The Environmental Cleanup of Toxic Academia (Update)

The emotional pleas for understanding the profound trauma that students are enduring in the aftermath of the Garner and Brown grand juries are coming fast and furious.  Harvard 3L and law review editor, William Desmond, gave it his best shot, only to be ridiculed for his melodramatic prose and vapid reasoning.

Oberlin student, Della Kurzer-Zlotnick sent an impassioned plea to her professor as a privileged white student on behalf of students of color, for accommodations, only to be met with a terse “no.”  This outraged her enough to issue a trigger warning based on his dismissiveness.  In the New Yorker, Harvard crimlaw prof Jeannie Suk, in a curiously conflicted post, explains why law professors are giving up teaching about rape:

But asking students to challenge each other in discussions of rape law has become so difficult that teachers are starting to give up on the subject. About a dozen new teachers of criminal law at multiple institutions have told me that they are not including rape law in their courses, arguing that it’s not worth the risk of complaints of discomfort by students. Even seasoned teachers of criminal law, at law schools across the country, have confided that they are seriously considering dropping rape law and other topics related to sex and gender violence. Both men and women teachers seem frightened of discussion, because they are afraid of injuring others or being injured themselves.

It’s easy to make fun of this burgeoning insanity, and indeed, it well deserves whatever ridicule it receives.  The primary enablers are academics, who have given away their classrooms to their special little snowflakes.  Frankly, the response of Professor Raney at Oberlin, the guy who said “no,” is both remarkable and refreshing. But Columbia Law School lacked his fortitude.

During a twitter discussion with David Ziff, who lectures at University of Washington Law School, he responded to my “just say no” to the inmates running the asylum with the astute point that it’s ineffective pedagogy. Students don’t respond well to a stiff slap these days.  Nobody has ever told them they’re wrong. Nobody has ever said to them “denied,” without a heart-rending explanation and gratuitous tummy rub. They can’t handle it.

Despite the sense of defeatism in Ziff’s point, there is a very real issue with the fact that these students are not merely sincere in their belief of entitlement, but absolute in their understanding that academia owes them accommodation of their every feeling.

How do we undo the environment that gives rise to these misguided demands that the academic world reshape itself around the emotional needs of every student?  Demanding that they go cold turkey is one approach, but I suspect Ziff is right that it just won’t work. Building on a lifetime of academic entitlement, it’s impossible to flip their narcissistic worldview of emotional hegemony upside down with a swift kick in the ass.

Ridiculing their wallowing in self-serving emotion might be fun for the rest of us, but will do little to help them to understand that they aren’t the center of the universe.  They won’t appreciate the joke, and they will reflexively be defensive.  That’s what comes of an excess of passion with a dearth of grasp.  They won’t get it.

But this cannot go on.  The minefield grows every moment, with every feeling of every student of every cut, whether real, imagined or so tiny that no one else can see it.  Suk’s revelation, that professors would rather give up teaching than enter the minefield is an outrage. It’s both a reflection on the Academy, one of cowardice in the face of responsibility, and the cumulative failure to teach children to grow up.

A few years ago, I urged law professors to take back the classroom. The trend was already quite clear, and would surely get worse if the slide wasn’t stopped.  It wasn’t.

They have questions, and demand not only prompt answers, but answers that validate them. The will not tolerate the Socratic Method, as it belittles them and reflects a lack of respect.  There are no longer wrong answers in law school, but just answers not as right as they could have been. And when a student disagrees, asserting that his answer is every bit as good as the one the professor “suggests,” they have no qualms about informing the professor of her error.

These problems seem almost quaint compared to what professors face today.

Student organizations representing women’s interests now routinely advise students that they should not feel pressured to attend or participate in class sessions that focus on the law of sexual violence, and which might therefore be traumatic. These organizations also ask criminal-law teachers to warn their classes that the rape-law unit might “trigger” traumatic memories. Individual students often ask teachers not to include the law of rape on exams for fear that the material would cause them to perform less well. One teacher I know was recently asked by a student not to use the word “violate” in class—as in “Does this conduct violate the law?”—because the word was triggering. Some students have even suggested that rape law should not be taught because of its potential to cause distress.

It’s unclear whether the professoriate has come to grips with the toxic environment for learning that has grown under their watch. Yet, Suk’s post suggests that they’re beginning to recognize that the curriculum, the concepts, even the frigging words they’re allowed to utter, are now dictated by the most absurdly delicate flower in their classroom.

Some academics likely share these ridiculous sensibilities, and are only too happy to limit their lectures to happy law rather than ableist slurs. They fail their students even as they promote their own agendas.  After all, why should students in criminal law be forced to learn the unpleasant trigger lessons of crimes?

Can this be changed by just ending the accommodation of every special snowflake’s emotional needs?  Is Ziff right, that this won’t work as they are incapable of hearing the words, “you’re wrong,” without curling up in a ball in the corner, screaming “hater”?  Can they be gently nudged back to reality, or does this perpetuate the misguided view that their entitlement dictates the world they’re constrained to endure?

No, not all students are like this. No, not all professors either. But the lowest common denominator rules, and is depriving students of the lessons they must learn and the maturation process they so desperately need.  By giving in to them, academia is failing them, and failing us as we expect them to competently take the reins some day.

Can we clean up the toxic waste dump of academia so that the environmental disaster of education doesn’t reach the stage of no return?

Update:  Sadly, Ziff chose not to offer his thoughts, here, but rather to write a post at his own blog.  After doing his best at turning me into a brutish cartoon character, he offers his deepest thought:

I’m not sure how Greenfield’s “smack” pedagogy gets them there. Yes, they need to be told “you’re wrong,” but just telling them “you’re wrong” does not help them get to “you’re right!” Greenfield’s law school sounds like a gauntlet, where every wrong answer is met with mockery and opprobrium, until… well, until what exactly? The student goes into a cocoon and comes out a self-confident spitfire like Greenfield himself? Sure, there are students who might succeed under such a system. But what about others who might not? Should we do as Greenfield suggests and send them away from law school to work at Dairy Queen?

Well, sure, my idea was just smack a kid every day until they graduate. Sharp eye there, Ziff.

And training the lads (or gals or whatever the other gendered forms of “lad” are) means, like it or not, understanding them, listening to them, and partnering with them on a common mission. Greenfield recoils at the idea that law professors “work with” their students. I fail to see a problem with that construction of education.

That sounds so sweet, “partnering with them on a common mission.”  Like holding hands ans skipping down a lovely road.  Thank the lord Ziff doesn’t coddle his students. He partners with them instead.

Now I know that Ziff isn’t the simplistic buffoon this suggests he is, so giving him the most charitable interpretation, I guess his point is that he’s a wonderful teacher, law schools do a spectacular  job, and all the students are awesome, while I’m just a mean old curmudgeon.

See? Problem solved. All these students aren’t a problem. All you need is a strawman, some empty rhetoric and a good place to hide from scrutiny.

Certainly, Ziff’s view is Ziff’s, so it can’t be attributed to all lawprofs. But don’t you feel better knowing that baby lawyer you just hired will be happy to partner with you on a common mission, so long as you respect his feelings? And don’t use any words that might trigger his profound trauma, because then he’ll need time off. Paid time off.

 

49 comments on “The Environmental Cleanup of Toxic Academia (Update)

  1. Kerwin White

    There’s an easy solution for cleanup of the toxic environment you mention–at least in law schools.

    Take every law student that’s protesting finals because they “can’t even” and upset because they’re worried about “triggers” and politely show them the door. If these kids are so hurt by the pressure of final exams, or upset about having to discuss the grey areas of sexual assault or domestic violence, they’re simply not ready to practice law, and they may never be.

    This will hurt rankings for law schools. It will deprive certain profs of a portion of their salaries. The SJDubs will end up outraged, and call for the next great moral outrage to begin. But the students that stick around just might turn out to be competent attorneys after they take the Bar.

    1. SHG Post author

      I’m reluctantly with you. The only thing holding me back is that these fragile flowers aren’t bad kids or stupid, but misguided. They’re raised in an environment that encourages this sense of entitlement. Can they be saved, or are they a lost cause?

      1. Patrick Maupin

        > Can they be saved, or are they a lost cause?

        Dunno, but I’d rather the system treat them as lost causes than hand them over as PDs to impoverished guys wrongly accused of rape.

        1. SHG Post author

          But they would never work as PDs and urge their clients accused of rape to plead guilty and demand the death penalty for their heinous crime. Oh wait.

      2. Kerwin White

        SHG, I think they can be saved. From experience, I tend to believe there are no inherently “bad” kids, and there’s no inherently “bad” people–just people put in bad situations. To save them, though, we’re going to need to start by teaching three principles not currently present in higher education:

        1. There is a difference between objective and subjective truth, and the former actually does exist.
        2. Words actually have meanings independent of those which you personally choose to assign.
        3. You can actually be empathetic toward another’s point of view without accepting it as truth.

        1. SHG Post author

          I agree with your ideas, but not sure they’re enough to do the trick. We’re still left with the problem of students incapable of surmounting their “hurtful” feelings. How do we break the cycle of self-indulgence and entitlement? How do we get their profs to work up the courage to tell them “no” when they need to be told “no”?

      3. JohnC

        “Harvard 3L and law review editor, William Desmond”
        Can the brain vomit? Can a metaphor be raped? I now know the answer to both is ‘yes.’

        “They’re raised in an environment that encourages this sense of entitlement.”
        To add on to this bit a while ago from Peggy Noonan, go buy yourself a bigger cup*:

        In terms of personal difficulties, they seem to have had less real-life experience, or rather different experiences, than their rougher predecessors. They grew up affluent in a city or suburb, cosseted in material terms, and generally directed toward academic and material success. Their lives seem to have been not crowded or fearful, but relatively peaceful, at least until September 2001, which was very hard.
        […]
        But this new leadership class, those roughly 35 to 40, grew up in a time when media dominated all. They studied, they entered a top-tier college, and then on to Washington or New York or Los Angeles. But their knowledge, their experience, is necessarily circumscribed. Too much is abstract to them, or symbolic. The education establishment did them few favors. They didn’t have to read Dostoevsky, they had to read critiques and deconstruction of Dostoevsky.

        I’m not sure it’s always good to grow up surrounded by stability, immersed in affluence, and having had it drummed into you that you are entitled to be a member of the next leadership class. To have this background in the modern era is to come from a ghetto, the luckiest ghetto in the world, a golden ghetto beyond whose walls it can be hard to see. There’s much to be said for suffering, for being on the outside or the bottom, for having to have fought yourself up and through. It can leave you grounded. It can give you real knowledge not only of the world and of other men but of yourself. In some ways it can leave you less cynical. (Not everything comes down to money.) And in some ways it leaves you just cynical enough.

        *Columbia students should probably hurry up while supplies last.

        1. JohnC

          Things of significance, ranked:
          1. Human Trafficking
          2. Ebola
          3. ISIS

          987,673. Having to (slightly) reach for the remote
          987,674. How current events impact a Harvard 3L’s GPA

          1. SHG Post author

            Point 987,674 is an interesting twist on the issue. Nothing stops the Harvard 3L from not taking his final because of his mental damage, or not taking his final because he’s far too busy fighting injustice. The complaint is that he doesn’t want either of these things to impact his GPA. You nailed it.

  2. David M.

    I spent my first year of college as a law student (no undergrad prereq in Germany). They really throw you in the deep end, too; when we weren’t crowded into lecture halls, we were being tutored on one of the countless fine points of civil law. Lots of moaning about the strain, &c.

    Typical college crap, right? Well, one day, I and 200 buddies were sitting through a lunchtime lecture on contracts, and two delicate teacups up front were having a conversation on the side. The professor twigged to it. Interrupted his sentence, turned the brightest shade of red I’ve ever seen (in like half a second!) and spent a full minute yelling at the top of his voice for those two kids to shut the fuck up. You could’ve heard a pin drop. It was magical. Afterwards, he resumed the lecture like nothing had happened.

    Then, instead of writing hand-wringing emails dripping with trigger warnings and class insecurity about it, we went out to lunch and had a laugh. Followed by more moaning, because exams.

  3. Roger

    Harvard, Columbia, Oberlin.

    I wonder if you’re indicting a generation when you should be indicting a sub-group within that generation. I got my JD from an institution that the generous might classify as 4th tier. Our professors knew that we were going to be working lawyers, not “thought leaders,” and trained us accordingly. Our contracts professor did not engage us in philosophical musings on whether it was ever truly possible for minds to meet. Instead, he taught us enough of the law of contracts to have a fair chance at passing the bar and not make too big an ass of ourselves in our first job. Some unbelievable trial attorneys were produced in that system. It was gratifying when I worked with folks from 1st-tier schools to see that the main thing separating us was a sense of entitlement, not competence.

    Jump forward 25 years and I had a niece graduate from my 4th-tier alma mater. If anything, the focus was even more practice-oriented than it had been when I attended. They still work on producing lawyers who might have a chance of earning a living practicing law. This year, there has been no talk of postponing finals because of Ferguson.

    If you spend 20 years telling a kid he is a bright shiny quarter surrounded by dull pennies, he’s likely to come to believe it, and believe that his special shininess entitles him to special treatment. Harvard, Columbia, and wannabes like Oberlin cherish their shiny quarters. That doesn’t mean that they’re not outnumbered by the hard-working pennies.

    1. SHG Post author

      Interesting point. Maybe you’re right. Having come from a 4th tier as well, we worked for a living, and didn’t have time to whine.

      1. Dan

        4th tier night student here.

        Definitely trained with a more practical approach, and it was ingrained in us from day 1 that we would be fighting our way through the profession with no special treatment. Learning upfront that your law school education will not make you special was kind of a downer, but sure made me more prepared and better equipped to deal with reality. A great way to learn in my opinion.

    2. Kerwin White

      “4th tier” guy here too, and I hit the ground running as soon as I got sworn in because, like SHG said, I didn’t have time to whine. Maybe those bigshot Ivy League institution names aren’t really worth the premium some people tend to put on them.

      But of course, I’m not saying anything we didn’t already know.

      1. Dan

        “Maybe those bigshot Ivy League institution names aren’t really worth the premium some people tend to put on them.”

        They are worth it for the social signal, not the education you actually get. Has always been that way.

      2. Roger

        This spurred me to check the latest rankings, and I find that my school has skyrocketed into the 3rd tier. I now sneer at you and SHG and your miserable 4th tier educations.

  4. Pingback: Batshit crazy law students « Hercules and the umpire.

  5. Zachary North

    I coach mock trial at Emory. Trial advocacy training tends to attract the students who think they want to get down to the nitty-gritty practicalities. That’s what they think going in, at least. I’ve had teams where all the students handle a date-rape fact pattern with rigor and professionalism. I’ve also had teams where students cried when we “just kept objecting.”

    If a student’s work is terrible, myself and the two other attorneys I coach with call a spade a spade, and to their face. It becomes pretty clear when a student has never been exposed to that before. They feel bad. Good. They ought to feel bad about bad work. It’s their fault. Feeling bad shows me that they care.

    At the end of process, however, most of the time the students come around. I think it’s related to them eventually understanding that:

    1) We have other jobs, and so we don’t care if they’re upset,
    2) We know what we’re talking about,
    3) We will teach them how to do it right,
    4) Their team is depending on them.

    Some of that is, I guess, impractical for professors in a classroom setting. But it works for us.

    1. SHG Post author

      A similar issue arose with Cardozo’s Intensive Trial Advocacy Program, where I taught. Rather than “come around,” the students complained, wrote angry reviews, and the profs in charge decided to excise trial lawyers who didn’t conform to their students’ delicate sensitivities.

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  7. Myles

    So here’s what I don’t understand. You weren’t mean to Ziff in your post, yet in his response, he’s a total dick. Sure, his reponse is facially idiotic, but that’s the least of it. He’s just an asshole.

    1. SHG Post author

      Apparently, Ziff’s feelings were sufficiently wounded that he needed to lash out. Beats me why he behaved so poorly.

      1. David Ziff

        Eh, I’m not wounded. Sorry if I came off sounding like an asshole. That was not my intention. I know that Scott enjoys a fiery rhetorical style from time to time, so I figured he wouldn’t mind a bit of the same.

        As for whether Scott’s initial post was “mean”… meh. Certainly it was meant to insult law students, and as someone who has a full-time job teaching law students, perhaps I went a bit “Mama Grizzly,” to use Sarah Palin’s phrase.

        And as for me personally: Myles, I’m not sure how you read Scott’s initial post, but his point seems to be that my teaching methods are what is wrong with legal academia and that the students I’m churning out are what’s wrong with young lawyers. In other words: I’m shitty at my job, since my job is to create effective young lawyers. And he was not talking about law professors in general; he called me out by name. [Am I allowed to link to that scene from The Wire where Marlo yells about his name being in the streets? Just imagine I did that here.]

        That doesn’t hurt my feelings, not at all. I don’t suffer from a delicate ego. But if you (or Scott) thought the response was going to be something along the lines of “Aw shucks mister, I guess you’re right,” well, you miscalculated.

        I certainly doubt Scott was offended or hurt by my response. But if he was, well, he knows I give tummy rubs and he knows where to find me.

        1. SHG Post author

          On the contrary, I named you because you raised a good question about how best to address the problems, not because you were shitty at your job. I put you in there as one of the good guys, David. You put yourself in the shitty category.

          Now I don’t mind fiery rhetoric at all, but you still have to be reasonably accurate when trying to characterize my point. By reducing it to the absurd, you not only failed to defend your position, but you made yourself look foolish. Again, I didn’t make you. You did. And the worst part is that I know you aren’t, and can’t for the life of my figure why you would do that to yourself.

          In any event, let’s clarify one thing: associates work for partners. Lawyers work for clients. When all is going easy, it’s swell to sing Kumbaya, but when the shit hits the fan (as it does in every practice area), then the boss gives orders, the subordinate follows them, they do exemplary work no matter what, and if that hurts their feelings, that’s too bad. That’s how law gets done, and any lawyer who says otherwise is lying to you.

          1. David Ziff

            Well, okay then. I still fail to see how your post, especially in the context of our previous twit-versation, could be interpreted as anything other than disapproving of my teaching methods. Of course, you don’t claim that I have sinister motives for those methods, but obviously you think (a) law schools are coddling students and churning out ill-prepared “tea cup” students, and (b) my attitude toward teaching is part of the “coddling” problem. But if I’m wrong on those points, I’m happy to be corrected.

            As for mischaracterizing your point, I admit I attempted to get to the heart of your point, which perhaps you would characterize differently, but I really don’t think we disagree. You mock the idea of viewing students as partners in an educational mission. You think it not possible to both tell them plainly and clearly that they are wrong, and also help them get to “right” by listening to their reasoning, working with them, etc, without that somehow weakening them or representing a capitulation to some offensive youth entitlement. I think partnership and working with students is a good thing. So we disagree.

            But I do agree that when the shit hits the fan, the boss calls the shots. Certainly, when I’m grading, I call the shots. I pull no punches there. But teaching is about more than grading; it’s also about helping a student down a path toward understanding and being able to stand on his/her own two feet. Sometimes that requires pushing the student to get on the right path. Sometimes that requires walking with them a bit. Sometimes that requires holding them up. And so on. For some reason, those ideas seem valueless to you. But to me those are things worth defending.

            Anyway, to the extent I’m no longer one of the “good guys,” I’m sorry, and I’m disappointed in that. I figured after meme-ing me with tummy scratches, calling my students “teacups,” and saying I cared more about making them feel good than about teaching them, you could stand a few retorts about being a curmudgeon who just doesn’t like “these darn kids today with their feelings and their rock ‘n roll!” But perhaps I was out of line. I guess we’ll leave it to the readers to decide.

            (P.S. I’ve never heard anything but good things from Judges about my former students, so you can add that information to your records.)

            1. SHG Post author

              David,

              I appreciate that it’s in vogue to wrap pedagogy in a pretty ribbon of warm and fuzzy words, but the flowery rhetoric doesn’t conceal the fact that students come to law school to learn how to become lawyers. They aren’t paying for a “partner in the educational mission”; they’re paying for a teacher. They are students. You (and the rest) are teachers. What teachers do is teach students. What students do is learn from teachers.

              This isn’t a meetup of equals, a respectful discussion amongst colleagues. You know law. They do not. After the robust discussion of what they think, and you explain what Palsgraf stands for, it’s not an ongoing debate. You win. You are the prof. They are the students. When they misstate a holding, they are not “less than correct,” they are wrong.

              And when they go out there in the big ugly world, and the judge says “denied,” they do not get to explain to the judge the top ten reasons why they feel that the judge is wrong and unfair, unless they want to spend the night in lockup for contempt. And the client will not be understanding that his cause was lost, his life impacted, but their young lawyer felt very good about his effort and that the judge was a very mean person.

              And then they write the crap contained in the post above, it reflects a grossly misguided perspective of the importance of their feelings relative to their responsibility and the universe. Part of your job as lawprof is to let them know that the universe doesn’t exist to be their respectful partner, because lawyers don’t get to take money to be responsible for other people’s lives while suffering narcissistic delusions that it’s all about them.

              So do I mock what’s happening. You bet your ass I do. Whether you handle your teaching duties that way is a separate issue. That the students above are the product of this status quo is clear; no student should ever come out of law school thinking that the law is all about their feelings rather than their duty to the clients. When they do, law profs failed.

        2. Myles

          I didn’t read SHG’s post as saying you were turning out “wrong” lawyers at all, but I do read your response as being insufferably shallow at best, and intentional misrepresentation of what SHG wrote at worst.

          What I didn’t see before, but do from your comment here, is that you took a post that was clearly about lawprofs in general to be all about you, and that;s why you read it as a personal attack when it was nothing of the sort. While SHG (not to mention every experienced lawyer who works with new lawyers) talks about narcissism, you couldn’t have made yourself a better example of it. That’s how I read it.

  8. Oscar Michelen

    What else an we expect when law schools hire law professors that have never really practiced. For example, both Ziff and Suk went from law school to clerkships to brief stints in practice. They are only a few years removed from the classroom themselves and most of the few years in between they were in the ivory tower of a federal judge’s chambers. They simpy can’t see how the manner in which students are being coddled will not help those students when they get into practice because they ahve never been in practice. Ziff seems to forget that most law students expect law professors to prepare them to be practicing lawyers not academics on a common mission.

    1. SHG Post author

      Ironically, I’ve hard from a few judges today applauding this post. They see the problem and can’t believe the whining and entitlement that’s coming out of law schools. What they may tolerate from their clerks isn’t what they would tolerate as lawyers.

  9. Neil Dunn

    I think that one factor for this generation’s outcome to date is unearned self esteem promoted in large measure by their elders. A Dennis Prager paraphrase: how can children prosper when everyone who participates receives a tie for first place award for merely breathing.

  10. Rob L.

    You are not alone. Engineering is awful too. Endemic, institutionalized academic dishonesty is causing a dangerous lack of knowledge in the people tasked with designing and building the things people actually use. And drive. It’s dangerous, and it’s going to get someone killed, if it hasn’t already…

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  13. sillyaccountant

    I don’t disagree with anything you’ve said. These people need to be mercilessly mocked and derided.

    But in large part, I think the universities bring it upon themselves. They have turned themselves from non-profit educators into real business enterprises. They run law schools as a business – they lie about their outcomes, they pander to their students/customers, they squeeze out every dollar they can get like a business would.

    When the baby boomers grew up, they would have paid maybe $5,000 or $10,000 in today’s dollars to go to Oberlin, and far less to go to a public school. It was a public service provided by either well-meaning secular or religious groups, or it was a state service provided to citizens. That’s a lot different from how it is now, when law schools cost so much more.

    If I pay $50,000 a year for a service, the professor damn well better respect what I say, and treat me like I treat my clients (I’m an accountant). If I ever paid $50,000 a year for personal service from someone and they replied to my email with “No,” I would be justifiably upset with them. If someone responded like that when I paid $5,000 a year to receive a public service, then no. The law schools have set it up such that it is reasonable for students to expect that they are the clients, not just “students,” and should be treated like clients. You can’t charge someone, in total over 3 years, $150,000-$200,000 for a service and not coddle them. As a service provider (which again, these universities have willingly signed up to be in order to make more money), you have to meet the clients’ expectations or accept the consequences. Either treat your clients the way they expect, or get new clients that pay you less money. That’s how it goes, always, in all service businesses.

    It’s the same way you can’t tell someone, “The world doesn’t owe you a thing,” and then insist upon all the ways that that person should behave. You can’t say, “Well, this is the real world,” and then be pissed when that person doesn’t give two weeks notice or quits in the middle of tax busy season and says, “Screw off.”

    Baby boomers need to stop thinking they are entitled to have it both ways. It is quite reasonable to be incredibly angry at someone for charging you $50,000 and their employees (the prof) don’t read your emails or give it due consideration.

    1. SHG Post author

      I don’t disagree with anything you’ve said. These people need to be mercilessly mocked and derided.

      Whoa. Nobody is suggesting that they be “mocked and derided,” except Ziff (who uses those words as a strawman because he’s otherwise shooting blanks). They need to be told the truth, even when it doesn’t bolster their self-esteem. They need to learn that the world does, indeed, judge, and that when they’re wrong, they will be adjudged wrong. But not mocked and derided. That’s not the point at all.

      As for the cost of an education, where do you attribute that to baby boomers? I agree with you completely that the price of college is ridiculously high, but that’s attributable to the educational establishment’s need to fund itself, not to boomers. You’re conflating things here. Boomer profs are largely gone, and this money is going to research for Gen X and younger.

      But that said, education isn’t a consumer good, where you spend $50k and get to tell your profs how you demand they treat you as you would the guy who sold you a refrigerator. So no, it’s not the same. The pedagogical relationship isn’t anything like a consumer transaction, and to try to pigeonhole it that way is a gross mistake.

      1. sillyaccountant

        I would argue that a legal education is a business expense, like buying a refrigerator or hiring a consultant. It is a massive credentialing/licensing expense. It isn’t really “education” like a history degree is, or in the sense of a “liberal arts education.”

        The law schools have basically given up the right to be treated as “pedagogical institutions” by charging so much money for their services. When the baby boomers went to school, and the bills were paid by the state or by the alumni of their educational institutions (by somebody else, essentially), I suppose that an educational exception to the market economy could have been carved out. It may once have made sense to speak of a “pedagogical relationship” outside the realm of the market economy. No longer. It doesn’t make sense to put a university outside the usual monetary relationship by saying it is a pedagogical institution. Anybody paying as much money as this girl is going to expect a certain level of treatment. If I pay X, I expect to be treated differently than if I paid Y (for pretty much anything).

        The schools are largely trying to have it both ways – both making incredible amounts of money and then saying, “Oh, we are an educational institution, we treat you a certain way that we want, we aren’t really part of the market economy where there are clients and service providers.” Maybe that stance works if you are Harvard, but I doubt it will work at Oberlin. They have brought it upon themselves.

        If you don’t agree that the elites in the baby boomer generation want to have their cake and eat it too, then I probably cannot convince you.

        1. SHG Post author

          First, let’s separate out your boomer point, which has no factual basis nor nexus to your larger argument, which is far more interesting.

          Second, as to your larger argument,

          I would argue that a legal education is a business expense, like buying a refrigerator or hiring a consultant. It is a massive credentialing/licensing expense. It isn’t really “education” like a history degree is, or in the sense of a “liberal arts education.”

          The woman who complained about the dismissive “no” was an undergrad, not a law student, so your factual premise fails. Still, you offer nothing to distinguish a legal education from any other type of education. To call it a “massive credentialing/licensing expense” isn’t accurate, even though it is a prerequisite to licensing. It may be an imperfect education, but it is most assuredly an education. While your point is somewhat intriguing, you haven’t offered any support for your argument.

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