Inside the shadowy business of ghostwriting college students' papers.
This is rhetorically rather compelling, but is it true? The book’s major flaw is that the proof for the level of academic dishonesty Tomar is exposing remains frustratingly anecdotal. He amasses a lot of evidence about student loan debt and class size and grade inflation, but he fails to demonstrate that students today are really cheating more. After all, organized systems of plagiarism have existed on campus for decades. Any decent fraternity will have in its library a filing cabinet stocked with papers on everything from the German Renaissance to Dr. King’s March on Washington. If there is more cheating today, the simplest explanation is not that today’s students are lazier or more dishonest but that the Web makes academic fraud easier to engage in.
Certainly all of the students with whom Tomar interacted seem to be selfish, demanding, dependent, and eager to cheat. But that’s a self-selected group of people, and it’s neither fair nor accurate to say that they represent American young people as a whole. Indeed, there’s every reason to believe that this industry attracts the very worst American students, intellectually, morally, emotionally.
Even if Tomar’s thesis is a little weak, however, he does manage to evoke how academic dishonesty really works now. The increasing size of the administration of American higher education has made college mind-numbing and impersonal for many students. (“If you’d like to pay your semester student fees by credit card, please press one.”) What Tomar manages to demonstrate is that the faceless bureaucracy of the American university extends beyond the school and into its affiliated industries—even the illicit ones.
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