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February 27, 2007

The 80-year-old debate

The Carnegie Report's focus on skills training is intriguing, as are the follow-ups by Gene and others.

However, this debate has been continuing, with various amounts of ardor, for decades.  As far back as the 1920's & 30's, critics of the Harvard case law method such as Jerome Frank (of Yale Law and the New School) lobbied for a law-school curriculum that would closely replicate the clinical model found in medical schools, with an emphasis on real-life apprenticeship and hands-on learning.  Frank argued that law teachers should have experience in legal practice, and should train students in practice skills in real and simulated settings.

Obviously, previous reform attempts have failed, as the elite schools have (with some notable exceptions) chosen to continue to focus on other things.  This framework becomes more entrenched as Ph.D. holders are favored over lawyers with practice experience for teaching positions.  Given that faculties are given to replicate themselves, is there any reason to think that the Carnegie Report will make a difference where Frank failed?

-- Mark Osler

February 27, 2007 in Teaching -- curriculum | Permalink


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I have been thinking a lot about your question, and in particular wondering about how I can use this opportunity I have at the Berkman Center, at Harvard, and with my white paper to cause some sort of change.

I strongly encourage you and everyone here to read Divided No More: A movement approach to educational reform ( http://www.mcli.dist.maricopa.edu/events/afc99/articles/divided.pdf ). It suggests thinking about change along these stages:

1. Isolated individuals decide to stop leading "divided lives.”
2. These people discover each other and form groups for mutual support.
3. Empowered by community, they learn to translate "private problems” into public issues.
4. Alternative rewards emerge to sustain the movement's vision, which may force the conventional reward system to change.

I owe this blog many posts, and I think one of my next ones will be about how one can create change through community action. A true movement is not some idealistic kumbaya thing. It's accomplished through relationships, a shared vision, and most of all, a feeling of urgency. I feel that we are starting to get all of these into place, if we also have the will to follow it through.

Posted by: Gene Koo | Mar 2, 2007 6:10:12 PM

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