Cheating before ChatGPT
Disclaimer: the purpose of this article is not blaming the Kenyan essay writers you will read about. I am writing it to uncover some (relatively) lesser known aspects of the so called contract cheating issue and analyse the phenomenon from its inception, which started long before the advent of ChatGPT by OpenAI.
Back in September 2021, the BBC published an article called The Kenyans who are helping the world to cheat (1). Students from British and American universities were (or still are?) paying to get their essays done. Most of the the individuals working for these academic writing providers are from Kenya. I decided to give it a try myself, but instead of relying on an essay-writing marketplace, I contacted the writers directly. I wanted proof. A quick Facebook search led me to different groups offering such services.
I went for a common ancient history essay prompt usually given to a first year college student: Analyze the influence of the Greek culture on the Romans. Discuss the topic by providing specific examples of how the Roman Empire was influenced by the Greek culture, lifestyle and way of thinking.
I asked two different essay writers I found in a facebook group. I am hiding their contact details because I do not want them to lose their job, even though they are pretty easy to find. By the way, the what’s app number they provided started with +254, so they were definitely from Kenya. After having done further research, I found out that the writers worked for the essay writing platform called Superior Writers Pro.
I sent this email that said: Hi I need a history essay. This is the title: Analyze the influence of the Greek culture on the Romans. Discuss the topic by providing specific examples of how the Roman Empire was influenced by the Greek culture, lifestyle and way of thinking. Can you help please? How does it work? How do I pay? Thanks. K.
Here is how it went:
I paid $30 to the one that got back to me the earliest and with whom I exchanged the emails shown above. As a matter of fact, the essay writer replied 40 minutes after I had contacted him/her.
To summarise, I was asked the word count, deadline and budget. We agreed on $10 per page, which for an 800 words essay cost me $30. There were some difficulties with processing the payment. The writer's PayPal was not working. I pretended not to know too much about Mpesa, the Kenyan mobile money transfer service, even though I did. I only hinted at that, which led me to pay using Sendwave after the writer had sent me his/her name, surname and mobile number.
Here is the essay:
There is no denying that Rome changed the course of history, yet the Greek and Roman civilizations also had a significant impact on the Romans.
Etymologically speaking, Greek advances may be linked to the competence, knowledge, and talents of the Romans. For instance, Greek and Roman architecture and art have many similarities. Additionally, Mount Olympus has names of Greek and Roman gods and goddesses. A glaring example of how much the Romans owe the Greeks (Gagarin, 2010). Therefore, the present study covers three significant advances of Greek culture that the Romans adopted and assimilated. Drama, literature, music, as well as the arts of architecture and art and religion, all have an impact.
Initially, Roman literature exhibited a profound inclination towards Greek writers since its inception. The majority of the primary sources possessed by scholars consist of historical literary works that recount Rome's early military antiquity. As the Nation expanded, the authors diversified their genres. Cicero is a renowned author of the Republican era. Cicero's epistolary corpus provides comprehensive insights into a momentous period of Roman history.
The production of historical statuaries in relief was a distinctive feature of Roman classical art, which differed from the Greek tradition of creating free-standing statues. The production of minor statuaries was regarded as a high-end commodity, whereas molded release decoration in ceramic containers and small-scale collectibles were manufactured in vast quantities to cater to a wider demographic.
The most notable extant instances of Roman imagery are represented by the mural paintings found in Herculaneum and Pompeii. Veristic photography is a hallmark of Roman art during the Republic era, as noted by Flower (2019). As a result, the works of Greek literature had a significant impact on the Roman writers, who subsequently produced various literary genres such as comedy, poetry, tragedy, and history.
The Roman Empire viewed literature as a paradigm that expanded cognitive horizons, introduced fresh perspectives, evoked innovative aspirations, and functioned as a therapeutic tool. Ennius' adoption of the Greek hexameter and the portrayal of customs and manners in the plays of Terence and Plautus were of Hellenic origin, as stated by Rochette (2020). Moreover, the fictional and literary works of the Roman writer Virgil are reliant on Greek influences. Consequently, the Romans adopted the literary works and abilities of the Greeks.
The cultural impact of Greek music and drama on Roman society was profound. The Roman theatrical productions were heavily influenced by the Greek plays, with a focus on didactic and moral objectives and incorporating themes from the histories of both civilizations. The incorporation of music in Roman society was a result of the influence of Greek culture. The available records indicate that the Romans adopted and employed Greek musical instruments and theories. Similar to the ancient Greeks, a significant number of Romans held the belief that music possessed extraordinary mystical properties and spiritual effects (Matera, 2020).
The Romans expanded upon the concepts of drama and music by incorporating them into military and public spectacles, building upon their existing cultural traditions. Thus, the prevalence of Greek music and drama was notable during the initial civilizations of the Romans. Additionally, the Greeks had a peripheral role in shaping Roman art and architecture.
The Romans constructed various edifices, including residential buildings, by drawing inspiration from Greek architectural models. They incorporated features such as arcades and quadrilateral-based designs that were characteristic of Greek styles. It is noteworthy that the development of utensils, furniture, houses, and arcades can be attributed to Greek influences, as stated by Nasrallah (2020). Thus, the Maison Carrée Roman temple serves as a significant illustration of the influence of Greek architectural style on Roman construction.
Moreover, Greek artistic expressions and architectural styles held a dominant position in nearly all Roman edifices. The Roman Colosseum exhibits indications of Greek influence. According to Nasrallah (2020), the Colosseum features a series of decorative columns on both sides of its exterior, which are adorned with the three classical Greek orders - Doric, Corinthian, and Ionic. Hence, Roman artists were significantly influenced by Greek art, particularly in the form of portraits and statues.
Furthermore, the Romans were impacted by the Greeks in terms of religion. Similar to the religious beliefs of the ancient Greeks, the early Roman religion followed a polytheistic system of worship. The system was based on the veneration of deities. It is noteworthy that the Roman deities exhibit fundamental characteristics that are reminiscent of their Greek counterparts.
This statement highlights the significant role played by ancient Greece in the overall progress of Roman civilization. The deity Neptune, venerated in Roman mythology as the god of the sea, is closely associated with his Greek counterpart, the god Poseidon. Jupiter, the chief deity in Roman mythology, bears a striking resemblance to Zeus, the principal deity in Greek mythology. According to Lindberg (2020), the Romans acknowledged Apollo, a Greek deity, as a divine figure associated with medicine and healing. Therefore, it is important to acknowledge that not all of the Roman deities were assigned various appellations akin to their Greek counterparts.
Finally, the ancient Greek civilization played a significant role in the progress of the Roman civilization. The Romans effectively utilized Greek literature, drama, music, art, architecture, and religion to bring about significant changes to their society and the global community. Consequently, the societal, governmental, and financial dimensions of the Roman civilization were impacted by the ancient Greek civilizations. The Greco-Roman culture has been responsible for the creation of classical civilizations that are highly valued in contemporary times.
References Flower, H. I. (2019). The Cambridge companion to the Roman republic. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Gagarin, M. (2020). The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece and Rome. Oxford University: Press on Demand.
Lindberg, D. C. (2020). The beginnings of Western science: The European scientific tradition in philosophical, religious, and institutional context, prehistory to AD 1450. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Matera, F. J. (2020). Romans. Ada, Michigan: Baker Academic. http://www.paideiantcommentaries.com/wpcontent/uploads/2012/10/Excerpt_Romans.pdf
Nasrallah, L. S. (2020). Christian responses to Roman art and architecture: the second-century church amid the spaces of empire. Cambridge University Press. https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Christian-Responses-to-Roman-Art-andArchitecture%3A-Nasrallah/db3df59db7da66732c5fe034a21fcd036164a530?p2df Rochette, B. (2020).
Greek and Latin bilingualism. A Companion to the Ancient Greek language, 281-293. https://orbi.uliege.be//bitstream/2268/41009/4/CompanionGreekLang-2010.pdf
Just so you know, I have used a relatively reliable tool called GPT Zero, to check whether it had been written using ChatGPT
English-speaking universities (and probably many others too) have been going after the "online providers of cheating" for a while. In Australia, even the government got involved. As mentioned by MP Dan Tehan :
If you are a cheating service, understand now, you are going to face the full force of the law if you provide those services in Australia (2).
In fact, Australia criminalised contract cheating in 2021 (3). Plagiarism detection service Turnitin even held the International Day of Action Against Contract Cheating (4).
Well, it seems my email exchange and the essay I paid for are a matter of national and international importance. To be fair, Dan Tehan referred to cheating SERVICES, not the Kenyan writer who did my essay for $30. He was also defending hard working students who did not cheat. In addition, Turnitin did acknowledge the complexities surrounding academic cheating, and explained how the root causes range from stress, to the competitive nature of university studies. During the Turnitin EMEA Summit of 2022, the company also highlighted the importance of building a culture of academic integrity, rather than just taking punitive measures.
For how long are Kenyans going to be the ghostwriters of thousands of students in the first world? Or perhaps that's ok because they have a tendency towards dishonesty, given that they come from a corrupt country? Turnitin made sure to bring attention to that by quoting a research paper that highlighted the strong correlation between academic dishonesty and the level of corruption of a country. Perhaps, Turnitin and higher education institutions should talk to students about the Kenyans typing away other people's essays for $10 per page. Wouldn't that incentivise a culture of integrity?
But then again, what right do I have to be concerned for the Kenyans living in the shadow of "successful" students if I am not able to suggest a viable alternative for them? Is it really in the writers' interest to have this injustice exposed? What then? After all, it's their livelihood. Finally, what is going to happen to these ghostwriters now that we have ChatGPT? Perhaps I should ask them directly?
TO BE CONTINUED...