The Usual Academic Jeremiad

Undertaking my week’s class-reading, I just took 3 hours to read 3 pages.

This because I actually took the time to think about what I was reading.


Fortunately these three pages (out of 60, but still) were so
thought-provoking as to benefit from such rigorous consideration. They
caused me to stop and sit back and think; to stand up and make
extemporaneous rebuttal; to engage in fanciful debate with conjured
repondants*, to run to my (digital) dictionary to look up the precise
meaning of nuanced words; and to, as rarely enough occurs, feel the
need to run to my bookshelf in order to consult with other texts.

(In this case the texts consulted were the Bible, the Leviathan,
Chernow writing on Schumpeter, and Byron writing on Bonivard – which
of course says more about me than the text, but if one has heard
sayings about me already, one will know that the consultation thereof
as paratexts is a praise without peer for the text itself.)

(I would have consulted Cryptonomicon, I’m sure… but at this point
it’s not like I really need to.)

Unfortunately, there are two facets to law school: classroom
participation, and the final examination.

The latter is (supposedly) based on the application of abstract
principles to hypothetical situations and and such the aforementioned
rigorous consideration will be of benefit.

These examinations occur in late December.

The former, classroom participation, is based upon being quizzed on
the specifics of the case, to prove that we have done the reading &
can purport to a modicum of ability with that esoteric skill, basic
reading comprehension.

This occurs for an average of six hours a day. Five days a week. Fifteen weeks.

In short, if classes were not based on this particular pedagogical
strategem (which the professors, to my very significant ire, refer to
as “the Socratic Method” – ire at their monopolistic use of the
definite article to say nothing of our VARIANCE OF DEFINITION) – I
could spend less time memorizing facts on the offchance that I will
be called upon, and more time THINKING.

The utility of this suggestion is underscored even within the extant
constraints of success in law school, as THINKING will help on my
exams (which are graded), and ROTE FACTUAL RECITATION will help only
in the classroom (which is not graded per se – but if one misses too
many classes, or is ‘unprepared’ for too many that one does attend,
one may be barred from taking the examination at all – a kind of
pass/fail multiplier, where one must meet the threshold of x equalling
one, so that one is not dragged to the drowning-yard by x=0)

…thus we are returned to the grand ol’ Hampshire Theorem, so
curiously articulated by Herb Bernstein, professor of physics**, as to
have wedged itself in my mind: “[mandatory classroom
attendance] rewards teaching, rather than learning.” If classroom
attendance was optional, or participation therein able to be
self-determined (to say nothing of a reevaluation of the participation
offered/required)… I could spend more time THINKING, and thus
LEARNING, and thus, if the system judges what it believes it does,
even get a BETTER GRADE for my trouble.

Or conversely I could spend more time out in the sunshine and less
time sniffing the savory odor of highlighters. The decision, at least,
would be mine.

It is impossible to feel that the removal of this decision is the
result of a lack of trust on the part of the academy for students to
make the aforegiven decision in a manner consistent with the academy’s
values. Which I would say is, at best, the extremity of
condescension… and at worst, the sacrificing of high outliers in
favor of a shallow raise in the lowest common denominator.

Or, in other words: I miss being able to learn on my own. Fuckin’
school, man. Fuckin’ school.

* one of my favorite pasttimes, signs of my awesome genius or the fact that I
really need to find a girl.

** viz.


~ by davekov on 8 September 2013.

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