October 16, 2010
Great Prawfs discussion of "Revamping the 1L Curriculum"
Over at PrawfsBlawg, Lyrissa Lidsky has this interesting post on 1L curriculum reform that gets started this way:
How do law schools justify their curricula in a world where tuition keeps rising and employment rates for grads keep falling?
In response to this question, and at the nudging of our curriculum committee, several of my colleagues today began discussing what should be done to revamp the 1L curriculum. It was amazing to hear how much consensus there is about what skills too many students lack after the 1L year. They can't (or don't) read cases closely enough; they can't (or don't) read statutes closely enough; their writing skills are underdeveloped; their analytical skills are weak; they lack initiative and self-reliance.
There was far less consensus on how to solve the problem. Proposals included having a separate class to teach legal reasoning skills, adding skills components to traditional 1L classes, making sure 1L students have a small section experience, beefing up legal research and writing requirements, requiring 1L profs to use essay exams, banning laptops in class, and adding components to 1L classes designed to boost "emotional intelligence" or professionalism.
The post prompted a host of really terrific comments, including a complaint and a retort from a current law student and a current lawyer (which are only quoted in part below and merit a full read):
Student Complaint: I am not a professor so I (maybe) cannot offer the best method for revamping the 1L (or even subsequent) curriculum. I do know, however, that the current method is not working. Law school is too much of a game, too much of hide the ball, and too much of "you gotta do what I say because I control the gate".
I have raised my concerns and thoughts to many professors and suprisingly they all agree for the most part. I have to wonder, if they all agree with what a lowly law student thinks, why isnt someone doing something about it? I feel that I have been under-prepared by law school and am just biding my time until the bar exam.
Lawyer Retort: I have to disagree with Mr. Billy who is frustrated by the law school hide-the-ball approach. And no, I am not a professor -- I'm a practicing lawyer.
I often here about how law school "hides the ball." This is often portrayed negatively. The people who who feel this way don't get why the American legal education system is so much better than most others.
Here's the simple truth: The practice of law is all about finding a hidden ball. All the time.
There is no such thing as a case on point. There is no such thing as a simple argument. Each time you are thrown into a new case or legal matter you come in with no context, no grounding, and you have to learn to swim over again.
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The problem is deeper. The content of the education is unacceptable, even unlawful. I understand the student is not getting prepared for the shredder that is practice later. One may think of the education as learning a language. One learns the grammar and vocabulary. Then later, one practices conversations and writings, on the outside with strangers. Those are shocking later. The comments address that shortcoming. This is a marginal and small problem.
Here is the big problem, and where the profession ends up damaging the nation.
Modern, very intelligent students are forced, against their wills, through intimidation, to accept supernatural doctrines and methods from medieval philosophy of Scholasticism, with its church origin. These were OK for 1275 A.D. They are ridiculous today. They explain the utter failure of every self-stated goal of every law subject. There is no practice from 1275 AD that is in any way acceptable in any other field. One could not even build cathedrals as they did. It would not be cathedral building malpractice. The police would arrest anyone attempting to as a threat to the public safety.
The student will resist these absurd, ridiculous core doctrines. That is where the intimidation, and the depressing cult indoctrination methodology comes in.
The student is force fed the ideas that minds can be read, that the future is foreseeable, that 12 strangers can detect the truth by using their gut feelings, after excluding all with knowledge (canceling the advantages of the medieval jury). Most important is to accept the central word of the law, reasonable. Why not a hundred alternative words? Beneficial, intelligent, common sensical, healthful, what my calm, caring friend would do, etc.
St. Thomas Aquinas explains. Man fell from the Garden of Eden, and intellect was subject to mistakes from the tendencies and temptations leading to mortal sins (prohibitions in the 10 Commandments). The sole reliable guide to moral decision making is the New Testament. And St. Thomas spends a great deal of effort in a deposition like proof. What is the technical meaning of reason in this context? It is the ability to perceive God. Reason best relies on the New Testament. That book is the story of Jesus. The reasonable person may very well be a hidden, disguised Jesus, and what he would do as described by the New Testament. The reasonable person must remain fictitious. Why? To be objective, of course. This reserves the seat of the reasonable person for Jesus.
This content is disturbing, ridiculously, laughably false, and intelligent students must be forced to accept it by intimidation. Thus the high pressure and other cult methods ongoing in law school. This includes taking 80 hours a week in exhausting, socially isolating study of minutiae, most of it, cult garbage.
That is the content. What about the structure? Disputation is the best method to arrive at some answer, according to the Scholasticists. So we get the adversarial system. There is no scientific evidence to support any part of the legal process. Disputation is chosen because the intellectual leaders were French or lived in France.
IRAC came from Sic et Non by Peter Abelard and friends of his. You see the tightest, best IRAC reading St. Thomas.
The medieval rules of evidence are ridiculous, and result in a high rate of false convictions.
The profession has also adopted the business model and methods of the Inquisition, ongoing by 1275 AD. The Inquisition was excellent, and lasted 800 years. It ended when, again the French, beheaded and expelled 10,000 church officials during the French Revolution. The lawyer picked it up, without missing a beat. The regulations were infinite. The penalties draconian. The targets were sincerely grateful when a plea bargain was offered, enriching the church, and saving the life of the accused.
The coercive cult methods. The ridiculous core doctrines. The organized crime style of making money. The devastation to the interests of the nation. The total failure of every self-stated goal. That would make for some dissatisfaction, even among those who will get rich off it.
Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 23, 2010 5:43:54 PM
Funny. The above comment was not allowed on Prawfblawg. It got posted, then deleted.
Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 23, 2010 6:20:23 PM