Friday, January 13, 2012

So You Wanna Be a Law Prof But Not Really?

All you really knew is that you did not want to be a lawyer. So you got into teaching and what did you find out? Law teaching meant teaching law or at least how to be a lawyer. That is not so hot either because actually law is not interesting to you. Do not fear, a whole generation of new courses for the law teacher who wants no part of law has evolved. Here is a recent proposal just received:

Dear Curriculum Committee:

I would like to propose a new course, Law and Life, to be taught by me. I have attached the proposed syllabus. The course will work best if capped at zero students. Because I feel it is important enough to make it available to others, I have decided to cap it at six.

Thank you Tristan

Law and Life
Professor Tristan & Professor Gold (Music Therapy Department)

Materials needed: 1)A Prune
2) My law review article in any of the seven forms I have published the same article.
3) Dancing slippers
4) A gender-neutral Teddy Bear
5) (Optional) Pancake syrup.

We meet every Tuesday evening from 6-8 unless there is a full moon.

Your grade will be based on the weekly assignments as described and a machine graded, multiple choice, take home, open book (if there were one) exam.

Week One: Birth

Prepare for presentation to the class a limerick that describes how you felt while being born. How is this like a new law? Or is it? Dr. Madelain. a recent graduate of our law school who also once read a book about birth will first present a lecture on "What it feels like to be Born and the Law." This class will not be graded. Instead, each student will be given a laminated photocopy of my Harvard degree. I have thousands so do not worry. This means if I forget to mention where I went to school (and I rarely do) you can refer to the card. It is wallet sized.

Week Two: Telling is Feeling and Client Confidentiality

In this class you must tell the rest of the students the one thing you would least like them to know about yourself. You also must tell something about your best friend that you believe would make your best friend mortified. The goal of this exercise is to allow you to experience how a client would feel if you violated his or her confidence. Students telling the most embarrassing things about themselves will receive an A. All others will receive another laminated copy of my diploma.

Week Three: You and the Prune

Please visit the restroom before class. In this class you will sit quietly and observe a prune for sixty minutes. The music in the background will be John Cages 4 minutes 33 seconds. While observing the prune you are required to adopt the perspective of a cat. What do you feel? Please purr if you are so inclined.

In the last hour of the class, you will share the feelings you experienced. This must be whispered. The lights will be dimmed to enhance the darkness. The best presenters will receive and A as well others in the class.

Week Four: Sex and Negotiation: First Experiences

Prepare a 30 minute detailed description of your first sexual encounter. You may use power point. Your first sexual experience, whether you realize it or not, was a negotiation. Think of the steps of that negotiation. Since there are six of you and only 120 minutes, two students will be picked at random not to participate. They will receive a grade of A. This class will be videotaped by a very small person.

Week Five: Self Defense and the Law

Steven Thog, a guy a met while walking my collie, Jung, around the park will present some really good moves to use on unruly clients. There will be role-playing with each of you taking the role of an abusive client and Steven will play the role of you or what you would be like if you were Steven. All students who do not tell the dean about this class will receive an A.

Week Six: Client Movement

You are required to wear dancing slippers. Each of you will have 10 minutes to display the feelings of a client through movement. You may not speak. Is she happy or sad, tall or short, skinny or large?

The second hour of class you must critique the interpretations of your classmates also through movement only. Important: no levitation is permitted during this class. Students who are more expressive or wear the most colorful costumes will receive an A. Students who would have their feelings hurt if given less than a A will also receive an A.

Week Seven: Attorney Movement

You are required to wear dancing slippers. Each of you will have 10 minutes to display the feelings of a attorney in a case involving a legal name change. You may not speak. Through movement you must exhibit your feelings about the client's new name without revealing those feelings to the client.

The second hour of class you must critique the interpretations of your classmates also through movement only. Important: no levitation is permitted during this class. Students who are the quietest dancers will receive an A. Students who would have their feelings hurt if given less than a A will also receive an A.

Week Eight: Review

This week will be devoted to a discussion of which of the prior classes you liked best. How did it make you feel.?How do you think I will feel if you did not love them all? Special guest lecturer is Bubba Henson author of the brilliant article, "Law: So What?" an unpublishable manuscript now in his file cabinet.

Week Nine: Waffles

Thema Henson, Bubba's mother and waitress at the 3rd street Waffle House will be our special guest lecturer. Special treat: She will bring strawberry waffles for all. Her lecture will cover the perils of late night attorney-client relationships. She is not a actual attorney but once waited on a table of 4. Two had BLTs and two had grilled cheese with onions. After the lecture we will think really really hard. The hardest thinkers will receive grades of A. Each of them may keep the A or give it to someone else in the class.

Week Ten: Princeton and Dreams

There will be no class this night. I will be attending the Princeton reunion. The class will be made up between 2 and 4 AM when you are required to dream a dream of your law professors dancing. A's will be awarded to all those reporting they had the required dream. A's are also available if you promise not to tell the dean we cancelled class and did not make it up.

Week Eleven: Multiple Choice Exams

I will mime a 30 minute lecture on why I use multiple choice machine graded exams. Over the next 90 minutes you will each write an essay on "Why Machine Graded Multiple Choice Exams are the Best Way to Evaluate Student Performance." You will mail your essays to the dean.

Weeks Twelve -Thirteen: Guest Lecturers

Yes, I am pretty much out of ideas and don't really like preparing for class so I am going to figure out who I can get to come and talk to you about whatever. It'll be great. Really! These classes are optional plus I will not be in attendance.

Week Fourteen: Aren't We Feeling Better

Tonight the entire two hours will be devoted to a class evaluation in which you will describe how you benefited from the class. Please emphasize how the class changed you for the better. Oh, not that it is relevant, but I have decided to give you all As and there is a plate of cookies at the front of class.


David R. Maass said...

Please also note that by registering for this course you will be graded on a more generous curve, and will therefore likely be more attractive to employers, than you would be if you enrolled in another, less emotionally challenging and enriching course, such as Evidence or Corporations.

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Anonymous said...

This is terrific. I have never seen the goings on of the Tools of Awareness class in person, but just from what I've gathered through reports and observation I'm both amused and mildly ashamed to study at the institution that offers it.

I had heard that the instructor frequently changes, via email or otherwise, the place where class meets and assignments to prepare for class. The first day of this past semester lost students kept wandering into the room of a UCC class I was taking and asking if that was where Tools was being held. "Poor souls" I thought "they must really need to attain 'tools of awareness'".

While I would agree that meditation and self reflection are both worthwhile skills to train, I doubt anyone will get very much out of a class like that for two reasons. The first is that to benefit from them you would have to exercise these skills far more than a single semester long class will cause students to do. The second is the offering of the class for course credit, with the potential for a high curve due to the cap. Under this regime the class will(and apparently did) attract too many students looking for an easy course to fit into their schedules and disinterested with the actual content to make it productive. That's even assuming a good faith effort on both the part of the instructor and some interested students.

One wonders what criteria students can even be graded on. It is inherently difficult to measure the increase in one's ki/qi/chi/yin/yang or whatever other word for internal energy you want to use. How do you rate how aware someone is?

A class like that should be extra curricular and not count towards graduation and class ranking. Apart from the questionable academic integrity of it all, it would be more likely to teach what it was intended to with an audience that appreciated its content.