Feb 21, 2013

Thieves and Liars

A student recently submitted an essay about the death of his father. I will include the opening paragraph:
Seventeen years ago, I came bounding into a world of love and laughter. I was the first child, the first grandchild, the first nephew, and the primary focus of my entire extended family. Although they were not married, my parents were young and energetic and had every good intention for their new baby boy. I grew up with opportunities for intellectual and spiritual growth, secure in the knowledge that I was loved, free from fear, and confident that my world was close to perfect. And I was the center of a world that had meaning only in terms of its effect on me-- what I could see from a height of three feet and what I could comprehend with the intellect and emotions of a child. This state of innocence persisted through my early teens, but changed dramatically in the spring of my sophomore year of high school. My beloved father was dying of AIDS.  From the moment my parents told me, I confronted emotions and issues that many adults have never faced.  The death of my father, from AIDS especially,  forced my view of the world and my sense of responsibility to take a dramatic turn.
Normally I wouldn’t post a student’s work without their permission, but this particular essay happens to be identical to an essay available for purchase and download at 123essays.com and a handful of other similar web sites. According to the plagiarism detection software we use at school, this essay has been submitted to at least sixteen other colleges.
There’s something particularly ghoulish about stealing someone else’s life story – especially when that story involves something so tragic – although it occurs to me that there is a good chance this story wasn’t even true of its original author. When I was 18, I took the writing component of the SAT II’s, which asked me to write an essay about a time I had learned from adversity. Being a middle-class white suburbanite, my choices were between the time I had to re-take my driver’s permit test and the time my parents accidentally left me at the mall. (I was 4, and I’m still recovering.) So, obviously, I wrote about the time my dad died in the first Gulf War.
Later, as I was bragging about how clever and  subversive I had been, I discovered no less than three of my classmates who had taken the test on the same day had also written about the deaths of their still-living fathers (a car accident and two types of cancer).
So here’s to you, anonymous AIDS-dad kid. Wherever you are, I sincerely hope you’re just another lying punk with an oedipal complex.

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