The New Paper Chase

Under the title, “Reclaim Harvard Law School,” a list of demands has been proffered.

For years, students and other members of the HLS community have called out for contextualized learning that draws connections between the law and social subordination based on race, gender, and class; for a more genuine commitment to rooting out racism and other forms of mistreatment on campus; for increased resources to welcome and support students from disadvantaged backgrounds; and for significantly greater transparency in decisions made by the administration. Those voices have largely gone unheard.

There could be a reason those voices have “largely gone unheard.” It’s a law school. Its mission is to teach its students the law so that they can become lawyers. Its mission is not to “contextualize learning,” whatever that means, “that draws connections between the law and social subordination based on race, gender, and class.”

Among the demands to achieve this goal is:

Address Harvard Law School’s legacy of slavery by removing the Royall family crest from Harvard Law School’s official seal and creating a permanent physical memorialization of the enslaved victims of the Royall family.

A symbolic gesture, changing nothing about American history, but if it makes the kids feel better, whatever.

Establish a Critical Race Program at Harvard Law School, with meaningful student input and transparency. The program should include at least one tenured faculty position for a Critical Race Theorist and provide support for students who are interested in challenging elite institutions and exploring the connections between the law and racial power.

This would make some sense as an undergraduate program. If HLS students neglected to take it before going to law school, then it’s unclear how that makes it Harvard’s fault.  However, if they feel the need for more, they can always watch youtube videos that validate their worth to their hearts’ content.

And then we get the meat:

Reform the existing mandatory legal curriculum at Harvard Law School, through meaningful student input and transparency, to ensure the integration of marginalized narratives and a serious study into the implications of racism, white supremacy, and imperialism in creating and perpetuating legal analysis and thought.

The first year curriculum at Harvard Law School is pretty much like any other law school:

The first-year required courses in criminal law, contracts, civil procedure, torts, legislation and regulation, property , and the problem solving workshop are taught in the sections. First-year students satisfy the requirement of a spring elective course in international or comparative law by choosing among a number of courses in those areas. In addition, first-year students choose an elective from the upper-level curriculum during the spring semester. First-year students also take Legal Research and Writing (LRW). This introduction to lawyering complements the other first-year required course work by teaching basic methods of legal analysis, effective written and oral communication of legal concepts and conclusions, and essential legal research tools and methodologies.

There is nothing about this curriculum that “ensure[s] the integration of marginalized narratives and a serious study into the implications of racism, white supremacy, and imperialism in creating and perpetuating legal analysis and thought.”  Instead, the curriculum is directed toward turning minds of mush into students capable of thinking like lawyers.

The demand is that Harvard Law School turn minds of mush into validated minds of mush.

It’s one thing for undergrads to be self-indulgent children who believe they’re entitled to a redesigned education to provide them with confirmation of their feelings. Everybody knows that undergrad humanities majors leave school with no viable skills anyway, so no harm, no foul.

But law school is different. It’s a dedicated education, despite lawprofs’ insistence that it shouldn’t be a “mere” trade school.  That would be fine, after the students learn what it means to be a lawyer.  Picasso was a brilliant realist painter before he went all blue and cubist.  Master the necessary skills, and then put them to use any damn way you please.

What’s the big deal if Harvard Law School students demand to go all fuzzy?  That others will follow, because it’s the 800 pound gorilla of law schools.  That students will emerge from law school without the necessary capacity to learn how to be lawyers.  That the students will feed off the legacy (the one they hate) to enjoy the fruits of being Harvard Law grads, and apply their politics to the law as they assume positions of prominence in the law.  That the law will fall to shit in the wake of critical race theory where stuff like due process and equal protection ought to rule.

Bad as the demands may be at undergraduate schools across the nation, they reflect a grand waste of money, time and effort that should go into giving young people an education so that they can achieve their goals in life, whatever they might be.  But law school is different. Its purpose is to create people who would be lawyers.

There is only one appropriate response to these demands.  Martha Minow, dean of Harvard Law School, needs to go to the bank this morning, get a few rolls of dimes, and hand them out to the students.  Yes, I know that they no longer need dimes to call home, but the students seem to have strong feelings about symbolism.

There are no doubt many students, of differing colors, genders, etc., who would love to make use of the opportunity provided by Harvard Law School.  If the current crop doesn’t think it’s worth their while to attend and learn how to become lawyers, then the seats shouldn’t be squandered on students who have no interest in learning to practice law.

As for this guy, HLS admissions did its job.  As for others, a mind is a terrible thing to waste.

12 thoughts on “The New Paper Chase

  1. Sacho

    Hopefully you still have that policy of not posting spelling corrections!

    Thank you for your regular posts! I had no idea there was a fight to “uplift” law schools from “mere trade schools” to proper progressive institutions of enlightened brainwashing.

    1. SHG Post author

      I do still have that policy. I’m a huge believer that dichotomy between “trade school” and whatever the hell else prawfs want law school to be is a false dichotomy. They can teach, and they can learn, both over their time in law school. But ultimately, if they can’t practice law, then they’re just philosophy students, destined to a life of pointless masturbation.

      If they wish to use their skills for progressive causes when they’re done with law school, they’re allowed. But law school is to learn the skills.

  2. Max Kennerly

    If the “#1” problem at Harvard Law School is the presence of a symbol so obscure that you have to explain to people why it’s a problem, then things aren’t so bad.

    1. SHG Post author

      And I thought it was just me who struggled to feel the pain of marginalized students at Harvard fucking Law School.

  3. JAV

    It is nonsense to take the considerable investment of a legal education and shovel it into something that could be learned by steeping in some Tumblr echo chamber for a month or so. It’s a greater waste since the education provided by the demands would do little more than preach to the choir, and irritate the rest. If the people behind these demands were serious, they’d do a lot better by trying to offer this information by themselves than expecting the school to do it.

    1. SHG Post author

      They don’t really want, or need, this education for themselves. They want it to be taught to those “others” who thought they were going to HLS to learn how to be a lawyer.

  4. losingtrader

    ” Picasso was a brilliant realist painter before he went all blue and cubist. ”
    And what of the tits he drew on newspaper cartoon characters that are in the museum of his name in Barcelona? So I’d change this to add ..”…and pervy.” But you don’t have to be brilliant to be blue, cubist, and pervy.

    Why do so many of these law school reports you post seem like diving down a teflon-coated rabbit hole? Oops,forgot teflon has been banned and rabbit holes should be banned from SJ. Your affinity for the latter is disturbing.

  5. EH

    I was actually struck by this part:

    “Create a mandatory 1L course that addresses and contextualizes racial justice and inequality in the law, with respect to both historical issues and recent events. (The course must have a credit level that reflects its equal or greater importance to traditional 1L courses.)

    Not only must it be included, but it must be raised up!

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