Thursday, September 25, 2014

The New Craze: EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING . . . for law professors

I want to start this rile-free posting by noting much of what is here applies to me although perhaps not quite as much as it does to the majority of law professors.

I also want to start from the premise  that in law teaching the minimal goal is not "do no harm" but "do some good."  I'll put aside my view that this means about 95% of legal scholarship falls outside the "do some good" category. (Ok, now it is aside.)

How are law professors supposed to know what it means to do some good as in making someone better off? This is the problem, most law professors when straight for grade grubbing undergraduates to grade grubbing at a small group of so called elite law schools. Most have had very few life experiences that would help them understand what it means to "do good" or why one might choose to "do good" for those worst off in society. (I like to say sometimes some law professors seem to  "have feelings too," just really tiny ones.  That is likely not true -- they probable have the same capacity to feel as anyone else, they just do not know from experience how certain things feel.)

If we are turning to experiential learning for students, how about some experiential learning for law professors so they will have a fuller idea of the breadth of "do good." To this end I am hereby propose to the ABA, the AALS, the ASPC and whatever  that all wannabe law professors and incumbents be required to select three of the following activities in order to improve their teaching and the quality of their scholarship:

1. Live as a homeless person for 2 months.
2. Go without dental or medical care for 10 years.
3. Take no vacations of any kind for 5 years.
4.  Work as a laborer on a construction site for 6 months.
5. Do not eat out except in fast food restaurants for 5 years.
6. Don't own a Prius but get by on $30 worth of gas a month.
7. Teach 9th graders at a school located in a urban low income neighborhood.
8. Bus tables for 8 hours a day 6 days a week.
9. Be a firefighter or police officer for a year.
10. Work as the nurse in an emergency room, operate a bulldozer in 95 degrees, process chicken, etc.

This is only a partial list of experiential learning opportunities for law teachers because, let's face it, is there a more inexperienced group than the people who teach and write about law?

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Tactic of Non Engagement

I cannot say my rile is where it once was.  I blame the current administration at UF law which is demonstrating an unprecedented and alarming  lack of indifference to the welfare of the students, fiscal responsibility, and even handedness.

But there is an interesting condition that seems to afflict the privileged more than others.  I am not sure it is laziness, boredom,  a character flaw, or a political tactic. It a is cousin to the obsession with civility as a means of stifling dissent and maintaining the status quo. You know what I mean  - its not what you said but your tone.

It's the reluctance to engage. Here is an example. Someone on your faculty, or any workplace for that matter, does something that you think is wrong -- let's say he says everyone in a faculty meeting who disagrees with him is "insane."  It that bothers you there are a couple of ways to go. You could go to the person and say, "I'd like to convince you that broad non substantive statements like that are a problem." Or you could go to your own little mini mob and complain that the person is a jerk and add to that all of the other offenses by the person.  And, in future years you could describe the incident in slightly more extreme terms - he said we were insane and then starting cackling like a hen -- to get even more converts to your view that the person is truly evil or a nut case. This happens all the time.

Other than the law professor priss factor of which I have written before, what else is true about non engagers? Two things, but for this I need a better example. Let's suppose that a professor has a long list of speakers come to his class and none of them are gay. You decide this is a sure sign he or she is homophobic. If you engage the person, that means that you are conceding that he or she has something to say. Now you would not want that would you because, after all, you, the non engager always knows there can be no  room for discussion. You are not about to change your judgment because after all, on matters of homophobia, you are never wrong.  In effect, not engaging but spreading the word to your mini mob is just a fancy way of silencing. The other prof cannot speak to the issue because he has no idea it is an issue.

The other possibility is just plain sloth. In this case, it's just easier to go next door and complain. But what this really means is that you did not actually care that much about, in this case, the possible homophobia at all. Naw, you're just engaged in recreational BS.    

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Rile-O-Meter Still Low

I am still struggling to get my rile back.  I think it's the fault of the new dean. One has the distinct impression that his deanship is not 100% focused on "what do I do to extend my deanship." I guess I should not complain but I do miss being riled.  It  makes me realize that an old blog about the benefits of having an interim dean missed the point. Not the whole point but there is another way to have a dean who will actually put his or her self interest aside -- hire an old dean. A Dean at the end of his or her career is like an interim dean -- no need to worry about anything other than the school.  I guess a term limit dean would work too.  On the other hand, an old dean has seen it all.

I am not riled but disenchanted by the data on scholarship my coauthor and I have turned up. A few things stand out. First there is a statistically significant correlation between both the rank of the review and the rank of the school from which the author graduated and the number citations by other scholars. The good news is there is no significant correlation between judicial cites and either of those. Courts, to my surprise, don't care all that much about institutional authority.  There is, though, a bad side to this. They also don't care much about what law professors have to say.  Citations to legal scholarship are not rare but they are almost never for the analysis or the proposals found in law review articles. Instead they are for things like:"this section of the UCC has 4 subsections." or "12 states have laws against this."  Yes, mainly they lift facts from even the fanciest articles. It's hardly worth the  $300 million a year spent on legal scholarship. That, btw, is a very conservative estimate. It does not account of the costs of running reviews, mailings, postage, time, etc. What a terrible waste.

I guess the 300 million plus a year for legal scholarship does rile me not just because the scholarship so rarely relied on in a meaningful way but because so much if it is not scholarship at all -- more like extended op-ed pieces.

I have been riled for a long time about the absurd "we will hire whomever you are sleeping with" policy at UF. I have been told it means more jobs for women -- a feminist thing. Huh. I do not know the gender breakdown on trailing spouses but, if it is to hire women, what an insult to feminists -- hiring women not because of who they are but because they hooked up with  the "right" men. My rile on this has faded mainly because I have had my say.

I am kind of riled by Obama being such a dud and those who somehow think the Ravens are heroic for cutting Ray Rice once they saw the video. The relevance of the video is lost on me other than to suggest that battered women should start wearing those little cameras because that appears to be what it takes to get some action.

Any law professor who utters anything about academic freedom could rile me. I have never seen a freedom so infrequently used.

I am sure there are things I should be riled about but since I cut off all information coming out of the months  the law school's biggest agitators and least accurate people, the rile-o-meter has been very low.