June 14, 2008
Seeking reflections on the whole 1L experience
I VERY MUCH hope the interesting and informative dialogue continues in the comment threads here and here concerning our class. But I also hope many of you will use this post to share broader reflections on your entire 1L experience (especially now that you are really just weeks away from starting your 2L experience). Specifically, I would be grateful for thoughts/comments on these two topics:
- What were the best and worst aspects of your educational experience as a first-year law student?
- What were the best and worst aspects of your educational experience as a Moritz law student?
Though these are similar topics, I am eager to hear reflections both (1) on the basic elements of the 1L program that nearly all law students nationwide experience (e.g., relatively large classes on traditional subjects, traditional in-class exams, etc.), and (2) on any unique aspects of the Moritz College of Law that were uniquely good or bad (e.g., one spring class ending mid-semester, small sections in the fall, legal writing taught by regular faculty, etc).
Thanks! (And I really do hope to see more comments specifically about our class and exam here and here. I can only hope to do better in the future if I have a developed understanding of what I did most wrong and what/how I can/should improve my efforts to innovate.)
June 11, 2008
Refining class/exam reflections through two questions
I am really enjoying the continuing blog dialogue in the comments to my prior post, though I am sad to see continued vitriol (which leads me to wonder if my course innovations may have been more effective if there was not so much bad blood within the section). In any event, rather than attack or defend what specifically transpired in our Legislation class, I would be grateful if students would devote some serious energy to these two questions:
1. Do you think there a value in having a non-traditional course in the 1L curriculum (which may require a certain measure of uncertainty about exam formats and grading expectations)?
2. Do you think that traditional in-class exams provide a valid and fair means to evaluate and judge students' talents and abilities as lawyers?
My (flawed?) approach to our Legislation class and exam was driven by my strong belief, after 10 years of teaching that has led to growing frustrations about law school norms and status quo biases, that (a) there is great value in a non-traditional course during the 1L year, and (b) traditional in-class exams are a poor and often very unfair means to evaluate and judge students' talents and abilities.
These views grow from my strong belief in diversity, broadly conceived. I fear that the standard 1L curriculum tends to teach and reinforce only one limited set of lawyer skills and perspectives, and then rewards those students who happen to be able to show off these limited skills during a time-pressured exam. Through our class and assignments, I was hoping to challenge students to develop a distinct set of skills and perspectives, and then asked students to show off in a much different (and perhaps quite uncertain) way.
As I have candidly admitted, it is clear to me that I may have failed more than I succeeded with my innovations in our Legislation class, and this may be the collective price we all paid because I was trying something new for the first time. (Relatedly, I know that the first time I taught Crim Law and Crim Pro and LW&A and other standard course I made a lot of mistakes and then improved in subsequent years.)
What is still not clear is whether my fundamental interest in innovation and diversity in class and in exam format is appreciated or loathed. Perhaps 1Ls, who feel so much pressure from so many sources, cannot (nor should not have to) deal with radical twists on the standard 1L program. Perhaps innovation should only be tried in upper-level course or in pass-fail courses. Perhaps innovation should come in smaller steps with better explanation. Or perhaps students do not share my frustration with the status quo (though I hear from a lot of alums about how misguided traditional law school programming is.)
Folks should continue to feel free attacking me, or the course, or the exam or anything else that makes them feel better. But I hope the comments will generally migrate back to the two questions set forth above.
June 05, 2008
Grades are out, more reactions sought....
My understanding is that grades for our legislation class were released today. I succeeded in "pushing" the curve a bit, but I am still sad I could not give even more top grades: once the grades were un-blinded, I saw a lot of students who I thought did really good work throughout the semester not having these efforts fully reflected in their final grade. Such is the "curse" of blind grading and forced curves.
At this point, of course, I am eager for more class/grade reactions and reflections now that you all know how you officially did (and now that you have the nice weather to temper your tempers). In addition, I am trying to promote a broader grade debate over here, where I hope you can and will contribute thoughts about whether we should seriously consider doing away with letter grades altogether.
April 17, 2008
Some interesting sites about exeuction videos
John Ruiz-Bueno sent along these notable links as a follow-up to our discussion of videotaping executions:
- First, here is a petition to many different higher-ups to get executions videotaped and public (with consent)
- Second, here is a NY Times article about the destruction of the only execution tape
April 06, 2008
Post of note to finish up Porter and move ahead on Hayes
I have these two new posts on my Sentencing Law and Policy blog that provide some different information and perspectives on some of the issues that have arisen in our discussions of Hyle v. Porter and US v. Hayes:
- Georgia legislature passes revised sex offender residency restrictions
- The Second Amendment and speculating about post-Heller politics
Though I doubt we will directly discuss either of these posts during our classes this coming week, I hope students will feel free to use the comments to react to these posts and/or to any other aspect of our class discussions in recent weeks.
March 01, 2008
Incarceration statistics and a nation's collective responsibility
First, the potent Pew Center report, "One in 100: Behind Bars in America 2008." which I showcased in class is discussed and linked here.
Second, I quickly mentioned in class President George Bush's 2005 inaugural address. That address can be found at this link, and here are a few inspiring excerpts:
America's vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one. From the day of our Founding, we have proclaimed that every man and woman on this earth has rights, and dignity, and matchless value, because they bear the image of the Maker of Heaven and earth. Across the generations we have proclaimed the imperative of self-government, because no one is fit to be a master, and no one deserves to be a slave. Advancing these ideals is the mission that created our Nation. It is the honorable achievement of our fathers. Now it is the urgent requirement of our nation's security, and the calling of our time....
We will persistently clarify the choice before every ruler and every nation: The moral choice between oppression, which is always wrong, and freedom, which is eternally right. America will not pretend that jailed dissidents prefer their chains, or that women welcome humiliation and servitude, or that any human being aspires to live at the mercy of bullies....
The leaders of governments with long habits of control need to know: To serve your people you must learn to trust them. Start on this journey of progress and justice, and America will walk at your side....
All Americans have witnessed this idealism, and some for the first time. I ask our youngest citizens to believe the evidence of your eyes. You have seen duty and allegiance in the determined faces of our soldiers. You have seen that life is fragile, and evil is real, and courage triumphs. Make the choice to serve in a cause larger than your wants, larger than yourself — and in your days you will add not just to the wealth of our country, but to its character.
America has need of idealism and courage, because we have essential work at home — the unfinished work of American freedom. In a world moving toward liberty, we are determined to show the meaning and promise of liberty....
In America's ideal of freedom, the exercise of rights is ennobled by service, and mercy, and a heart for the weak. Liberty for all does not mean independence from one another. Our nation relies on men and women who look after a neighbor and surround the lost with love. Americans, at our best, value the life we see in one another, and must always remember that even the unwanted have worth. And our country must abandon all the habits of racism, because we cannot carry the message of freedom and the baggage of bigotry at the same time.
Third, for a brief review of the Pew Center's report, you can check out this article about the Pew report from the media outlet Al Jazeera:
More than one percent of US adults are serving prison sentences, higher than any other country in the world, according to a new report.
The US penal system held more than 2.3 million adults at the start of the year, the Pew Centre on the States said on Thursday. More populous China was ranked second with 1.5 million behind bars, while Russia was third with 890,000. "Beyond the sheer number of inmates, America also is the global leader in the rate at which it incarcerates its citizenry, outpacing nations like South Africa and Iran," the report said.
The report said growth in prison numbers had not been driven by a similar increase in crime rates or a corresponding increase in the nation's population. "Rather, it flows principally from a wave of policy choices that are sending more lawbreakers to prison and, through the popular 'three-strikes' measures and other sentencing enhancements, keeping them there longer," it said.
Correction expenditure US states spent more than $44bn on corrections last year, the report said, compared with $10.6bn in 1987. Ryan King of the Sentencing Project, a US prison reform group, told Al Jazeera that many of those currently incarcerated were serving sentences for minor offences or were drug users. "We are using tens of billions of dollars of our domestic resources to incarcerate individuals who would be much better off either under community supervision or in a public health treatment programme."
The report said that the national prison population had almost tripled between 1987 and 2007. While one in 106 adult white men are incarcerated, one in 36 Hispanics and one in 15 African-Americans are behind bars.
Hmmmmm... I guess President Bush is quite insightful when, in his 2005 inaugural address, he makes much of "the unfinished work of American freedom." And the statistics in the Pew report provide another reminder of the real work for all of us if we take seriously, as I think we should, President Bush's righteous assertion that "our country must abandon all the habits of racism, because we cannot carry the message of freedom and the baggage of bigotry at the same time."
February 28, 2008
Reminder: Friday's focus on Warshow and Porter
Just a quick reminder that we will be looking very closely at every aspect of the Warshow case from the text and Hyle v. Porter, No. 2008-Ohio-542 (Ohio S. Ct. Feb. 20, 2008) (available here), as we (finally!) get serious about focusing on the specific tools (and unique challenges) of statutory interpretation.
When we started our Warshow discussion last week, it was clear that not everyone had read the case as closely as needed (which is likely my fault) in order for us to be able to do the kind of statutory interpretation analysis I want us to do. So, in addition to mentioning Warshow at the end of last class, this is my additional effort to provide more warning that I will be expecting everyone to be very familiar with every aspect of what all the opinions in Warshow and Hyle v. Porter say.
February 23, 2008
Friday follow-up: dead deer and live guns and modes of interpretation
Here are some links to follow-up some points of discussion on Friday:
1. The recent Wisconsin case upholding a conviction after the defendant pled no contest to having sex with a dead deer is Wisconsin v. Hathaway, and can be accessed here. Here is a key passage from the court's ruling: "Hathaway first argues his conviction should be reversed because the term 'animal' in WIS. STAT. § 944.17(2)(c) does not include an animal carcass. He rather convincingly contends that 'animal' means a living creature. However, Hathaway pled no contest to the charge. A plea of guilty or no contest waives all nonjurisdictional defects and defenses."
2. I found a terrific short article about the history of the Second Amendment available for download here. The article highlights, inter alia, that gun control historically has been applied in discriminatory ways in an effort to prevent the poor and religious, ethnic and racial minorities from having access to guns.
3. On changed perspective concerning the Second Amendment, consider this quotable contrast:
- Former Chief Justice Warren Burger: at a 1992 press conference, "[O]ne of the frauds -- and I use that term advisedly--on the American people has been the campaign to mislead the public about the Second Amendment. The Second Amendment doesn't guarantee the right to have firearms at all."
- Senator Barack Obama: at a 2008 press conference, "I think there is an individual right to bear arms."
As you review our class readings about legisprudence and theories of statutory interpretation, give serious thought to whether and how these theories of interpretation might also be applied to constitutional provisions like the Second Amendment. Can you think of strong reasons why a particular mode of interpretation might be especially appropriate (or inappropriate) for enacted legislative statutes, but not for the U.S. Constitution?
February 06, 2008
Deep thoughts and hmmmmmm after Super Tuesday
I plan to devote the first part of Wednesday's class — and perhaps all of it — to collective reflection on yesterday's (national?) primaries. Because we are still reviewing/discussing the impact of $$$ and campaign finance reform, I'm especially eager to hear student insights on various economic issues. But all issues are fair game, and everyone is encouraged to start this dialogue ASAP through comments to this post.
February 04, 2008
Sports, money and politics
During the day between Super Sunday and Super Tuesday, consider these various news/blog items:
- Obama makes Super Bowl appearance
- Sports and Politics intertwined...
- Super Sunday And Super Tuesday
- Will (and should) Tiger Woods endorse a candidate in 2008?