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Frank Gray

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Craigslist screen shot
Having trouble with your online class? numerous ads asked. We can make it a cakewalk.

Amazing what we’ll hire others to do for us

Thirty years ago, the type of winter we’ve been having would have seemed like heaven to me.

Plenty of fresh snow, temperatures dipping just a few degrees below zero, perfect weather for cross-country skiing.

Thirty years down the road, the skis are gone, the snow has transformed into a monumental headache, and the day begins with a huge challenge: finding someone to shovel the driveway.

So where do you find someone to do the miserable task? Well, the same place people make themselves available to cut your grass or, for that matter, earn a degree for you.

My spouse decided to look in a place that wouldn’t have occurred to me: Craigslist.

I don’t like Craigslist. I like it even less than Facebook.

But hearing that she had found a kid with a snowblower to get the job done, I decided to take a look myself.

Indeed, under “services,” there were a couple dozen categories, and here and there, people were advertising that they had a snowblower and were available.

So I started looking under some of the other categories. There were people offering themselves up as tutors, grass cutters, dog sitters, motorcycle repairmen.

Then I clicked on one odd-sounding category, and I found myself in an old-fashioned realm. It was people offering to write things for you.

In this shadow world, people were offering to write papers, mostly for people who were taking high school or college classes.

Does the paper have to be 20 pages long? We can get that done in 24 hours, no problem, one ad said.

That’s nothing new, really. These outfits seem to have a whole library of essays available on just about any topic you could think of, all for a fee – the longer, the more expensive.

Except these businesses have evolved a bit.

On Craigslist, there were a handful of ads offering to write dynamite college admission essays – for an unspecified fee. That’s some way to get into college, I thought.

One ad was trying to appeal to people who had gotten into trouble for copying other people’s work. Instructors have software these days that can catch you if you start lifting paragraphs from papers you’ve found on the Internet.

Tired of getting low grades for committing plagiarism? the ad asked. We’ll write a paper for you that is guaranteed to pass any plagiarism test.

But one group of ads took me completely by surprise. It had never occurred to me, though it should have, especially considering that more and more people who are enrolled in traditional universities are taking courses online.

Having trouble with your online class? numerous ads asked. We can make it a cakewalk.

The advertisers offer to take the class for you, write papers, take the tests and quizzes and even participate in online discussions. One advertiser even assured its clients an A.

Gads, I thought. It’s one thing to try to find someone to shovel your driveway for you, but hiring someone to take your classes for you?

Welcome to the computer age.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at fgray@jg.net. You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.

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