You might see some estate-planning jargon accidentally slipping into this post because... I am in class right now. It almost never occurs to me to get out laptop during class. But in this case I can't resist the irony of tuning out lecture in order to come here and get on a soapbox about "student accountability." And while I'm in full confession mode—I skipped class last week for absolutely no reason (other than that I wanted to go drink coffee and read the Isthmus
). I blame Ethan; he's filling my head with dangerous ideas. You think I'm kidding.
I want to highlight a comment to yesterday
's post that was left by Chardrian
. He has a positive memory of his 1L year, which you don't hear too many people admit. But his overall impression of law school—more or less an ambivalent one—is shared by many. I'm paraphrasing: The luster had worn off by the middle of the second year, and things could definitely stand to be improved although I would be hard-pressed to say exactly how. Overall, it was okay, though.
It's a very honest and (like I said) widespread assessment, and one worth looking at. Ironically, I see a certain symmetry between it and the all too familiar experience we have with (not) getting feedback from our professors: You lost me a bit by about the middle of the second question, and your analysis could have been stronger but there were no glaring errors. You get an 85.
When we first got to law school we expected to be inspired. Or at least I did. (I suppose that's how a professor feels when she opens one of our blue book to read, too). And we were inspired. Or at least I was. How could I not have been after Whitford's Contracts class first semester? I give him a 92. But for most of us, if we ever even felt that way, it didn't last for too long into the second year. That is the point, I guess, at which we students begin to explore the joyful possibilities of skipping (or blogging during) class! No longer shooting for marks in the 90's--either in our expectations of ourselves or in our expectations of the school.
To get back to curriculum and to instructional-reform issues, Ethan, I'm shocked that you agree with me about the law school flunking more people out. I'm serious in my support of that proposal, interestingly, no one has surfaced yet that is willing to try to talk me out of it. Just curious, what's your opinion on the "sacred institution" of pass/fail classes?(*)
And in turning to what is our point of disagreement, you say that a better solution, at least insofar as changes in curriculum/instruction can help improve (what we'll call) student accountability, would be to (1) make "better use" of class time and (2) give students constructive feedback. If we focus on the first point, no matter how we define it, we're going to run smack dab into a wall of opposition to whatever we try to embrace as a better use. Should we even run the risk of getting derailed like that? And as for feedback--why is it that we've both made an implicit connection between it and student accountability? Can we get away with just assuming that the two are as related as we say they are?
* For non-UW Law Students: beginning in our second year we are allowed to take one class each semester pass/fail. It rocks.