This is a fake

So recently ESPN  did a story about big time col­lege ath­letes and aca­d­e­mics. Exhibit A was a “paper” allegedly turned in by an ath­lete at UNC. The para­graph, on Rosa Parks, allegedly received an A– Here it is:


The inter­net agrees: this is an out­rage. I agree too. This is an F in a class of mine; F with a desire for an even lower grade, an extra-fail.

But I think this is a fake, for a bunch of rea­sons, start­ing with the fact that it’s too “good” to be true. Does anyone–anyone–doubt that big time col­lege ath­letes are enable to coast through their degrees? There’s just too much at stake. Pre­tend­ing oth­er­wise is silly. No doubt there are bas­ket­ball and foot­ball play­ers who work hard and get an edu­ca­tion, even at elite big-money pro­grams, but a key player in a bas­ket­ball team that’s gen­er­at­ing mil­lions of dol­lars is not going to be benched because of some paper in a his­tory class. No, Not. Nobody roots for UNC’s bas­ket­ball team because they love its his­tory cur­ricu­lum: the two things have noth­ing at all to do with each other. This is a clas­sic exam­ple of a fake that works because it’s an exag­ger­ated form of what every­body already knows or wants to believe.

I think it’s fake because I can’t imag­ine the “assign­ment” that pro­duced it. I doubt this was a “paper” as com­monly under­stood; in fact, it doesn’t fit any col­lege level aca­d­e­mic conventions. What kind of “paper” was this sup­posed to be?

The text comes from Rosa Parks: My Story.  You can find it by googling “one evening in early 1955 rosa parks was sit­ting;” it shows up right away. Who­ever did this mostly just copied the text, sub­sti­tuted “Rosa Parks” for the “I” of the orig­i­nal and called it a day. It took two, three minutes. It’s even titled “Rosa Parks: My Story.” That is, the pla­gia­rist called atten­tion to the source. Typ­i­cally, pla­gia­rists don’t do that. Was it sup­posed to be some kind of “book report?” It’s got none of the trap­pings of a “book report,” none of the fram­ing. For exam­ple, a clas­sic stu­dent dodge involves repeat­ing the ques­tion, to fill up space that might oth­er­wise be occu­pied by work or ideas. There’s none of that. So no only does bear no marks of an assign­ment, it doesn’t even aspire to the min­i­mal energy level of most plagiarists.

So this is either com­pletely fake, or it was some kind of odd assign­ment, not a “paper” in the usual sense, that got lumped in with other exam­ples that were less sensational.

Mean­while, big time col­lege ath­let­ics remains a dis­grace. The NCAA is a car­tel which monop­o­lizes a pool of exploited labor. Col­leges glee­fully squan­der huge amounts of money on sports teams that bear zero rela­tion to what a col­lege is sup­posed to do. The entire appa­ra­tus is designed to enter­tain stu­dents so that when they become alums, they will give up money in nos­tal­gia for that time they got really drunk at the Duke game. But the fact that big-time col­lege ath­let­ics is a moral abom­i­na­tion is no rea­son to sus­pend the habits of crit­i­cal thinking.

One Comment

  • If the North­west­ern foot­ball play­ers con­tinue to get their way, col­lege ath­letes will soon be union­ized. Does that solve the problem–or just make it explicit?

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