The Shadow Scholar: A Letter Home

Dear Mom,

We recently read an article in English class that I think you should be aware of. It was called “The Shadow Scholar,” and it was written by a man who went by the name of Ed Dante. This wasn’t his real name, for obvious reasons, but nonetheless, he wrote about his experience as a so-called ‘academic mercenary.’

Before I go much farther, I want you to know that this isn’t something I would ever consider doing. I just want you to be informed.

As an ‘academic mercenary,’ Dante writes papers, for a fee, for students who are desperate, lazy, or maybe even both. He describes writing on topics that he knows nothing about on tight deadlines for advanced academic programs. “I’ve attended three dozen online universities. I’ve completed 12 graduate theses of 50 pages or more. All for someone else.” Much of his work is done in an insanely short amount of time, and much of his information comes from websites like Wikipedia.

In his article, he also tells the story of one particular student who couldn’t even string together a coherent sentence in her messages to him, but would end up with a well written paper.

Unfortunately, he’s not on his own either. He actually works for a company that employs lots of writers like him to write papers for students, and he makes a pretty good living, having worked there full time for several years. He says that his company makes tens of thousands of dollars a month doing these assignments. A ‘standard’ assignment, like the one he describes writing for this particular business student, goes for $2,000, half of which he takes, the other half of which his company takes. Overall, Dante claimed he was going to make $66,000 the year that he wrote this. Again, that’s a pretty good living.

His company is doing so well that during midterms and finals they can’t even keep up with demand. Imagine that. So many students willing to pay for other people to do their work that there aren’t enough people willing to take their money.

At this point, there’s a bit of a transition in the article. His main point, for all the shock value of writing this, is that there’s a problem with the education system. He does admit that he’s a ‘bad guy.’ He says that he works hard for a living, and that he’s nice to people, but he also admits that he understands that he isn’t doing a positive thing. His point though, is that he’s not actually causing the problem. He thinks that students are.

As you know, I would never do something like pay for an assignment to be done for me. But clearly, there are students out there who are, and Dante argues that the education system that created those students is the problem, and I don’t think he’s way off base.

Dante also shares his story. What happened to him in college. It’s pretty touching. Basically, he felt that he wasn’t taken seriously, and that his talents and efforts were brushed aside by his school. It’s hard not to identify with the down-on-his-luck kid who just wanted to write, and no one would help him. It’s even kind of hard to blame him for taking money to write assignments for other kids.

I don’t think that I should drop out of school, or that college as a concept is totally flawed. I think maybe some changes could be made. I think that this article certainly brings up a pretty serious topic. Let me know what you think sometime.



One thought on “The Shadow Scholar: A Letter Home

    Very well done. At times, your tone seems better suited to an academic or journalistic summary than a letter home. You could also be more upfront about why your mother should “be aware of” the issue, given that you have no desire to take part.


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