Road Trip 10: Indiana, erudition, and memories of academic dishonesty


You see, I’m not in a hurry.

As we lunched on a very fine curry,

    Conversation won’t fail

    With an old friend from Yale

And erudition flew in a flurry.

I sat in the library in Bloomington, Indiana and studied, not for the first time.

My prestigious degree received in 1972 came with no marketable skill set.  In the days of low employment and stagflation, I had no concrete plans for employment after graduation.  At a particular point I found myself in Columbus, Indiana, with my best friend from high school and his wife.  In graduate school at the time and similarly impoverished, he had taken to writing papers for a paper writing service.

Nowadays one can go online and download a paper on almost any topic.  In those days if the deadline approached too rapidly you could go to the service, give them the assignment and have your essay delivered in three to five days.  Those who planned to not plan could ask for their paper two weeks ahead of time and save money.

I ignored the issues of intellectual honesty, to my regret.  I couldn’t pretend I didn’t know that the essays I wrote were being used for academic credit.

I had very few choices at that time (I would have considered McDonald’s but the PhD’s had that market sewed up).  Still, it was cheating.

On the other hand, I got paid for doing the same work I had paid to do. 

My papers did well; I never wrote anything less than an A paper, and I learned a lot in the process.  I fell into a rhythm: get the assignment, go to the library, read, take notes, go back to Columbus, Indiana, write a rough draft by hand, go to sleep; then get up the next morning, and type the final draft and deliver it in Bloomington.

Some of the assignments were literary.   I read books I otherwise wouldn’t have read, like The Outsider (at the time there were nineteen books in print with that title so I’m not giving any identifying information out).  Strangely, I never got a request for a Spanish assignment. 

I learned a lot about pollution control and the Gary steel mills; wet scrubber technology has been available since 1963.

This time I read the Advanced Trauma Life Support textbook, getting ready for the course this weekend.  The money I’m paying for the course is a capital investment with a very good cost:benefit ratio.

This time I was in Bloomington because I was visiting Amoret and Scott in Columbus, Indiana.

Amoret and I go back to our Yale days.  One December she joined me for the hitchhike west; in Kansas we got the ultimate ride in a converted school bus.

She works in Bloomington now and lives in Columbus. 

At lunch, the three of us met at an Indian restaurant.  Over curry, naan, and saag paneer, we talked about marginal cost benefit, granitic and basaltic volcanoes, Frank Lloyd Wright, Stratfordian theories of Shakespeare, Rommel and the Valkyrie conspiracy to kill Hitler in WWII, J. Edgar Hoover, and the history of the Mannlicher-Carcano 6.5 mm bolt-action rifle, among others. 

I love having friends I can talk to like that.

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