Here a short outtake of a depressing but interesting piece “The Shadow Scholar: The man who writes your students' papers tells his story” on outsourcing of thesis etc. writing that undermines our at points plainly ridiculous education systems further. This has been already commented on in other blogs, but I would like to stress a different aspect here. Yes, there is much to say about evaluation versus education, about the way teachers cannot pursue cheaters even if they clearly identified them, and so on. I claim however that one of the main culprits is the way we let language be used in general. Just read this:

After I've gathered my sources, I pull out usable quotes, cite them, and distribute them among the sections of the assignment. Over the years, I've refined ways of stretching papers. I can write a four-word sentence in 40 words. Just give me one phrase of quotable text, and I'll produce two pages of ponderous explanation. I can say in 10 pages what most normal people could say in a paragraph.

I've also got a mental library of stock academic phrases: "A close consideration of the events which occurred in ____ during the ____ demonstrate that ____ had entered into a phase of widespread cultural, social, and economic change that would define ____ for decades to come."

This style of writing is encouraged not only by minimum number of pages requests on student assignments; this shitty style of writing counts as good writing all over the “intellectual” landscape and it is directly undermining language as a tool for getting meaning across. This is not about students cheating, this goes much further. This is the way science news articles are written. This is the way peer reviewed papers must be written nowadays in order to be accepted, as they are rejected whenever there is too much substance instead. Volume inflates; proper reading cannot be accomplished anymore; this is not just about professors not being able to grade properly, this is a much wider issue.

The problem is, substance is undermined by the success of vacuous bubbles of shiny, inflated surfaces that self-assemble to card houses. In a society that lives for vacuous glamour, that fears anything that may have a sharp core, such is entirely unsurprising.