A Truly Academic Question

You can stick your golden handshake and you can stick your silly rules
And all the other shit that they teach to kids in school 'cause I ain't no fool

Captain Capitalism http://captaincapitalism.blogspot.com/ poses a question in a recent post:

One for the Legal Eagles Out There

Help the Captain out fellow Legal Economists and Agents in the Field.

Is there anything illegal about somebody doing somebody else's homework for college for pay?

Along those same lines is there anything illegal about doing somebody's else's work for pay?

PS - let me further refine this as we've been getting some answers.

Forget the student or the person doing the hiring.  I'm talking are there any legal consequences for the person getting paid to do the work.

Duly noted that it is immoral.
Duly noted that it is unethical.
Duly noted the student/employee would get kicked out/fired.

My only interest is in the person getting paid.  Far as my thinking takes me s/he is in the legal clear.

I’m sure the Captain is driving at something specific here, but for the rest of us, the discussion is missing a more important point, which is that school is so far removed from the real world, that it is the only place where such a thing is even an issue.

From the start, I hated school.  I remember crying when I found out that my mother signed me up for kindergarten.  None of my older siblings had to go, and I felt that I was getting cheated out of year of freedom. (20% of my entire life at the time).  I suppose she was just getting tired of constantly looking after children every minute of every day for twelve straight years, and saw a way to finally catch a break one year earlier.  I guess I can’t blame her.

I never really hated school anyway, I just felt that I had more important things to do.  There were tree forts that needed to be built, and who was going to explore that vast, uncharted  territory behind my family’s house, if my dog and I were not there to do it?

The mere fact that I had to attend school meant a substantial loss of free time, even worse were the rules.  All kinds of stupid rules I had never encountered before, that would haunt me until my formal education was finished, 17 years later.

At school, kids are forced to do things that they are never even asked to do anywhere else.  In order to do anything at school, we first had to form a line.  Form a line to get on the bus, form a line to re enter the building after recess or a fire drill, form a line to go to lunch.  Sometimes a line may have been necessary, like when accounting for all the children during a field trip, but it certainly did not need to be the precursor to any type of movement.

It seemed that many rules existed for no other purpose than for teachers to exercise their authority.  “Class is over when I say. ‘Class dismissed’, not when the bell rings.” a teacher would say.  That always pissed me off.  What the hell was the bell for then?  Wasn’t it a signal that class time was over?  Do you need someone’s permission to proceed when a stop light turns green?

Rules, rules, rules - and they wonder why kids break them.  Humans can only stand so many rules, and the more ridiculous and unnecessary they are, the less likely that people are going to adhere to them.  Breaking one rule tends to lead to breaking others, even rules that are justified.  The people running schools (and governments)  have never been able to understand the concept of diminishing marginal returns.

Teachers and professors often get offended when accused of not living in the real world.  They have no right to be.  They are about as far removed from the real world as one can get.  Want some undeniable proof of this?  Check this out.  You will never place the value of a teacher above that of a garbage collector or dump truck operator again.

Since the sphere of formal education is anything but the real world, they must have rules that exist nowhere else, otherwise the forces that dictate life for everyone else would take over, making questions like the one asked by Captain Capitalism, moot.

In the real world, people hire out work that they are either unwilling or unable to do all the time.  You can be a general contractor and say that you build houses for a living, without even owning or using any tools.  You need your toilet fixed and don’t want to mess around with human excrement? - Hire a plumber.  Don’t want your weekends filled with yard work? - Hire a lawn service.  Hate doing your taxes? - H&R Block.  Sometimes, doing it yourself borders on insanity - think legal representation or surgery.  

No one thinks that there is anything illegal or immoral about hiring someone else to take care of any of these, or a countless number of other things, but in schools, it’s considered cheating.

Let’s start with the discussion of cheating by repeating the teachers’ classic line concerning it.  “You’re only cheating yourself.”  If that’s true, that eliminates any condemnation of cheating from a moral standpoint right there, and the only ones who legitimately have the right to complain about it are the other students in the class, and then, only if they are being graded on a curve.

As long as we’re talking morals here, lying has got to be just as bad, if not worse than cheating.  It’s easy to identify the lairs concerning cheating.  They’re the ones who say they’ve never done it.  I’ll tell you right now, that I cheated from time to time when I just too lazy to study.  People talk about fairness.  Give me a break!  Was it fair that some people were born smarter than me?  Was it fair that some people were more ambitious and responsible than me, and would rather study than go out drinking on a weeknight?

In the entire experience of my formal education, nothing ever even came close to simulating real life more than cheating.  It’s taking a risk.  It might pay off and make up for that night when you chose to party instead of study, but you might get caught and face disciplinary action.  You weigh the odds, assess the risk and benefits, and take whichever action you feel will yield the best results.  That’s what’s the real world’s like folks, and the people who don’t make these types of calculations, get slaughtered by those who do.

Let’s say you’re a trucker that just picked up his last load of bulk material moments before whoever loaded your truck, closed up shop and went home.  You run across their scale and notice that you are 2000 lbs overweight on your rear axles and you have just enough time to deliver your load to its destination.  What are you going to do?  Are you going to climb into your trailer and shovel the material towards the front by hand?  Of course not!  You are going to haul your load to its destination and hope you don’t get caught.  If you cannot avoid a weigh station, you might consider shoveling that ton of material, but then taking a shortcut down a class B highway to make up for lost time.  With either option, you’re cheating, but you’re not just going to sit there because of it.  

Decisions like this are made millions of times everyday in the real world, and people who don’t have the courage to make them either get swept away by those who do, or end up in academia.

Now I realize that schools have to do everything they can to discourage cheating.  Most students would not learn anything if it got out of control.  I’m just saying, maybe we should reevaluate the notion that the answer to the problems we face in the real world is to encourage more and more of our young people to take longer periods of time before they enter it.


  1. I concur that college professors don't have very important jobs. I am one, and I would love for my job to go away because the kids are learning to write before they get to me.

    1. It's NOT that professor's jobs are not important. They are. It's that other jobs, particularly working class jobs are every bit as important. How could we get by without them? Also, any kid entering college should already have proficient writing skills. If they don't I fear that they may be a lost cause as far as getting a higher education is concerned. Teaching properly prepared students would not only make your job more important, it would make it more enjoyable.