Table of Contents
The Industry of Education: Bad Teachers & Bad Students
No Ethics in American Education
My harsh view of teachers, though rooted in personal reasons, still warrants consideration when examining the American education system. Beyond this personal bias, I once owned several businesses pejoratively referred to as paper or term paper mills. I find humor in Academia’s despise for those businesses since they are unwilling to change methods to stop the problem (if it is even a problem.) The economic forces driving plagiarism and the paper mills also drive the education industry. When education runs like a business, corruption results, just like corporations.
The Industry of Education
Writing papers for more than a decade provided a disturbing insight into a capitalist-polluted education system few people are privy to seeing. Ethical quandaries plagued me at the beginning of the paper writing business but soon disappeared in the profit and demand for papers. Had I realized the money in paper writing, I likely would have written papers instead of wasting fourteen years in the labor industry. While teachers and universities blame plagiarism on students, ethics decline, the internet, and a hoard of other causes, the real blame is theirs. The university system should just be called a business since it runs mostly in this manner, and as we know from Enron and other commercial catastrophes, every business is prone to corruption.
Education today is a business complete with all the corporation’s traits including supply, demand, cost containment strategies, marketing, etc. When education focuses on profit, colleges, and universities become prone to competition. In order to provide education to the largest consumer base possible, you must compete using all of the marketing and management techniques that firms use to gain a competitive advantage. Online schools are a great example of this role confusion between companies and schools.
To me, the paper business is nothing more than a business. It is a strange business, but it is still just a business. I don’t get bogged down in the ethics of it because universities and teachers have shown me how to turn education into an industry. This is an old problem but one that has worsened over time.
Online schools need to accommodate thousands of students to make the big bucks. So, they put no standards on admissions other than if you can afford the classes or if you are eligible for student loans. To be price competitive, you need to cut costs such as teacher salaries or make deals with textbook companies to buy in bulk. You might ask, “What does this have to do with term paper selling?” The answer is simple. When you are running a business (school) you need to have operations standardized (assembly line) to properly service the customers (students) but more importantly to reduce cost. This means that assignments become standardized, along with syllabuses and other materials. You want a one-size-fits-all approach to maximize productivity and efficiency. As a result of this practice, you now have thousands of students all performing the same assignment with the exact same directions. It is not a leap in intellect to understand this major driver for paper mills since thousands of students are not prepared to go to college and complete these standardized assignments.
The most natural thing for them to do is go to the internet and buy a paper.
I can hear educators screaming about ethics. Well, there are no ethics in American education. The academia threw that out the window when it made education a business. Why? Because schools knowingly enrolled students lacking the skills to perform college-level work to make a profit. The academia further depleted the education system of all its ethics and values by adopting a system such as Turnitin which essentially says, “We don’t trust you.” The current education system holds no integrity, clarified by the school's verification of student paper originality which violates the copyright of every student whose papers are forced into the for-profit plagiarism systems. By allowing schools to become businesses, all values and credibility drain from these institutions.
I have a difficult time blaming the student for the state of the education system since accusing learners amounts to blaming victims of crime. That said, a student problem exists, clearly seen when they enter school with the wrong expectations and armed with unrealistic goals, making them either adapt to the “real” expectations of the teacher and curriculum or flounder.
In the 1980s, in my high school freshman year, the teacher pointed to each kid, asking what they wanted to do when they graduated high school. Many male students related a desire to enter their favorite sport or current JV activity professionally. Some females expressed interest in nursing, medicine, teaching, or some craft or artistry, and a few real estate agents, but many girls didn’t know what they desired to do, which, in time, I translated as a “complete lack of choice.”
By this time, many unpopular kids, like me, found these desires laughable, not knowing the desire to be an executive or some other high-profile job held almost equal ridiculousness. More interesting than gender and popularity differences were the financial and class disparities that barred no low-income student from the same outrageous goals.
It is nice to know that hopeless dreams are an equal opportunity desire.
Not once did the teacher explain, “Sorry, that goal is highly unlikely to happen.” Teachers were once students, and though they know these aspirations hold no likely accomplishment, they allow students to go on believing these absurd notions. Not just teachers but parents as well. The popularity of football in the schools I attended overrode academics and benefited only a tiny percentage of kids, yet enormous money went to these programs. Beyond sports, business clubs and other niche groups formed after school, all designed to promote the next great business leader. I know some of these groups, and for certain, sports programs exist today, evidencing this absurd thinking’s presence.
The problem involves many issues, but ultimately, kids are not equipped with the correct expectations for school. In my case, you would believe that my parents, despite their abusiveness, would have ingrained in me an ambition to succeed in school by telling me I would become a ditch digger if I didn’t perform well or punishing me with military schools. Instead, high school held no purpose other than a place of torment, and even when school got better in my last two years, it still had no purpose other than a step to the next place in life – college. College was a complete failure because it held no more realism than high school.
In spite of poor performance from grade school through college, I still, and many people I knew who failed more dramatically than me, talked within our circles about the reality of our coming affluence.
I am not saying that education is meaningless, but millions of people like me attend school with no fundamental sense of education’s importance because education stresses everything but a practical need for critical learning. If I play football in elementary through high school, school is about football, not academics. It is not just sports; many students enter cliques, and those groups become the focus: nerds, band, choir, mathletes, etc. If you are lucky, you become part of the popular clique, and academics become less important, or, you join one of the groups that align with the goals of learning, such as mathletes who got there through natural dispositions. (Those who are adept at math, gravitate to math.)
For many students, even the successful ones, school is about everything but learning.
The kids who do learn, what are they learning? I took computer classes in high school and college, and none of them would have prepared me for any of today’s coding or development jobs. A business diploma in the eighties, “Administrative Science,” might be considered outdated by a strategic management degree today due to fundamental changes in business. So, if education constantly changes, how important are formal education degrees in many fields?
Well, they are extremely important when discussed in terms of privilege and corruption. Sadly, education is prone to all the vices of any other business and schools become training grounds for bigotry and classism. The training goes something like this: kid enters school, kid plays sports or kid becomes part of the academically acceptable clique, kid performs according to education expectations within that clique, kid goes to college for sports (no worries here) or kid goes to college and performs to the expectations of academia and if not fails out.
Essentially, what schools do is pass along the privileged people to their rightful place in society – the top – and everyone else, by luck and hard work, succeed or fail. Education is a training ground for cronyism and nepotism corruption of the workplace. No matter how liberal you are or try to keep your kids from absorbing systemic racism and classicism undergirding everything, school defeats your efforts. In a public education system, everyone in America is guilty of corrupting the youth by allowing leaders to manipulate tax dollars in schools like corporate executives, thus producing the corrupt leaders of tomorrow (who are the only people who benefit from this system). No one is exempt or as Paulo Freire says, “Washing one's hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral.”
Again, I cannot speak for any other country but the US. Teachers in the US have this incredible luck of being admired for their jobs while simultaneously drawing sympathy for their status as poor, undervalued teachers. I have taken hundreds of courses and written thousands of papers in the last decade, and I can assure you that the vast majority of teachers are incompetent. This problem occurred as a direct result of egotism and a lack of standards placed on hiring teachers.
The majority of students using paper writing services do so because of a problem with a teacher. I have seen the passive-aggressive notes these teachers leave on students’ papers. Teachers will send belligerent and nasty emails to students – always couched in academic criticism. They make ridiculous class policies that can cost a student a grade, such as if you miss two classes you are automatically downgraded a letter grade.
Then there is the problem with word counts. The teachers who create their curriculum will enforce arbitrary word counts or page counts on assignments. There is no justification for a word count since papers are supposed to be written in a manner sufficient to answer the thesis. Word counts simply have no bearing on this writing goal. Worse yet, you get downgraded if you go under or over the word count.
Why the hell are teachers like this?
Teachers are part of the education industry and as cogs in the machine, they are prone to all the issues plaguing employees in other industries. For example, teachers supposedly don’t make any money. I would argue this point depending on the circumstance, but for the moment let’s just agree that they are underpaid. The underpaid teacher is a direct result of the cost-cutting methods used in the business of education. Just like Mcdonalds, you need to keep overhead low, and giving teachers a high salary does not work in this model. The impact of paying teachers low wages is that you must take whoever you can find to fill the position. This practice lends itself to hiring low-quality teachers.
Higher-priced schools can afford more creative teachers and faculty. Higher pay for teachers increases competition and potentially better applicants. Schools can be very selective in their hiring process because the higher pay they offer increases their pool of applicants. Higher pay also allows for increased standards for teachers and thereby increases the quality of education. Institutions that pay higher salaries to teachers can expect more from the teachers. The higher-paid teachers are thereby held to a higher standard and students are also held to a higher standard.
Something should also be said about the fact that the profession of teaching invites ego-driven people to join its ranks. Many times, I’ve heard new teachers making statements such as, “I want to teach younger children, so I can get them early and make a positive impact on their thinking.” As innocuous as this statement sounds it is also egotistical. This ego-driven statement assumes that without this person's instruction, the student will be impacted negatively. This thinking reflects a person so opinionated that they believe all kids need fixing and they are the teacher to accomplish this task.
Teaching often focuses more on imparting an individual's values than imparting knowledge – a grave disservice to students.
Teaching, the act of standing in front of a room full of people, being the most important person in the room, and being able to command everyone in the room- attracts ego-driven people to the field. This is no different from ego-driven people aspiring to be police officers with the hope of carrying a gun to exercise authority. Any field that provides power or authority is prone to this issue. The natural solution to this problem is to place high standards on the position, but since the job doesn’t pay you lose access to the higher caliber teachers who teach somewhere else or go into a different industry.
A Broken System
The paper business is the direct result of turning the education system into a business. While there have always been people who cheat and buy papers, the problem today is pervasive due to easier access to papers from the internet. Instead of blaming the business of education, people point to the students and the internet as the cause. This is nonsense. The massive defaults on student loans are not due to the students or the internet but are really the fault of institutions that removed the expectations for entrance and provided substandard teaching. The ugly truth about the education industry is that failing students are not good business so you pass them to maximize profit.
If we are going to fix this system, then we need to start moving away from the practice of running schools like they are businesses.
On the Wickedness of Schools
Originally written on “spec” to submit to Newsweek magazine for a My Turn column many years and lifetimes ago.
I was working at an elite private school in San Pedro Sula, Honduras after being kicked out of Washington State University for, basically, morally reprehensible conduct.
I was hired to be a secondary school guidance counselor at this by-lingual institution for the children of wealthy Hondurans and a few American teens. After the failed PhD effort I was close to unemployable in the field of education in the USA.
Many of the teachers were U.S. citizens working at this international school for a variety of reasons – best not examined too closely.
All the classes were taught in English, and many of these native English-speaking teachers who spoke zero Spanish, found the levels of “cheating” by their Honduran students to be morally disgusting. I, on the other hand, found those teachers' attitudes to be massively dick-sucking monstrous. After all, these fat, lazy fuck-witted Anglo, honky, rightwing rejects from North America did not see any irony in their disdain for bilingual students prepped for college educations in the USA.
But the moral tone should have been pretty obvious during my first minutes in San Pedro. On our way in from the airport on my first day, the headmaster of the school shared with me that the two paths forward for most Honduran teenage girls were as either maids or prostitutes. It was hot and humid in the car as we drove—otherwise, I’d have told him to eat shit and die and to let me out and caught the first flight out and back to unemployment and rejection at home.
This experience was not the beginning of my disillusion with education but the culmination of years of growing frustration. I’d taught in Australia for two years right out of college, the first place that had offered me a job. The Australian education system is based more on the British way of education, strongly streaming into test-based judgments of future prospects; Mick Jagger and John Lennon were both advanced to Art School because they appeared to have very little likelihood of success at anything sensible like plumbing, electrical engineering or statistical analytics. So much for the superiority of the ‘Merican system: “da best in da world!!! Cause we’re number one!!!”
Still, I remained in education for many years after this since it was the only place I could get a job, given my utter loathing of work and enterprise and my passion for writing. “Those who can, do--those who can’t do, teach” (Woody Allen added, “those who can’t teach, teach P.E.”)
But a big group of professional educators are wanna-be writers and readers who must make enough money to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. Teaching is a job where the lazy and stupid can easily hide, eat, drink, and still feel important from time to time.
Don’t get me wrong there may be dedicated, honest, and truly professional people in education, it’s just that I haven’t met very many of them.
The core reason schools are wicked places is the truth that they are institutions set up to self-perpetuate and not do the thing they are supposedly supposed to do. After all, if schools really taught what students needed to learn, the students would learn and then there would be no further need for schools and then where would kids go to learn? This idea was postulated repeatedly by the great James Herndon in the 1970s in his wonderful pair of books about teaching and schools, The Way It Spozed To Be and How to Survive in Your Native Land. These brilliant, honest works are written from the perspective of a dedicated public middle school teacher but also an honest, thoughtful, and sincere critic of our system, who perfectly diagnosed the inequities in society and education and the near impossibility of changing things and making them better.
A rogue copy of my On the Wickedness of Schools essay in draft form somehow managed to land in the hands of the aforementioned headmaster and airport transportation. I like to think it was from a woman teacher, tall and attractive but with kind of flaring nostrils, who had made a serious pass at me telling me she wanted to fuck me and who I had gently rejected, not because her powerful Honduran businessman husband might have found out and justifiably castrated me, but because I was passing briefly through a phase of attempted monogamous commitment (a stupid move, but I digress). I was trying hard to be faithful to my girlfriend who would be joining me shortly in Honduras (but again, digression).
The headmaster called me into his office after seeing my unpublished manifesto and asked if I’d like to go back to the States “early.” I said, “Sure, you mean like at the end of the semester?” He answered, “No, I mean like tomorrow!”
Although they were threatened with suspension or expulsion if they skipped school to see me off the next day at the airport, many of the Honduran kids did so anyway. One girl, about 15 said to me that my Spanish was “Better than Mr. C’s.” Mr. C was the principal of the high school and fluent in Spanish but he had an ear of lead filled with wet cement, unable to hear the resonating tones of Honduran Spanish, a lovely, lazy, lilting language perfect for my stumbling efforts.
So anyway, I was fired.
When I returned to the United States, I landed a part-time teaching job at a jr. College, bonehead English, and eventually a few classes that were slightly better than bonehead, all of which had many lovely young coeds only some of whom I dated (but we digress again).
Schools are wicked for a kazillion reasons, almost all of which are based on the fact that people, especially young people, don’t learn well in the basic set-up of educational institutions – they learn despite that set-up.
There are a lot of other roles that being a fortunate son as opposed to a profitable cheater can be examined. I wonder how many of my partner Vincent’s 24K cribbed terms papers I read, turned in to me by students who would white-out his name and write their name over the white-out as author in red color crayon?
American Education is a fundamental oxymoron.
Schools are wicked.Copyright Vincent Triola & Terry Trueman