Friday, May 15, 2009

And This Little Piggy Went to the Supreme Court

By now most people in legal education or practicing law have seen the article in the ABA Journal about Justice Scalia explaining the facts of Supreme Court and academic life to an American University student.

"“By and large,” Scalia said during the April 24 law school appearance, “I’m going to be picking from the law schools that basically are the hardest to get into. They admit the best and the brightest, and they may not teach very well, but you can’t make a sow’s ear out of a silk purse. If they come in the best and the brightest, they’re probably going to leave the best and the brightest, OK?”"

Assuming the Judge reversed the sow's ear and the silk purse, I think he just labeled everyone who did not attend at an elite law school a pig or at least an appendage of a pig. On the other hand, I think he meant what he said. That interpretation would be that no matter how bad the education is at the elite schools they cannot ruin excellent students. I certainly agree with the premise but but either they are ruining many of the best and brightest or they are not getting the best and brightest in the first place.

I'd like the Justice to visit a few law school barn yards for a closer look. The halls are lined with the "best and brightest" who are often sow's ears -- narrowly educated, anti intellectual and with an overpowering sense of entitlement. Many cannot think their way of a paper sty. I often wonder what would be the most elitist and expensive education possible in the United States starting from primary school. I think I have found it and all the sows' ears Justice Scalia could eat at the same time.


eric said...

Scalia doesn't even rate as a sow's ear; some other part of the sow, perhaps. I believe the Italian phrase would be culo della scrofa.

Anonymous said...

Professor Harrison, I would love to hear your thoughts on UF Law's plan to raise tuition significantly over the next couple of years.

Jeffrey Harrison said...

It's complicated. My own personal preference is that tuition for students be equal to the full cost of operating the law school and the tuition lowered strictly on the basis of need.

Of course that will not happen. Because of the budget cuts, as I understand it, two things have happened. The entering class has been cut by 100 and tuition has gone up. I am sympathetic with the 100 students per year who may be qualified to attend law school but who the law school has decided not to allow to enter. For many of the less affluent, attending a heavily subsidized institution was their only chance.

The tuition hike also bothers me in two respects. First it is across the board meaning that it hits many students who are not affluent. Second, rather than raise tuition, cutting the cost of operating the law school is another way to address the problem. There are efforts in this direction and reasonable people can disagree but I do not feel new faculty should be hired with a 100 drop in the number of students and many faculty teaching low enrollment courses. Beyond that, and I do not have access to all the relevant information, I believe there are cuts in summer compensation and programs that would assist in the belt tightening but which the faculty would oppose.

Something to keep in mind, though, is that budget cuts and fewer faculty will have an impact on USN&WR rankings and this cuts against the students' interest. In fact, the 100 student cut should have an positive effect on the ranking.