On Cheating & Other Vices
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By Kyle Katz
Of late I’ve become a jack of a few trades I never would have imagined becoming a jack of. With an AA in film, a stillborn resume and a job market that won’t budge, yield or call back, my options have been somewhat restricted just lately. In my desperation, however, I’ve happened upon a most nurturing balm for the sting of unemployment. If you’ve got a knack for the written word, or have simply retained the bullshitting skills that helped you maintain a decent GPA in high school and college, you’re half way there. Now all you have to do is flip that little switch marked “conscience” to the off position, and you’re in business.
In short, I get paid to help college students cheat. I put up flyers around campuses, place ads on craigslist, and have developed a somewhat steady word-of-mouth clientele as well. All of this has resulted in my helping roughly 25 students ace their history, psychology, business, English and film classes over the past year. Do I sleep at night? Only when I’m tired.
I have a lot of conflicting feelings about what I do, none of which I’m prepared to adequately express here and now. Like so many morally questionable enterprises, this one seemed to overtake me gradually and in progressively larger doses. Maybe it’s not as bad as I think it is, I’d like to think. To my credit, and this is really scraping the bottom of the empathy barrel so bare with me, but I do make it a point to only assist these students in courses which do not directly apply to their field of study. For instance, I’ll only help Student X (an aspiring lawyer) with courses that will only peripherally benefit him in his acquisition of a law degree. History and film, for instance, are two such courses in which I’ve been the proverbial wizard behind the curtain. Not that it takes a wizard to help someone cheat. Student X will soon be able to attest to that when he’s extolling the merits and sound character of some irrefutably innocent social menace. But at least he’ll learn how to do that on his own. When it comes to his law courses, or Student Y’s medical courses for that matter, the material will have to be worked out through the machinery of their own intellects. Unfortunately, how well oiled this machinery is by then will depend on certain factors, such as whether or not some meddling curtain-clad wizard did most of their previous work for them. Education builds on prior education, after all. I help these students rob themselves of the honor and privilege of a full education, and I get paid for it.
Just recently, I found myself embroiled in yet another trade, a temp job from an agency that gives me work from time to time. And this trade was unrelated, but strongly evocative of the first. It also allowed me to work an honest job for an honest wage. For two weeks I sat at a crosswalk on the campus of a local university, instructing the future movers and shakers of the country to not cross against red lights. Appropriately enough, this was one of the primary campuses I built my previously mentioned business upon. As I sat there for ten hours a day, in the boiling hot and freezing cold, I pondered how individuals who were bright and industrious enough to tackle the school’s grueling application process could turn up so dismally short in the areas of homework and personal safety. The sad fact of the matter is that standards are simply slipping carelessly away. For far too many individuals, the once prestigious journey of a college education has become a heavily congested pursuit of unearned achievement. But I guess I’m not exactly in a position to judge. Instead of writing for a noble cause, the elevation of culture perhaps, I instead write to help further degrade the foundation of modern academia. And instead of actually sitting for the full 10 hours at the crosswalk, I got up and wandered off my post every chance I could, to buy more candy or steal muffins from the lobby of the international student’s center. Whenever a pedestrian would have a near run-in with an equally careless driver, it was because the three of us together had forged a triumvirate of spacy self-focused oblivion. So yes, standards are slipping.
Now that my two week stint as a crossing guard is over, I’m faced with the option of continuing with my “tutoring” services, or polishing up the old resume for another round of soul crushing tedium. But at the moment, making this choice doesn’t rank very highly among my carefully arranged priorities. Ample amounts of food and sleep, however, do.