Rotten Tomatoes: Shadowy Scholar Tells All


If you aren’t familiar with “The Chronicle of Higher Education,” then you are missing out on a spectacular educational website. This site provides excellent information about higher education in America, and is useful for college students, their families, and for educators, with a paid premium content option also available.

On November 12, 2010, “The Chronicle” published a must-read article for everyone. Titled, “The Shadow Scholar,” this article shares the account of a man whose job is to write papers for students. Reportedly, this person lives on the East Coast of the United States and had approached The Chronicle to share his story including his many interactions with students who use his service. The Chronicle verified Dante’s story by examining several of his email interactions with students.

Student Profile

The account of a scholarly cheater.If you thought that essay mills had little to offer, you may want to find out for yourself what “Ed Dante” has to say about the business. It turns out that Mr. Dante (his pseudonym) has a very deep and broad customer base. And, it isn’t just the rich kids who use these types of services — students who are too lazy or incompetent to do the work themselves are among those whom Dante serves. As are students for whom English is their second language.

The first group of students, rich kids, have been paying for this kind of service many years before it became an industry. The last group, ESL students, are new and Dante seems sympathetic to their plight — needing to grasp English immediately or suffer the grading consequences.

Flawed System

Dante admits that what he does is cheating. Let the reader understand that he isn’t dismissing his actions as he criticizes students. His harshest criticism appears to be levied at a higher education system which doesn’t do a very good job of cracking down on cheating or emphasizing learning over grades. He wonders how professors can accept papers from students who obviously do not have the skill sets to produce a competent report.

Who are the cheaters? They seem to come from a variety of backgrounds.

Seminary students, who should be truthful in thought, word and deed, are among Dante’s top customers. As are nurses and, get this, educators. It is this latter group which should concern all of us — budding teachers who will be entrusted to teach our children.

Dante dismisses his role as cheating facilitator noting that he isn’t the reason students cheat. Instead, he frequently points to an educational system that is at once flawed and highly subjective.

Pending Retirement

The accounts Dante shares are interesting, although you have to wonder if a cheater can be entrusted with telling us the truth about anything. Likely, his accounts are accurate — what reason does he have to embellish anything unless he has a “tell all” novel waiting in the wings?

Dante’s six-year tenure as an essay writer is about to end as he also used his article to announce his pending retirement. I can’t say I blame him — 75-page scholarly articles on topics of no interest to the writer can weigh heavily on the soul. As can knowing that what you do in life has to stay hidden behind an assumed name.

Photo Credit: Trish Parispy


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Categories: Academics