Despite all economic indicators to the contrary, I decided it would be a good time to open the independent bookstore of my childhood dreams, in a town mildly infamous for its 40% illiteracy rate, in May. Six months later, I sit alone in my shop on a Saturday afternoon, taking an inventory of my marketable skills, and trying to decide what to do for money until the City of Readers engages with me. Fortunately, it turns out there is a wealth of opportunities for freelance writers out there in Internet-land. Without exception, these positions offer diverse assignments to choose from, the ability to work from home (or in my case, work) and the promise of riches untold. Great, I think, sign me up.
So I sign up to be writer number 24601 on Essaywriters.net. Get my welcome aboard email, studiously read the guidelines (to include a very THOROUGH--and what turns out to be thoroughly ironic--briefing on plagiarism), sign off on the policies and eagerly open up the assignments tab to start my new part-time career. What awaits me there is page after page of academic possibilities: there are essays due, some apparently in three hours, that must be ghost written. There are research papers, theses, midterm projects--from high school on up through doctoral level--that the student can't be bothered to complete. Most have source requirements, some require specific documentation formats, a few even require you to make a specified number of spelling or grammatical errors so the "client" doesn't have to go in and insert them to personalize the work. The going rate for your intellectual integrity? Anywhere from $7 on up to around $90.
I have to be honest. I don't have any cause to pass myself off as holier-than-anyone. I thought seriously about it for a while. I mean, hell, what business is it of mine if little Johnny likes to party instead of write his papers? I'm not making any money selling books, and I need to make some little pittance for not only my fiscal situation, but also to feel like a self-reliant, capable human being. What difference does it make whether I do it or someone else does it? It's not like my participation or lack thereof will even change the speed of the academic paper supply juggernaut. There are hundreds of other little anonymous writer numbers who will take the assignments if I don't, and that's only on THIS particular site. I can write this stuff well, with one brain hemisphere tied behind my back. Why not? Why should I sweat what happens to these few sentences strung together after they leave my computer? I guess it really comes down to one thing: because it's just plain dishonest. On the most basic level, this moral dilemma equates to the same reason I left the military: I was making good money, but I felt in my gut that I was selling my soul for it. So I won't do it. Someone else will. The papers will still get turned in, and that's okay. I'm not responsible for making the whole world better, only my little corner of it.