000 census workers were laid off. They also say that the "long-term unemployed" ranks, the people who have been out of work for more than 27 weeks, make up 42% of the total number. What is the total number? 14.9 million. Does that tell you anything?

I thought so. I'd write more, but you can get the full effect of these numbers from the Feds at the BLS website. If you go to the site, you'll read how the number of "discouraged workers" has increased by 352,000 from a year earlier. "Discouraged workers" are the people who don't look for jobs because they don't think there are jobs they can get. If you weren't discouraged before, you should be by now.

In my chosen profession, writing, there's something new and terrible going on, and it's getting worse. More and more ads are being placed in "Services Offered" for the writing of term papers, dissertations, college application essays, and book reports. All the things that students are supposed to do for themselves, and all the things that if others do for them, reduces the value of the grading system. We're talking an order of magnitude worse than a parent "helping out" with a homework assignment--this is just wholesale academic dishonesty and fraud. Professional writers know this, but it now appears a good many of them are willing to forego ethics and authorial integrity in order to put an iPhone in the pocket or bread on the table. I personally don't care why they're doing it--it's disgraceful, in both the buying and the selling. It's plagiarism, pure and simple.

What to do about it? This is one time when I think a "zero tolerance" rule is applicable. If you buy a paper and you get caught, you get expelled from the class with an automatic "F." If you sell a paper to somebody who gets caught, your name appears in a "Writers' Wall of Shame" in local newspapers, and any academic credentials you possess get rescinded on the spot, no exceptions.

This would solve the problem, I think, and would also improve the likelihood that the people who actually do their own work get graded on an even playing field, rather than against professionals. It would also ensure that if a person isn't up to doing the job, they don't get moved along and matriculated--thereby lowering the overall value of the credentialing. Really, it's not rocket science.

Excuse me. I have to write some letters to area college deans, asking them to investigate this issue and take aggressive steps to end the practice of academic papers for hire.


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