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.
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?