The economic realities of outsourcing thinking

The recent report that our students have been writing essays, mostly for British students was not news. It has been going on for a long time.

This comes on the heels of another scandal where some rich and affluent Americans have been indicted for bribing to get their kids to join elite universities.

In one case, photoshopping was done to show the student was a sportsman! Writing and doing research projects have been going on in Kenya with adverts placed strategically near universities.  What drives this essay mill and what are the unintended consequences?

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First, blame the internet and easy payment options from PayPal to M-Pesa.  You can work from anywhere and get paid from anywhere. Is that not the essence of the gig economy?

When I asked in one of my classes how much they can make, I was told about Sh1,500 an essay. You are not paid as much for local term papers or proposals.

The local mills go to the extent of faking data and analysing it for research projects. This often gives statistical results that do not make sense. It is not just the internet and easy payment. Its corruption invading the intellectual sector.

Why think if you can pay someone to do it for you?

While we all thought that only manufacturing can be outsourced, even thinking can now be outsourced. One wonders what President Donald Trump would say about that.

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Interestingly, the rich and affluent outsourcing term papers have more time at their disposal.

They have cars to take them to school, all the modern technology in their homes and maybe house-helps.

Could that entitlement to do as little work at home be the reason, they want someone to do even the thinking for them? We have nothing against the rich and affluent, we all dream of becoming rich and affluent in our lifetime.

But if they can avoid writing essays in their own mother tongue, what can they ever do?

The same pattern of intellectual laziness is found in the courses they take in the university, soft options in social sciences.

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Suppose they were taking STEM? (Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics)?  Would they outsource lab work?

It is important to note that some of the students who seek assistance for essays are foreign with little command of English but with disposable income.

 Writing essays for the rich and affluent students from the West or East is the new slavery, more like the colonial plantations where our fathers worked for a pittance.

My dad once tended coffee at Socfinaf near Tatu city.  The problem is that some of the students outsourcing essays might come to Kenya or elsewhere after graduation and get big jobs as expatriates to employ those who wrote their essays.

They are hard to detect because they are protected by the long belief that some people are superior. Colonialism reinforced that belief which has found support from media subconsciously. The language also protects them.

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 The long-term consequence of these mills should worry us all. In the west, the market might be efficient to weed out graduates who outsourced their work.

And if such graduates can’t work there, they can be exported to other countries and welcomed with open arms.

They can even import the thinkers and essay writers from Kenya and other countries.

Public sector

 In Kenya, the inefficient market might lead outsourcers to get key jobs, particularly in the public sector. After all, they might have outsourced writing essays and projects to get those jobs.

Does that explain why aptitude tests have become so popular in job recruitment and university admissions?

Think of someone who outsourced his work becoming a lecturer or a policy maker? Will they continue outsourcing their work in their new positions?

Could this explain the formation of so many public entities whose mandate is hard to explain? If you can’t do some work, create another entity to do the same. This increases your power and maybe the promotion. You can worry about paralysis and duplication later.

Some have argued that lecturers are also to blame for not being keen enough on students work. Would oral exams stop this outsourcing?  Are the punishments meted commensurate with the vice?  If you add the already existing disdain for meritocracy, you create a perfect policy and economic gridlock.

A good education teaches one how to make decisions after analysing the data.

One characteristic of outsourcers is lack of confidence and intimidation of anyone who challenges them and conspicuous display of their qualifications. One could ask quietly what happens to those who write essays for a fee. They are intelligent but might not be well connected. They will probably fall by wayside and best jobs given to those who outsourced.

After all, once you get your certificates from masters to Ph.D., none asks how you got them. Outsourcing our thinking will make our economy and any other economy less competitive in the long run. But there is a darker side. Without respect for meritocracy and thinking, innovations die and economies easily get new owners. It will become easier to be manipulated in trade and other negotiations.

We find it even hard to differentiate propaganda from truth. After keeping our minds idle, they soon get closed or too busy with petty issues like fashion, appearances, anniversaries and merrymaking.

That essay you outsource has long term economic consequence.  You may not feel the effects but your progeny will, at times long after your feeble body has crumbled into dust. 

-The writer teaches at the University of Nairobi

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