Remember The-Shadow-Scholar, the deeply disturbing confirmation of that academia generally selects for meaningless drivel while making critical information unheard; the story that especially academic media try to contain as a side issue about student writing although it is obviously symptomatic of the whole of academia and much of modern society? Now Dave Tomar, the true identity behind the Shadow Scholar, revealed himself and wrote a book about his experiences: “The Shadow Scholar: How I Made a Living Helping College Kids Cheat” (Bloomsbury, out next month).
The book also offers an unsettling account of higher education at perhaps its most cynical and mercantile. … "To them it was a financial transaction utterly consistent with everything else about college." … little criticism for faculty members. "I don't think professors are most of the reason … There are broad institutional effects … they include universities' pursuit of prestige … prizing of grades over learning … everyone is a co-conspirator …” Source: Chronicle of Higher Education
Dave Tomar points out what the media discredit as his own rationalization of his deeds, also in the Chronicle article, because he mentions the roots of the problem. The Chronicle just does not want to hear it, because it is part of the problem. I am glad that he quite agrees with my take on things. Why am I glad? Well, after all, Dave has written so many PhD dissertations in so many fields, he is at least Dr. Dr. Dr. Dr. Dr. Tomar, and none of his fully deserved doctor titles are just honoris causa either! Rutgers university – if you have any shame at all: Dave Tomar has deserved a PhD and an apology from you!
The Shadow Scholar out of the Shadow
Degree paper-mills are side issues, mere symptoms. The problem is fundamental and impacts all of us in many ways, not just that your doctor's or consultant's only merits are rich parents. Although I am neither a student nor currently have students, I am impacted very much as a member of academia. I am forced to write in a style that actively suppresses meaning. The more we are prostitutes in the publish-or-perish popularity reality show, the more our writing only looks like information. Actually, there is just long winding and repetitive blah blah that takes ages to read, training the readership into adoption of a fast, surface-skim mode, so that anything that is actually informative or let alone critical (not pseudo critical political correctness) cannot be digested anymore and is disliked.
How much do we compromise a message in order to pander to some liking that evolved in order to stabilize a system against the core of the message? Not ‘compromise’ like in the old days of Galileo and the Pope. Complete subordination!
If you are not famous already through the (always at least partially political) shady selection processes, if you have not yet made a pact with the devil and thus achieved that highly desired position where peer-reviewers are likely your friends anyway, you cannot concisely explain an important point and then go on to base the next one on the former, not only because such is dangerously meaningful so that it increases the likelihood of disagreement, but so called peers plainly cannot properly read arguments and cannot make the effort to, as the "surface-skim mode" has become standard and they need to survive doing their own writing. There is no time to read; understanding endangers your career; criticism is suicide.
When writing, you have to, for example, repeat and repeat again, messing up any linear argument. You have to commit basic regress errors in order to stay relevant; you cannot apply Wittgenstein’s insight and be silent about the meaningless. Be on top critical of big guys, say in ways that a wider audience would understand, and you are toast! We cannot say anything novel or important, because it must drown in blahblah plus irrelevant historical context and of course references to potential reviewers and their friends until the word limit is up. Free speech does effectively not exist!
What the Shadow Scholar revealed by simply writing every month several of those nonsense papers that we claim, without bursting out laughing or being red in the face, are proof of years of research, is just one tiny aspect of a much bigger problem: Our ways of assessing merit, our ways of communication, be it political or in science, are rationalizations of power; science too has become the mere rationalization done by our social system, the defense of an upper class. Not the illuminati or rich republicans, but the power of our stupidity and hubris being what social evolution is feeding on and thus multiplies. Our enslavement – ant hill, here we come.