Law School Discussion

My Yale 250 - Have at it

Burhop

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Re: My Yale 250 - Have at it
« Reply #20 on: December 31, 2005, 04:13:31 AM »
Hmm...interesting to see the whole assignment. I believe Yale is into the whole interdisciplinary/systems theory-type thang, no? So, the "across disciplines" could be interpreted as "feel free to write about something non-law-related" as well as "feel free to mesh a few disciplines together." If we take the latter to be the case, then the argument becomes "how good was the discipline synthesis of the given sample essay, taking into account the notion of 'writing, thinking, editing'?"

As many mentioned, there were a slurry of disciplines mentioned, all under the rubric of international law. What also happens, though, is an accusation--that being that international law has been "stripped free" of politics, history and culture. So, is this an implicit argument *for* a more interdisciplinary approach in Int. law? Is it an indictment of the entire history of International thought?

With this broad accusation comes another related accusation--one that would seem to impugn the direction law has taken towards the individual as opposed to the community. Is this a critique of human rights rhethoric, or possibly an argument for something more closely resembling a Feminist Ethics of Care argument? Hard to say.

This is why I leveled the op-ed concern--many sweeping claims/accusations, made in a grandiose fashion (note the word choices: triumphalism, giddy, Weberian, emancipated, Enlightenment). I've read a few successful Yale 250s, and they tended to be simpler, and constructed with a more careful language, mindful of the point that this will be read as an example of how the student 'thinks.'

Jason240s concern about whether or not Yale wants 'resolution' is a good question, but I'm not sure that is the only issue people have raised here; there are also concerns with tone and general meaning. I think it might be okay to raise questions and leave them unanswered--but, if the questions all take the tone of the final jab (what will our excuse be?), I think it is proper to fret over the tone of the piece; there is just a great deal of accusation-laden language here. The presumption is that history is simply repeating itself, and that we will *have* to start concocting excuses? How sunny.

Does the essay fit the specifications to a T? In a way, yes! It shows passion, a sense of humor (snarky), interdisciplinary thought, and a sense of how the student thinks and writes. But, due to the tone & accusations, I would argue that this student needs to think for a bit about how they would like to come across--it is perfectly reasonable to wrangle with a less complex topic in a more impressive, holistic way. The question here is whether or not the author has bitten off more than she can chew, and covers the lapses in argument & logic up with some bold rhetoric and a few open-ended questions. Certainly lawyer's tricks, to be true (!!).

I think it all comes down to how one wants to be perceived--the emotional imprint of the essay. This essay clearly has left an emotional imprint, as apparent by the responses here. Maybe that is enough. I'm just voicing skepticism to see what sticks, I suppose. ;-)

best,

Dani

______________

"It feels like the dawn of twentieth century doesn’t it, with all this giddy talk of globalization and the sweet scent of Liberal triumphalism in the air? History has ended again, we are told; the world is flat; and democracy and markets have won out.

International law - stripped of politics, history and culture - is back. Through the modern League of Nations, it establishes confident conventions and trumpets its important declarations even as billions - unaware that they have been emancipated, and they now have rights to dignity, liberty and equality - suffer, mute and alone, out of sight of the corner offices, conference halls and tribunals.

Enlightenment thought is fashionable once more. The best and the brightest, sure in our ability to engineer the world towards greater happiness, study systems, solve equations, and construct proofs. By jet now, rather than by steamship, we travel abroad in ever greater numbers, spreadsheets in hand, spreading this Weberian gospel among the unenlightened. We speak softly, of course, and it is not we but our governments that carry the big sticks.

Having founded international law upon Reason, having seen no point in anchoring it in community, wisdom and love, our predecessors could not have anticipated the moral and physical catastrophes that were to engulf their century. I wonder what our excuse will be?"

Burhop

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Re: My Yale 250 - Have at it
« Reply #21 on: December 31, 2005, 04:20:00 AM »

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redemption, you write beautifully - and i think your 250 would absolutely pop if there was some sense of your own involvement in or experience with the subject matter, rather than what seems to be purely an academic opinion. not that it has to be about you - but no one can argue with YOUR experience of something, because it is uniquely yours. whereas anyone can take issue with academic opinion. if your essay made it clear that your view of intl law came from some aspect of your life experience, then i think you would nail it.


I disagree--most personal statement stuff is people blathering on about this and that experience that "opened their eyes" and whatnot. I think for this type of essay, it is better to let the logic stand alone than to muddle things with some related moralistic tale--that tends towards the saccharine for me, in any case. I'd much prefer to see someone take a stand and defend their position without the "when my momma..." or "when I volunteered..." histrionics.

IMHO.

best,

Dani

mobo

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Re: My Yale 250 - Have at it
« Reply #22 on: December 31, 2005, 04:43:19 AM »

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redemption, you write beautifully - and i think your 250 would absolutely pop if there was some sense of your own involvement in or experience with the subject matter, rather than what seems to be purely an academic opinion. not that it has to be about you - but no one can argue with YOUR experience of something, because it is uniquely yours. whereas anyone can take issue with academic opinion. if your essay made it clear that your view of intl law came from some aspect of your life experience, then i think you would nail it.


I disagree--most personal statement stuff is people blathering on about this and that experience that "opened their eyes" and whatnot. I think for this type of essay, it is better to let the logic stand alone than to muddle things with some related moralistic tale--that tends towards the saccharine for me, in any case. I'd much prefer to see someone take a stand and defend their position without the "when my momma..." or "when I volunteered..." histrionics.

IMHO.

best,

Dani

you make a good point about logic standing on its own.

i imagine that yls faculty read a lot of 250's that are pure academic blather (for lack of a better word, ;)). if i were in their shoes, hearing a law school applicant go on about intl law from a purely academic perspective would make my eyes roll back a little and think, gosh, what can they say that i haven't already read in a publication (or written, or lived) myself?

whereas every person's individual experience is going to make them stand out. perhaps i should have said, "not that it should be about your experience, but use the experience as a backdrop for the analytical argument". i also think that redemption's writing style is such that she is very likely to be able to pull it off well, without it being histrionic or saccharine.

and i could see our approaches both being right, and both being wrong. (and now i really must go to sleep.)

nukelaw

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Re: My Yale 250 - Have at it
« Reply #23 on: December 31, 2005, 09:25:01 AM »
One problem is that it's hard to be memorable if you have nothing memorable to say. A short and sweet story with bigger implications or a moral can have an adcom pulling for you if they remember you as the "krispy kreme" story (to cite a previous post).

Burhop

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Re: My Yale 250 - Have at it
« Reply #24 on: December 31, 2005, 12:26:12 PM »
One problem is that it's hard to be memorable if you have nothing memorable to say. A short and sweet story with bigger implications or a moral can have an adcom pulling for you if they remember you as the "krispy kreme" story (to cite a previous post).

I agree on the point that memorability is most easily linked to narrative--a strong storyline. This is what I advocate for in Personal Statements, but the Yale 250 is a different beast altogether, no? Correct me if I'm wrong. But based on the assignment posted here, I read the 250 as an opportunity to show yourself as a concise writer and strong thinker--it doesn't sound like they're asking for "personal statement lite."

best,

Dani

redemption

Re: My Yale 250 - Have at it
« Reply #25 on: December 31, 2005, 01:00:09 PM »
Good, good feedback while I was asleep, I see! Heartfelt thanks to all for the careful and frank criticism. I genuinely appreciate it.

Thanks to Jason for pointing out the Yale guidelines for the 250.. I should have posted it from the start along with the essay.

Habeas - I liked your 250, just for the record; and your PS too. I remember saying so. You have a good voice, entirely reasonable and pleasant.

Dani - do you really think that there are logical gaps in what I’m saying?

Memorability - My PS is, I hope, fairly striking. It has a simple narrative and I can PS it to anyone who’s interested. My application strategy is to paint a rounded picture of myself, using each essay to highlight a single specific characteristic that I believe to be relevant to my candidacy.

Tone - I’m going for a sense of outrage to come through loud and clear. I’m going to law school because of that sense of outrage as much as for any other reason. I don’t feel like I need to have experienced a direct connection with a victm of genocide to be offended by it - I am hoping that it is enough that they are people, just like me. I am midful of the concerns that it comes off as arrogant, especially the concerns regarding the use of “we” and “our”. I see that, and I will try to find a way about it.

For anyone willing to - or interested in - reading the step-by-step of my thinking, re: the actual content of the draft 250, it is below....

I take Habeas’ concerns about sounding know-it-allsy seriously. My issue is that I ruly believe that international law - esp in the area of human rights - is preposterous beyond belief. My sense is that we all know that it is, at least in the back of our minds. How do we reconcile the existence of so-called“laws” against genocide, for example, with having ourselves lived in a time when several have occured and are occuring with little action on the part of the so-called international community? International law is WEAK.

Why is it weak? I guess that I’m driving at a number of questions and issues, and trying to do so into 250 words and without being too dry about it.

1. intl law isn’t based on a sense of community:
Perhaps because we really don’t care that much about those people - we do not believe them to be like us, part of our community. We do not love them. They are simply the beneficiaries of our pity, and that after the fact; perhaps, even, we need them to suffer in order to know how good we ourselves have it... (The contrast with the efficiency and rigor with which international private law enforced is perhaps instructive).

2. intl law’s weakness is in its attempt to ground itself on reason alone:
If intl law, then, is not based on community & love; and if it is based on Kantian Reason (hence, the oh-so-German capitalizations... I’m uncomfortable with the caps too, but used them anyway because it is shorthand for our tradition of thought, and because Kantian thought is not the only type of reason possible) then clearly it is way above my head. I guess, though, that I am a firm believer at the moment in the idea that, to name-drop and distort Oliver Wendell Holmes for a sec,  “the life of the law (cannot be born of) logic (but) of experience”. It seems to me that intl law, currently and in the past, is all about the “a priori” and categorical imperatives, veils of ignorance and thought experiments in which  ahistorical, acultural, apolitical “individuals” make what is equitable and just.  Reminds me of the joke about the economist in jail who escapes by assuming that she has a key to her cell. I cannot imagine a person without history /culture / unconscious/ myth/ poiltics, any more than I can imagine a circle without a shape.

3. intl law is arrogant and elitist:
And there may yet be other problems with it: given that it is founded upon a western conception of reason, of the individual as the paramount moral and political unit, it may not even be able to understand, let alone accomodate other - African, Confucian, Islamic etc - conception of justice, rights, etc. Perhaps this is why it has very little legitimacy. Perhaps this lack of legitimacy is why it is so weak.  I don’t think that I am the only person that thinks it laughable that there are conventions against child labor, declarations on the equality of women, laws against slavery, and articles on the right of all to freedom from absolute poverty even as things flourish?

4. we have seen international reason be this way before, in the early twentieth century
Then too, the war to end all wars had been fought, and history had been proclaimed over. Then too they relied on international law based on reason alone without accounting for the powerful forces of nationalism, ideology, culture, history. Then too, the western elites met at conferences in nice places and solved the problems of the world at a stroke. And the twentieth century, by any measure, was an utter disaster. And here we are again.

5. Frankly, the high-flown rhetoric of intl law, coupled with its weakness, pisses me off a little bit.
Naively, I suppose, I can’t help but feel that that genocide isn’t cool. I find human rights chic, in the face of its obvious failures, frankly obscene.


6. By implication - international law should be founded on politics, history, culture; it should seek legitimacy by being founded upon consensus, an awareness or cultural diversity, on a better developed sense of solidarity. Let’s put the anthropological, the political, the love,  and the historical back into law. That is my suggestion, and I’m willing to devote an entire career to it.



BearGirl

Re: My Yale 250 - Have at it
« Reply #26 on: December 31, 2005, 01:14:03 PM »


Tone - I’m going for a sense of outrage to come through loud and clear. I’m going to law school because of that sense of outrage as much as for any other reason. I don’t feel like I need to have experienced a direct connection with a victm of genocide to be offended by it - I am hoping that it is enough that they are people, just like me. I am midful of the concerns that it comes off as arrogant, especially the concerns regarding the use of “we” and “our”. I see that, and I will try to find a way about it.



I disagree that the "we" and "our" part of the essay makes it seem arrogant.  I don't think that is the problem.  I liked you usage of "we" and "our."  It did sound folksy...

I did come away with a cold feeling though.  As I read it, I couldn't help but think that you were trying too hard to sound intellectual.  It didn't seem personal to me.  It was definitely a smart essay, but it left me cold.  You took on too much.

I would assume that admissions people are looking for original characters in these essays.  They already know that you are smart by looking at numbers.  These essays are a chance to show your personality.  Tell a story.  Be original.  Let them get to know you in this essay.  From what you have here, you are just another pair of thick black plastic glasses sipping a latte at a coffee shop.


PS:  Also, you need to clean up your punctuation...And I forgot to say that I think that writing about your sense of outrage is good!  It just needs to be stronger and more focused.

mobo

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Re: My Yale 250 - Have at it
« Reply #27 on: December 31, 2005, 02:30:28 PM »
damn. i can see how you tried to condense your six points into 250 words. and in rereading the essay knowing what you were going for, i can see it much better.

and in reading your post - THAT is the personal touch i was talking about earlier -  even though i didn't know how to put it as well as i see it now. it might have been the time of night too.

maybe the weakness is the combination of outrage with wryness? just a thought, but if you took a more informal tone overall in the 250, more similar to what you posted here, maybe it would would eliminate the know-it-all tone, but maintain the clarity of the argument you make.

redemption

Re: My Yale 250 - Have at it
« Reply #28 on: December 31, 2005, 02:36:13 PM »
I think you might be right, mobo. Outrage/wryness might not make for a nice cocktail.. You've seen my PS, though - it is so so devoid of law and intellect that I thought that I might.. umm... mention why I want to go to law school in this one without directly saying "I want to go to law school because I want to save the world". And honestly, the one thing - out of all the comments that I've received - that I really honestly don't see is what is so intellectual about it?! I thought I'd really dumbed it down, to tell you the truth.

mobo

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Re: My Yale 250 - Have at it
« Reply #29 on: December 31, 2005, 03:02:19 PM »
I think you might be right, mobo. Outrage/wryness might not make for a nice cocktail.. You've seen my PS, though - it is so so devoid of law and intellect that I thought that I might.. umm... mention why I want to go to law school in this one without directly saying "I want to go to law school because I want to save the world". And honestly, the one thing - out of all the comments that I've received - that I really honestly don't see is what is so intellectual about it?! I thought I'd really dumbed it down, to tell you the truth.

you have a way with those big words, darlin'.  :D :D ;D and you make an assumption (which may be well-founded considering your yls audience) that the reader will understand your references to other authors and disciplines. (take me for example, i kant even remember the last time i studied a thought-discipline. ohnoididnt)

you have some passionate, and very well-considered, ideas in your post - and if you can figure out how to get that into your 250 in as palatable an expression of your outrage as you did here, then you will do just what you set out to do - which is balance the ps (heart) with your brain. maybe you are simply over-thinking the delivery? it doesn't have to be punchy or clever to be memorable - if it rings true, it will touch the reader intellectually and emotionally - they won't need to agree with your conclusions to respect the thought and person behind the words.

your ps has room to show some analytical skills as well, so it isn't necessarily all one or the other. plus you are making the assumption that every reader of your application will read every essay...if they don't, you still want to give 'em a taste of what pleasant surprises are hidden elsewhere. just my very humble opinion...