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Author Topic: Demand more tests! Demand teaching assistants!  (Read 1754 times)

Chris Laurel

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Demand more tests! Demand teaching assistants!
« on: January 05, 2006, 06:52:24 PM »
The full letter I have prepared to my dean and the American Bar Association is here:
http://accuracyblog.blogspot.com/2006/01/law-school-story.html

Below is the last part, the way to fix the majority of the problems at American Law Schools:

3. Time to fight the inertia: an easy fix

America keeps crashing the same car: we never fix problems (racism, disaster preparation, destroyed cities, etc.). Our attorneys will argue for major changes in laws to benefit a client or society, yet we fight tooth and nail efforts to fix our own problems, despite evidence of where this road to ruin leads. "I had to suffer, so should you," is the mentality of many alum. Despite their discontented careers, unpleasant memories, and all evidence to the contrary, they cling to the delusion it helps our careers and characters. It does not. Ask any third year associate.

Without doubt, students need to be tested more. Only then will grades accurately reflect abilities. Staggered exams evidence improvement and alert students of problems before it is too late.

Three exams (25%, 25%, 50%) will be required for three-credit classes and above. One exam per course produces extreme anxiety; a cold at the wrong time will send an over-stressed student over the edge. Multiple tests inspire motivation, incentivize continuous preparation, mitigate procrastination, and therefore better educates students. Star performers will continue to shine. Multiple exams expose topical weaknesses and strengths which may or may not be important to an employer's hiring needs. We will provide records of all exams (not only finals) for use in interviews.

Professors also are stressed and grading more exams is anathema. We should follow other graduate schools and institute legal teaching assistant programs. The 3L year's usefulness is questionable but here to say. Let's make it substantive: those planning academic careers will benefit enormously from teaching assistant positions. So will professors: under their tutelage and close supervision TAs will grade the first two exams. Professors always grade the weighty final. 3L TAs will fill the role of senior associates; they are less intimidating and will provide great insight. They can also conduct comprehensive review sessions. If ABA rules prohibit any of this, we must convince them of the import to change tout suite.

Interestingly, lawyer-bashing caught fire in our culture only since the civil rights era, when lawyers greatly (and controversially) improved our democracy with cases that brought the Bill of Rights to the citizens of the several states (something that should have happened once John Bingham wrote the 14th Amendment with that intent). Those rightfully-won battles sadly remain unpopular, and will come under attack. Judge Alito's criticism of Reynolds v. Sims is proof. So-called Originalists on the Supreme Court vote most to overturn legislative acts.

Only lawyers are trained and educated in history and rhetoric to combat the distortions and lies (often crafted by our own) that are ruining America's public discourse. Outside the office our free time is focused on neglected families; there is no time to contribute honest and principled arguments to important issues facing the country. We work too many weekends: we are victimized by long hours and extraordinary debt. Law students excited about 2L summer jobs are sheltered from the reality that they jumped out of the pan of law school unhappiness and into the law firm fire of exhaustion. We could tolerate law firm culture longer if we didn't emerge miserable from an emotionally devastating education program that inaccurately measured ability and warped our self-worth.

We would enhance our reputation and firms will love that our more accurate grades aid their recruitment goals. The stakes are too high to continue on this pointless road to ruin. You have the power to help effect a small change with enormous and immediate benefits. We must stop unnecessarily beating our country's most talented and driven.

jimmyjohn

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Re: DEMANDS MORE TESTS! DEMAND TEACHING ASSISTANTS!
« Reply #1 on: January 05, 2006, 06:55:50 PM »
Let us know how that turns out.  In the meantime, stop spamming the board.

Chris Laurel

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Re: DEMANDS MORE TESTS! DEMAND TEACHING ASSISTANTS!
« Reply #2 on: January 05, 2006, 06:59:25 PM »
I'm not spamming the board.  Every single post I've put up is relevant to that topic and a brand new post I wrote.  That's not spam, just because I include a link in each one. 

Budlaw

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Re: DEMANDS MORE TESTS! DEMAND TEACHING ASSISTANTS!
« Reply #3 on: January 05, 2006, 10:46:59 PM »
I'm not spamming the board.  Every single post I've put up is relevant to that topic and a brand new post I wrote.  That's not spam, just because I include a link in each one. 

You know, I used to live in Hawaii, and it was crazy how they ate Spam like it was going out of style. Spam with rice, spam with eggs, spam sandwciches, I'm sure they even had a Spam smoothie. I'd never seen so much spam in my life until I moved to Kaneohe.

Anyway, it's amazing how much some posts remind me of Hawaii.....

Mahalo (and to think I used to think that meant trash)

Chris Laurel

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Re: DEMANDS MORE TESTS! DEMAND TEACHING ASSISTANTS!
« Reply #4 on: January 05, 2006, 11:45:01 PM »

it's amazing how much some posts remind me of Hawaii.....

Mahalo (and to think I used to think that meant trash)

Yeah, aloha, I think what you are doing now is called "trolling" because I've spanked you on the Socratic Method board. 

norm012001

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Re: Demand more tests! Demand teaching assistants!
« Reply #5 on: January 15, 2006, 02:07:58 PM »
One exam is like real life.  You rarely have someone who will give you chance after chance to see if you're doing OK.  You don't get to send your appeal brief to the judge 3 times with larger and larger portions and with interim weighted decisions.  If you file a bad motion, you lose, no percentage weight is applied.

If there were 3 exams in a semester, I would spend most of the semester reviewing rather than forging ahead.  I'm a night student, the day students at my school get midterm in their first semester.  I would have hated to have to prepare for that while still trying to learn the law in somewhat of a continuous fashion.  I would actually advocate a single exam for 2 semester courses, without it, there is this false break in continuity that is not good for anyone.  The only bonus is knowing your grade and the fact is, the grade will probably be the same regardless of when the test is given.

Now the fact that one can get sick is valid, I would argue for more flexibility in rescheduling exams rather than more exams.
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Jumboshrimps

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Re: Demand more tests! Demand teaching assistants!
« Reply #6 on: January 15, 2006, 02:43:59 PM »
One exam is like real life.  You rarely have someone who will give you chance after chance to see if you're doing OK.  You don't get to send your appeal brief to the judge 3 times with larger and larger portions and with interim weighted decisions.  If you file a bad motion, you lose, no percentage weight is applied.

If there were 3 exams in a semester, I would spend most of the semester reviewing rather than forging ahead.  I'm a night student, the day students at my school get midterm in their first semester.  I would have hated to have to prepare for that while still trying to learn the law in somewhat of a continuous fashion.  I would actually advocate a single exam for 2 semester courses, without it, there is this false break in continuity that is not good for anyone.  The only bonus is knowing your grade and the fact is, the grade will probably be the same regardless of when the test is given.

Now the fact that one can get sick is valid, I would argue for more flexibility in rescheduling exams rather than more exams.

Agreed.

The OP wants law school to be more like public primary and secondary school, and we all know what a resounding success that has been...  ::)

lincolnsgrandson

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Re: Demand more tests! Demand teaching assistants!
« Reply #7 on: January 15, 2006, 03:13:05 PM »
Second.  Chris is not prepared for the real world.  He wants law school to be more like college.

ApproachTheBench

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!
« Reply #8 on: January 15, 2006, 03:56:41 PM »
One exam is like real life.  You rarely have someone who will give you chance after chance to see if you're doing OK.  You don't get to send your appeal brief to the judge 3 times with larger and larger portions and with interim weighted decisions.  If you file a bad motion, you lose, no percentage weight is applied.

I strongly disagree with this analogy.  I think a big part of learning is the feedback loop between student and teacher.  There really isn't one in law school- you read over and talk about cases, you do your exam, you get a grade that's pretty arbitrary and you don't know where it came from, the correct answer is not discussed.  No feedback loop.  Students are frustrated and don't learn everything that they could.

I think that the whole structure of law school is outdated.

A prof at my school has come up with a new way though, it's called the CaseFile method, I like it a lot.  West just purchased it I think.  Basically, every day the students read a casefile- it's a short problem memo from partner to associate with some legal questions and thoughts followed by a few cases.  Maybe 15 pages on average.  Students read the casefile and then class is open discussion, led by the teacher.  Everyone talks and throws around ideas and formulates arguments.  There's no memorizing of doctrine- you don't study for the exam because the exam is just another casefile!  Participation is a large part of the grade. 

I like em because it's a lot of fun, class goes fast, you don't waste time memorizing doctrine or taking tons of notes (no note-taking allowed, there's no point to it)... most importantly though you

You can find his site at www.casefilemethod.com

I don't mean to sound like a shill, I'm not affiliated with the guy in any way... I just think that this is the way law school should be.  It's much more fun and involved, much less stressful, cheaper, and you really learn how to think like a lawyer.

Great original post by the way, I agree on most counts.
Save time, save money, find a summer job at http://www.approachthebench.com

jacy85

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Re: !
« Reply #9 on: January 15, 2006, 07:41:47 PM »
One exam is like real life.  You rarely have someone who will give you chance after chance to see if you're doing OK.  You don't get to send your appeal brief to the judge 3 times with larger and larger portions and with interim weighted decisions.  If you file a bad motion, you lose, no percentage weight is applied.

I strongly disagree with this analogy.  I think a big part of learning is the feedback loop between student and teacher.  There really isn't one in law school- you read over and talk about cases, you do your exam, you get a grade that's pretty arbitrary and you don't know where it came from, the correct answer is not discussed.  No feedback loop.  Students are frustrated and don't learn everything that they could.

You absolutely have opportunity to get professor feedback.  It's called office hours, but most students never use them.  If I had questions about a topic or something I was unclear on, I went to office hours.  I asked my question, or explain my understanding of a topic, and was able to get feedback on where I was going wrong, what I had right, etc.

Going to office hours means that the feedback isn't spoon fed to you, like it is with TAs in college, which is why people female dog about it.