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Plagiarism Detector: How Joslyn’s Son Got His 4.0

Plagiarism Detector 101

One thing that never bothered the Thumbtack wheeler-dealers: plagiarism. Rather than play the role of plagiarism detector, Thumbtack happily took their cut for plagiarized copy.

Until recently, I maintained a professional profile on a middleman services site called Thumbtack. Businesspersons, authors, college students, and others post on the site when they need writing and editing services, and writers bid on the requested work. One thing that never bothered any of the wheeler-dealers at Thumbtack: requests for plagiarism. Instead of throwing down the plagiarism gauntlet, Thumbtack happily took their cut of the cash paid for plagiarized copy.

I taught at universities for six years, so I was well-versed in plagiarism. That’s not what drove me away from Thumbtack. I got off the site because many of my competitors bid on work at hourly rates that would make fast food employees double over and laugh. Forty-hour jobs received estimates of $280. No joke.

I do sometimes miss scanning my inbox for some of the world’s most ridiculous requests. The guy who had a 300-page novel and wanted 6 people to edit 50 pages for free “to test out their skills.” The woman who wanted content for 18 webpages and had a total budget of $85. The man hoping to hire an editor whom he would pay only if his novel got published one day. The list goes on.

As I said, plagiarism is old hat. So common it’s almost not worth mentioning. Until I saw Joslyn’s post.

My son is a senior and has 4.0 GPA average and needs to receive an A in all his classes. Our last writer is gone. He is a student at CU [the University of Colorado Boulder]. The papers need full rewrite and research.

Joslyn’s son is rocking a 4.0. Think how proud Joslyn will be this May as her valedictorian son tosses his cap in the air. CU Boulder seemingly has no plagiarism detector and doesn’t know what’s going on. And Thumbtack doesn’t care.

The Supreme Court recently heard arguments in a case about race-based admissions at the University of Texas. Referencing an amicus brief, Justice Antonin Scalia said, “There are those who contend that it does not benefit African Americans to get them into the University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less-advanced school, a slower-track school where they do well.”

Such contentions make perfect sense. Race-based admissions programs may put some academically unprepared kids at a disadvantage. And it’s unfair to the other students. Think of Joslyn and her son. He probably didn’t need to take advantage of a race-based admission program to get into CU. He got in on his own merits, no special programs or court case required. He, for one, hasn’t needed a slower track. He’s excelling at a competitive school. At least on paper.

I think the biggest problem here is that some of the parents of African-American students at the University of Texas may not know about Thumbtack and thus may not be taking full advantage of the plagiarism services offered. We wouldn’t even need affirmative action programs if these clueless parents would cough up an embarrassingly small amount of Thumbtack cash to fund the writing of their children’s papers. The truly ambitious could start as early as junior high. With Thumbtack, there’s no need for children or young adults to write any papers at all, especially since CU Boulder doesn’t seem to have a plagiarism detector and sites like Thumbtack don’t seem to care if they’re enabling plagiarism.

Back in 2003, George W. Bush fought hard against affirmative action. That same year, CNN wrote, “Bush clearly got in [to Yale] because of affirmative action. Affirmative action for the son and grandson of alumni. Affirmative action for a member of a politically influential family. Affirmative action for a boy from a fancy prep school.”

Bloodlines. Connections. Cold hard cash. Writers willing to do any work for less than minimum wage. Enough plagiarism to beat the band. I guess Scalia’s right. Some kids are more prepared to go to a good college than others.

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