The Biggest Signs The Education Apocalypse Is Upon Us
Gone are the days of you, frantically knocking on doors in your dorm late at night, looking for a smart person to cheat off of. Oh, no - you haven't reformed and realized that cheating only deprives you of the education that you're spending a fortune on: It's just that you have this site, now ...
Or perhaps this site:
Or any one of these sites:
All of them (and many more) are actually the same company. I should know. I worked there.
That company is 4writers, and it is headquartered in, of all places, Rivne, Ukraine. The pictures on these sites are of Americans, the prices are in American dollars, and all the toll-free numbers are in America. Strange, then, that they proudly advertise "100% native English speakers." It's the sort of thing that should make you suspicious, like when a butcher shop feels the need to assure you, "NO human meat!"
The truth is, none of the writers are native English speakers. Many are native Ukrainians, often students themselves (never mind that the sites promise all their writers have advanced degrees), who work out of offices in Rivne and Lviv. The rest tend to be freelancers from Kenya. Being uniquely Canadian qualified me to distinguish good English from, well, barely English. As one of their editors (and, briefly, as a call-center agent) I had a front row seat to the seedy world of academic cheating.
4writers is one of a small handful of academic writing companies (each owning dozens of websites, to give the illusion of limitless competition), and literally all of them are located in Ukraine. Why Ukraine? Because while the relatively measly amount of money (around $5 per page) isn't something American freelancers would salivate over, it is a significant draw in a country where the average salary is around $200 a month. Paradoxically, even though Ukraine is poor, it nonetheless has an extremely educated, motivated, and literate workforce.
So basically the opposite of the customers buying it.
A really dedicated writer - one who puts out 300 pages a month -- can make $1,500 for it. That doesn't seem fair pay for what's basically a novel's worth of output in four weeks, which is why this kind of company wouldn't fly in America. If not because of the meager pay, then because of sheer illegality. But Ukraine is, well, flexible - and I'm not talking about their excellent gymnastics team.
Hiring a foreigner with limited knowledge of your culture -- not to mention your language -- to write something as complex as a term paper is a bold gamble, and you can't always count on the proofreader (also Ukrainian) to catch the worst of the errors. One paper I edited included a survey of youth in Baltimore. The student who hired us was supposed to design and carry out the survey, but instead insisted the writer fabricate the results in a convincing manner. When asked their favorite sports celebrity, the urbane kids of Baltimore overwhelmingly picked Barcelona footballer Lionel Messi.
"Favorite food? Borscht."
Another assignment came in, this one about the importance of free press to a democracy: The writer thought "free press" meant "free, as long as it toes the government line." The resulting essay was a strong and patriotic argument for why the government must therefore not be restrained.
Then there was the time a customer requested a complex, nuanced paper on "How Russia's decisions affect American foreign policy." The writer spent all 15 pages condemning Russia for stirring up conflict in Ukraine.
"Putin Is A Huge Dick: A History of ... you know what, I'll just take the F."
While the average American student might be horrified at those kinds of mistakes, a great deal of the clients don't mind. Because they, too, are foreign students, struggling with English and cultural context themselves. They don't see anything wrong with the product they get ... well, not until the grades come back. See, students may go with our site because it promises them an A, but when it comes back with a C, or an F, or a "what's the deal with you and Ukraine?" - we just point to the Terms and Conditions, which make no promises about grades at all.
I also did a stint as a call-center agent. Directly answering for the mistakes was a lot less pleasant than trying to catch them: Clients would call, angry about their grades, and demand to speak to a "manager." As a native English-speaker, I took on this entirely fictitious role. I must've been good at it: We've had customers who failed their papers, but gave us a second, and even third chance anyway.
Worst-case scenario, they vow to never do business with us again. So they'll go find another site - which, as noted before, will probably be us as well. No matter which number they call, it all gets directed to the same call centers in Rivne, or Lviv. When they do call, the number they dialed initially flashes on our screens, so we know to pretend like we're Supreme Essay this time, and are leagues above those other suckers.
"Oh you called those guys first? Well there's your first problem."
Some clients have been expelled, and many have faced academic discipline as a result of using our essays. And to be honest, I don't feel guilty. I have zero sympathy for the customers. I suppose I could say "well, the students have busy lives," or "by writing their essays for fringe classes, it frees them up to concentrate on more important classes," but I know that's bullshit.
But luckily for my schadenfreude, sometimes these customers get caught in the worst possible way. One client, even lazier than most, gave us the login to his course-info account (the online dropbox for submitting papers), so he wouldn't have to go through the trouble of uploading the paper to his professor. The assigned writer wasn't too happy with his job, and used that same account -- with the student's real name -- to rant about how badly 4writers treats its employees on the university message boards. He was also supposed to complete another customer's online test, but instead of answering the questions, he copied and pasted that same rant in each and every answer box.
"How did I know you cheated? Your entire citations section is just paragraphs of Ukrainian swears and a dick pic."
So maybe knocking on dorm-room doors is still the way to go, actually.
Or hey, maybe just don't cheat.
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For more insider perspectives, check out 5 Things You Learn Helping Rich College Kids Cheat (For Pay) and I Teach At A For-Profit College: 5 Ridiculous Realities.
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