Loafers and Doofuses of the Scheming Kind

What do you do when a student, under the guise of claiming he just doesn’t understand what you want, tries to get you to actually write parts of his paper for him?

One of them cornered me after class the other day, complaining about the D he’d scored on his draft (“I don’t get D’s,” said he). Then he demanded that I re-explain everything that was clearly explained in comments to his paper.

Then he claimed not to understand what I was talking about, and not to be able to see why his half-baked thesis statement didn’t work, just because it had nothing even faintly to do with about half of what he said in the paper. From there he moved on to saying he couldn’t imagine a better thesis statement, and then he segued into asking me to show him what a better thesis statement would look like.

Some questioning (“Well, what point exactly do you want to make in this paper? What have you learned about the subject?”) revealed that he’d done almost no research and had basically bullshitted his way through the essay.

“Ohhh-kayyyy…. Let’s see if we can find out some things about this subject.” [Pulls up Wikipedia.] “Remember, we can’t use Wikipedia as a source. However, sometimes it’s useful as a way to get a quick overview of a subject.”

[Starts typing quick notes into a Word doc by way of accumulating factoids and generalities to put into a thesis statement.]

“No, but,” says he, “what does the thesis statement say?”

“Well,” says she, “you have to have some knowledge about your subject to write a thesis statement. What we’re doing here is gathering a little bit of knowledge.”

[She writes a sentence, based on a few lightweight factoids, that would work as a thesis statement for an extended definition, which is the assignment.]

“But you said my thesis statement didn’t cover all the things I wrote about in the essay.”

“You’re not restricted to one sentence in a thesis statement.” [Writes a second sentence whose semicolon allows for a couple of new ideas.]

“So…that’s my thesis statement?”

[Students in next hour's class file into the classroom and take their seats. Professor stacks up his stuff on the front desk and starts fooling with the light switches, which aren't working.]

“It could be.”

“Will you send that to me?”

{sigh} [Copies and pastes scrabbled-together "statement" into an e-mail message and hits Send, knowing this is going to come back to bite.]

Not only do I think this is going to come back to bite—because the kid will use my words as a “thesis statement” for an essay that will have nothing to do with any of that—I came away feeling irked that the brat had manipulated me into writing a significant part of his paper for him.

“I don’t get D’s,” eh? Bet that’s through no fault of your own, Bucko!

Image: Kid in a dunce cap. U.S. Library of Congress. Public domain.

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