Academic Ghost Writer Talks about Cheating in Higher Education

Dave Tomar, author of the Shadow Scholar: How I Made A Living Helping College Kids Cheat, offers an inside peek into how college-level cheating is a widely ingrained premise in higher education. Tomar has been an academic ghostwriter for most of the past decade. He would create papers, presentations, PhD dissertations, case studies and other forms of academic work for his Master’s and Bachelor’s clients.

As he confesses in a New York Times interview, during his ghostwriting career he had many clients that later became teachers, principals and have obtained other leading positions in public or private education. Dave Tomar confirms a widely accepted but rarely spoken truth, how easily people sidestep laws and ethical inhibitions in order to achieve their educational goals.

His emphasis on how many clients of his former behind-the-scenes business later became educators, suggests that it shouldn’t surprise us that teacher-cheating scandals are more frequent and serious than ever. As teachers’ jobs and families depend on a class’ exam scores, teachers are more likely to resort to frowned-upon acts. From correcting students’ wrong answers to turning a blind eye to how others manipulate students’ test scores — as was the case with a Baltimore exam proctor scandal that costs the US half a million dollars, cheating incidents reveal how often these incidents can occur.

Assessing students’ knowledge and skills based on standardized tests fails to take into account their idiosyncrasies, background and other unique circumstances and has been receiving a great deal of criticism. Many blame standardized tests for the increased number of cheating incidents across colleges, companies and other credential-providing organizations. Until a competency rather than performance oriented education measurement is in place, we can discourage cheating by implementing more rigorous proctoring standards in education.