March 30, 2007
Carnegie, et.al.: why I have hope that change can happen
I sense, hovering around many of our discussions here, a certain pessimism about law schools' ability to change and cynicism about their desire to. Mark broached the topic directly when he asked: "Given that faculties are given to replicate themselves, is there any reason to think that the Carnegie Report will make a difference where Frank [of Yale Law and the New School] failed?" Likewise, Doug more recently asked apropos to the same topic: "1. How many law professors who are not deans will read this report? 2. How many law students will embrace and encourage the report's suggestions and will they be willing to 'vote with their feet' as some law schools innovate?"
My response to these questions emerge from my perspective as a former consumer of and current adjunct to law school, which puts me in a different position than Mark and Doug. I do not know what obstacles you face in trying to lead change and turn nice ideas like the Carnegie study into solid action. I glean from your comments that there are considerable structural and institutional barriers that include cultural preferences and incentives that lean against reform. I would love to read more analysis of these challenges.
I would also love to read more about avenues for change. It heartens me that there is a community right here committed to change. Do we share a common vision of what must happen? Who else agrees? Whom must we convince?
I commend this short essay to would-be reformers: Divided No More: A movement approach to educational reform. It's directed at
...faculty [who] have realized that even if teaching is a back-of-the-bus thing for their institutions, it is a front-of-the-bus thing for them. They have realized that a passion for teaching was what animated their decision to enter the academy, and they do not want to lose the primal energy of their professional lives. They have realized that they care deeply about the lives of their students, and they do not want to abandon the young. They have realized that teaching is an enterprise in which they have a heavy investment of personal identity and meaning–and they have decided to reinvest their lives, even if they do not receive dividends from their colleges or from their colleagues."
Does this passage describe you? Is it what motivates you to participate in a blog called "Law School Innovation"?
If so, then let's talk about the world as we'd like to see it. Maybe we can't change all law schools - not yet. But I'm convinced there are many law professors who would like to see a change. Let's talk about how we can support each other to do so.
The fact that the Carnegie Foundation gave us a map for reform but no vehicle is not cause for despair. It's people, not foundations, who make change happen.
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