Monday, October 10, 2011


Epublished in

I was sorry to read, in, of which I am very fond, some college student commenters defending the practice of buying term papers and passing them off as their own. Not only does that cheat the institution they attend, it cheats the other students and cheats the cheater himself. Let me explain.

Colleges both teach and certify. Part of teaching is assigning and evaluating term papers, identifying the strengths and weaknesses thereof, so that the student is praised for good performance and criticized for bad performance. Evaluating a purchased term paper has little teaching benefit. The course grade and even the degree eventually obtained depend somewhat on these purchased papers. If the student is not worthy of the grades or the degree, then the college reputation suffers a loss, however small.

Your excellent grade helps you but slightly diminishes the value of another student’s grade. If there are relatively many top grades, they carry less weight than if such grades were rare. If virtually everyone passes the course, passing has less significance. Thus, cheating to get a better grade, or even merely to pass, slightly harms other students, as they are evaluated in comparison to you. Those you harm, if they become aware of what is happening, will resent you and what you are doing.

What is the impact on you, personally? You can find excuses for cheating, but you almost certainly cannot be proud of it. If you evade the hard work of writing the term paper, you have lost an opportunity to strengthen yourself through work. You may think you understand the topic of the purchased paper, but you would likely know it better if you had written the paper yourself. If you are cheating, you either think it is common, giving you a low opinion of your fellow students, or you think it is rare, giving you a low opinion of yourself.

Perhaps it was only the short-hand of email, but I generally found the English language usage of the defenders of term paper buying to be deficient. Whoever hires them on the basis of their falsified college performance will soon be unpleasantly surprised, bad for both employer and employee.

Right after World War II, Japan accelerated industrial production rapidly, with an emphasis on low cost and high volume, with little regard to quality. This succeeded in the marketplace for years, but Japanese goods became tarnished with the reputation of poor quality. Subsequently, a revolution in Japanese quality control, aided by W. Edwards Deming’s works on statistical quality control, helped make Japanese goods renowned for high quality, to everyone’s benefit. The investments were major, but the rewards even greater.

“Virtue is its own reward,” in terms of how we feel about ourselves and how we treat each other. Cheating is corrosive to self-esteem and to trust and to fairness. Write your own term paper!

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