Work Phobia Seduces Students to Cheating in Higher Education

The clock strikes midnight, your forehead sweats and you slurp the last few drops of your energy drink. In eight hours your paper is due. You would have done it earlier, but there were those midterms, that party or maybe you just forgot.
There’s a business to help get you out of this situation. They write term papers for money. There is nothing illegal about it since the business is protected by free speech. You can call them up and for around $600 you can have them write your paper in as little as three hours. They even underline the key points in case someone asks too many questions, and they send it in early so that you can rewrite it to make it seem more like your own work.
It sounds morally reprehensible—because it is. The act of paying for your term paper spits in the face of anyone who has ever put their fingers to the keyboard and grinded out honest work. A vast majority of this business’s clientele are people who are too stupid to be in college. Others are people who have painted themselves in a corner and need a quick escape. Some are foreigners who just cannot write well in English, according to a former term paper artist who wrote about his experiences for the “The Smart Set.”
The people who write your essays see it as any other simple, rote task involved in a boring job. They do it just well enough so that they’re not told they are doing a crappy job. As Ron Livingston’s character in the movie “Office Space” put it, he only worked hard enough not to get hassled.
All this brings me to conclude that a large group of students are no better than the monkeys typing up term papers for money. Students tend to do the bare minimum to get through college without any thought toward higher learning. We make a special effort to learn as little as possible by cheating and cramming because college is an inconvenience that keeps us from making that six-figure income we all dream about.
It is easy to tell how desperate we are to do as little work as possible once midterms or finals roll around. The same broad and silly questions always come up such as: “How important is the reading?” Well, the professor is not assigning it for fun. We were supposed to be doing the reading the entire time. Today, it is almost a shock when the professor puts questions exclusively from the reading on the test, as if they have violated some bond of trust.
Here’s another common question: “Is this going to be curved?” When people ask this, they are not wondering if the test is going to be bell-curved; what they really want to know is whether or not their grades will be bumped up after the test, letting them know how much work they need to do prior to it. Cheating makes our lack of drive to do work obvious. However, not every act of cheating is as blatant a moral violation as paying for term papers. In the chemistry department, people find ways around doing the online homework. It is common to blow a small assignment off and get it from a friend later. Without CliffsNotes, a vast majority of us would have failed years ago considering we never bothered to read the original books.
There are still those students who want to go to graduate school. Surely at least they are interested in higher learning. Some of them are, but a majority probably sees graduate school as the same inconvenience as college and high school. Yes, in college they strive for excellence, straight A’s and extracurricular activities, but they do it only to get to the next level.
There are exceptions as to why students try to do as little work as possible. Some have tight schedules due to familial or financial obligations and are forced to carefully manage their time. These people haven’t had the opportunity to work as little as possible and the path they would take, if given the choice, cannot be determined.
The results of choosing the path with the least resistance are unfortunate. We have all interacted with someone on campus or heard them shout a question in class and wondered how the hell they made it to the same school as us. The other obvious consequence is that we turn to term paper factories that do our work for a fee. These acts of cheating are not a cause of our lack of work, but a symptom of our aversion to getting our hands dirty and throwing ourselves completely into something.

Kevin Pease is a fourth-year psychology and social behavior major. He can be reached at kpease@uci.edu.