Today I find myself in an unusual position. To begin with, if anyone ever tells you that I plagiarized a paper or doctoral dissertation, you can be sure they are lying simply because I’ve never authored one. I don’t have a university degree of any kind and there are no academic papers with my name on them.
But that doesn’t mean that I’ve never written one. The truth is that when you’re hungry and don’t have a job, you’ll do almost anything for money. I really don’t know how many academic papers I’ve written over the years for other people (who paid me to do it) but I imagine it’s quite a few. To be completely honest, it was some of the most enjoyable work I ever did.
There are several reasons why people don’t want to write their own academic papers. Sometimes they have a large course load and don’t have the time or energy to keep up with all of their assignments. Other times the student is just lazy. Sometimes they truly don’t understand the material or find it too difficult. Occasionally you’ll encounter a student who thinks of writing assignments as a menial task beneath the dignity of someone wealthy enough to pay someone else to do the work.
I’ve certainly met all types but one thing in common is that all the students who ever paid me to write a paper want the grades, the marks and later the diploma. They all want the certification from the university that they’ve officially “learned” the requisite subjects. Whether for personal glory or for bragging rights or for an opportunity to make (more) money while doing less work, they damn sure want those diplomas. And for whatever reason, writing a particular paper is an obstacle between what they can’t/won’t do and what they want/need. All I ever did was step into the gap and facilitate.
The money was useful but I always enjoyed writing those papers. I think you know by now I really love to write but I also love to learn. I never got a diploma awarded for any of my work but whatever research and effort went into writing that paper stayed with me. I wrote papers on subjects I had never previously studied before in my life, everything ranging from Women’s Studies to the history of the Peloponnesian War. It was great stuff. Obviously I wouldn’t have done it without the money but for me writing papers was always about the (self) education.
Certainly half the difficulty in writing a paper is the writing itself. It’s not an easy task for some people to write (anything) and it takes a lot of practice and perhaps a bit of artistic talent to really gain a knack for it. On top of that however you have to be conversant with your material and really understand the subject at hand and have enough enthusiasm for it to muster the energy to write about it. And it’s this second part, the enthusiasm for the subject, that I often found lacking both in students for whom I wrote papers as well as students that I knew who wrote their own papers.
But why though? It’s obvious enough reading extracts from Victor Ponta’s doctoral dissertation that he has no enthusiasm or love for the subject. And he’s far from unique in that regard. This is exam season in Romania and I constantly hear moaning and groaning from students who are studying.
Why is studying such a chore? Why is learning such a drag, such a downer, such a depressing and awful thing? Christ sometimes I feel like Abraham Lincoln with his shovel doing math by firelight after a long day of chores. Yet for almost everyone else around me, learning is some kind of torturous exercise only occasionally interspersed with a temporary respite of a subject that is genuinely interesting.
I guess I just find it strange that all those years I was a student who was never given any kind of diploma or document and took to education purely out of pleasure (and as a chance to make a little money on the side) while the Prime Minister (and thousands of his ilk here in Romania) never once loved his education and instead ginned up words in order to receive the diploma and the prestige that comes with it.
And you know what the weirdest part is? I never plagiarized those papers that I wrote for other people. Why would I? To begin with, if they’re paying me and I stole from other authors and the professor caught them, I’d be in big trouble. Secondly, it’s far more rewarding and fun to write it yourself, to shape the words, to line up the ideas in a coherent and moving way and to know that someone, the professor if no one else, would be casting their eye over it and hopefully be pleased and possibly even inspired and joyful that the spark of learning had been kindled in the minds of (at least) one of their students.
So, odd as it is, not only will you never see my name on a plagiarized academic paper but if you ever somehow discover the academic papers that I secretly wrote for other people, those won’t be plagiarized either. Kind of surreal when you think about it.
If you want to remove all the plagiarizing and cheating in schools then quit awarding grades or diplomas. Then the only people who will be students will be the ones who want to learn for learning’s sake. Worked for me anyway :)