Like many alums (including Steve Bainbridge), I've been increasingly dismayed at the Board of Visitors summary firing of Theresa Sullivan in only her second year as president of the University of Virginia. I won't get into the merits, although I've recently written on a related topic in the context of for-profit boards, and I am kicking myself for not getting a draft up on SSRN. The Washington Post quotes Jane Batton, of the Batton family that is arguably the biggest donor in the school's history (clocking in at a cool $170 million): "There may be good reason to replace President Sullivan — I don’t know — but it was handled in the worst possible way that has caused damage to the university." That sounds about right.
On the meta-level, what's struck me is how different my experience of this controversy is compared to what it would have been 6 years ago. Back then, I would have been obsessively following the story, checking the Daily Progress, WaPo, the Richmond-Times Dispatch, and using Google searches to get the latest. Maybe I would have been cc'd on an email blast from a concerned alum.
Now, every morning I scroll through my friends' status updates (yes, I'm on Facebook. No, if you're a current student you cannot friend me) and get up to speed on what's happened. More than that, by commenting on others' status updates I've talked with people passionately interested in this topic, many of them strangers, engaging in a real back and forth of ideas and questions. Friends that I'd forgotten or never known had any connection with Virginia shared their thoughts and concerns and conspiracy theories. Facebook (and Larry Sabato's twitter feed) have connected me to events unfolding 500 miles away to a degree that I find hard to believe.
No, my point isn't just that social media can be transformative. Yes, I have heard of the Arab spring. But even in a non-repressive regime, Facebook has its uses. Facebook scorn is somewhat in vogue now. Bumbled IPO, no path to profit, who uses it anyway? Rich Karlaard of Forbes writes: "I have not visited my Facebook page in two months. Almost every professional person I talk to who is over 25 years old has grown bored with Facebook."
I'm not bored. When something's happening in a corner of the world I care about, Facebook delivers. On ordinary days there's certainly time-suckage, but I'm not the kind of worker that can go non-stop. I need breaks between substantive work.
And Facebook beats the heck out of my old standby, Minesweeper.
Near my hometown, there was a ranch that covered 3 million acres called the "XIT Ranch." The myth (which seems to be wrong) was that the cattle brand "XIT" stood for "Ten in Texas." The story stuck, and the term "Ten in Texas" has been used for any number of things. Maybe because it's just catchy. Ten is a nice round number. So maybe that's why in February Gov. Rick Perry challenged each of the Texas universities to come up with a university degree that costs $10,000. Not per year, total. A number that is, in fact, 1/4 to a 1/3 of what Texas university degrees cost now, without room and board (Texas costs $41,168 without room and board).
So, Texas universities are now rolling out their $10,000 plans. Most of these have a common theme: get the bulk of your degree somewhere else. (Sort of like that joke, "How do you get a million dollars? First, start with two million dollars.") The plans fall into two categories: the high school/university combo or the community college/university combo.. The first type of plan requires students to take college-level courses during high school, probably at a community college, then finish at a particular campus. The Texas A&M plans like this so far require students to finish at A&M -- Commerce or A&M San Antonio, and can choose from a small number of majors. The University of Texas system has delivered a proposal at on of its campuses, UT - Permian Basin, the Texas Science Scholars Program, which enrolls a small number of students who are able to test out of a chunk of math and science and go on a limited number of STEM majors. The students must maintain a 3.0 in these courses. The degree costs more than the $2500 a year, but is subsidized by enrolling more students at UT-Permian Basin paying the full cost. In other words, it's not really a $10,000 degree, it's a scholarship program.
My own university, Texas Tech, is finalizing a plan that would require applicants to have finished 80 hours at a community college, then 40 hours at Tech.
So, I wouldn't say that any Texas university has created a $10,000 degree. They have created limited programs to award the final 1/3 to 1/2 of a degree, or they have created small scholarship programs subsidized internally. None of these are bad ideas, of course, and they are based on what already happens. Texas students have been taking cheaper courses at community colleges and transferring since forever, and Texas universities have been admitting students on scholarships forever. (I had the $0 degree.) And, students have been going to non-flagship campuses, which are cheaper, for a long time. So these new programs aren't really going to change the cost of a Texas degree much at all, and they aren't going to change the face of university education any time soon.
The College of Management
Faculty Position in Business Law
The College of Management at the Georgia Institute of Technology is seeking applications for a faculty position in Business Law beginning Fall 2013. Applications at the associate and full professor level will be considered. Preferred areas of expertise include, but are not limited to, intellectual property, environmental law and/or sustainability, and legal aspects of health care. A Juris Doctor and evidence of scholarly research and the ability to teach the College's business law offerings at the undergraduate and graduate level are required. The normal course load is three courses per academic year. Excellence in teaching and a high level of research productivity are expected.
The College of Management is AACSB accredited and has over 1300 undergraduate students, almost 500 MBA students, 59 Ph.D. students, and almost 150 students in the Management of Technology Executive MBA program, and the Global Executive MBA program.
The MBA program is ranked 32nd by U.S. News & World Report and 23rd by Bloomberg Business Week. The College is housed in a state of the art $55 million facility in midtown Atlanta. The College is the home of the Technology Innovation: Generating Economic Results (TI:GER), a U.S. Department of Education funded Center for International Business Education and Research (CIBER), and the Institute for Leadership and Entrepreneurship. The College hosts an annual Roundtable on Engineering Entrepreneurship Research, and an Impact Speakers Series featuring CEOs of technology companies. The College provides an intellectually stimulating research environment. Faculty members are active in research and publish in leading journals, books, monographs, and conference proceedings.
The College of Management offers a competitive salary and outstanding benefits. Additional information regarding the College can be found at www.mgt.gatech.edu.
To apply, please send a vita and cover letter indicating your education, relevant experience, research publications and interests no later than October 1, 2012 to email@example.com.
A part of our process involves capturing statistical information on our applicants. To participate, please complete the form found at: http://mgt.gatech.edu/downloads/ga~tech~disclosure.doc and email it to
Packages sent by mail will not be accepted. All documents must be in Microsoft Word or Adobe.pdf format.
Georgia Tech is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer which values diversity.
A few days ago, the NYT published an article about a recent study that show that the education gap between high and low income families is growing. Both the gap between those in the 10th and 50th percentile, between 50th and 90th percentile, and 10th and 90th percentile are growing as measured by test scores of children. And, the gap is present in kindergarten and doesn't narrow or widen appreciably. Finally, this gap has widened at the same time that the racial achievent gap has narrowed substantially.
The author of the study situates it in within the current income disparity debate (title: "The Widening Academic Achievent Gap Between the Rich and the Poor"), as does the NYT article ("Education Gap Grows Between Rich and Poor"). However, the author notes that his findings do not confirm or support the theory that the academic gap is primarily a result of the growing income disparity between the top 1% and the rest of the country. More important, the author finds, is that above the median income, families are investing more in their children per earned dollar and getting results. The author cites to studies describing how, in the past few decades, child-rearing advice has shifted from how to keep small children clean, well and quiet to how to keep them stimulated and jump start their learning processes. This study, cited by the NYT, shows the increase in dollars spent on children split into income deciles. And, as these families earn more dollars, they continue to spend the same percentage (more dollars) on their children.
What interests me is that these articles and studies suggest that there is a serious problem here. And, presumably, that this is a problem that should be corrected, though no one is suggesting how. I guess I'm crazy, but there's an underlying story here that is positive. People are investing in their children, and their children are benefitting from the additional hours and dollars that parents spend today. Nowhere in these studies does it say that the 10th percentile are testing worse at the end of the time period than at the beginning. (They also don't say that the 10th percentile are doing better, but I presume that if that group were doing worse, then it would benefit the study to say so.) So, we have had a net increase in parental investment. Isn't that a good thing? Obviously, it would be a better thing if every child in the study had the highest amount of parental involvement observed, regardless of income. And, there is a sobering reality that the parents of the children in the 10th percentile do not have the same amount of time or money to invest as those in the 90th percentile. And, it is very bad news that in the lower deciles, real income is decreasing. But what is the solution?
One of those quoted in the articles stresses that the difference is in parenting, not in pure income. So, giving families more money to spend is not going to necessary result in more investment of time or money. If this was a consequence of kids going to school without three meals a day or materials, then government can try to fix that, a la the War on Poverty. Or, if the gap widened during K-12, then have more public investment in education in low-income schools. But it's unclear what strategy is necessary to duplicate an existence in the upper deciles in which children are more likely to have two educated and involved parents with time to devote to modern parenting strategies and therefore show up in kindergarten at an advantage.
But in the meantime, these studies seem to strike a tone that it's lamentable that 90th percentile earners are engaging in "concerted parenting." (For those of you wondering, 90th percentile would be a family with one BigLaw junior associate and an at-home spouse. The tenth decile begins there and ends with Mark Zuckerberg.) Whether we use the phrase "Tiger Mom" or "Helicopter Parent," we should applaud more engaged parenting, right?
Thanks to Erik Gerding for the opportunity to share some of my ideas on corporate criminal liability, Dodd-Frank, corporate influences on individual behavior and educating today's law students only three months into my new academic career. I appreciate the thoughtful and encouraging emails I received from many of you. I even received a request for an interview from the Wall Street Journal after a reporter read my two blog posts on Dodd-Frank conflicts minerals governance disclosures. We had a lengthy conversation and although I only had one quote, he did link to the Conglomerate posts and for that I am very grateful.
I plan to make this site required reading for my seminar students, and look forward to continuing to learn from you all.
Best wishes for the holiday season and new year.
Law schools are under attack. Depending upon the source, between 20-50% of corporate counsel won’t pay for junior associate work at big firms. Practicing lawyers, academics, law students and members of the general public have weighed in publicly and vehemently about the perceived failure of America’s law schools to prepare students for the real world.
Admittedly, before I joined academia a few months ago, I held some of the same views about lack of preparedness. Having worked with law students and new graduates as outside and in house counsel, I was often unimpressed with the level of skills of these well-meaning, very bright new graduates. I didn’t expect them to know the details of every law, but I did want them to know how to research effectively, write clearly, and be able to influence the clients and me. The first two requirements aren’t too much to expect, and schools have greatly improved here. But many young attorneys still leave school without the ability to balance different points of view, articulate a position in plain English, and influence others.
To be fair, unlike MBAs, most law students don’t have a lot of work experience, and generally, very little experience in a legal environment before they graduate. Assuming they know the substantive area of the law, they don’t have any context as to what may be relevant to their clients.
How can law schools help?
First, regardless of the area in which a student believes s/he wants to specialize, schools should require them to take business associations, tax, and a basic finance or accounting course. No lawyer can be effective without understanding business, whether s/he wants to focus on mom and pop clients, estate planning, family law, nonprofit, government or corporate law. More important, students have no idea where they will end up after graduation or ten years later. Trying to learn finance when they already have a job wastes the graduate’s and the employer’s time.
Of course, many law schools already require tax and business organizations courses, but how many of those schools also show students an actual proxy statement or simulate a shareholder’s meeting to provide some real world flavor? Do students really understand what it means to be a fiducuiary?
Second and on a related point, in the core courses, students may not need to draft interrogatories in a basic civil procedure course, but they should at least read a complaint and a motion for summary judgment, and perhaps spend some time making the arguments to their brethren in the classroom on a current case on a docket. No one can learn effectively by simply reading appellate cases. Why not have students redraft contract clauses? When I co-taught professional responsibility this semester, students simulated client conversations, examined do-it-yourself legal service websites for violations of state law, and wrote client letters so that the work came alive.
When possible, schools should also re-evaluate their core requirements to see if they can add more clinicals (which are admittedly expensive) or labs for negotiation, client consultation or transactional drafting (like my employer UMKC offers). I’m not convinced that law school needs to last for three years, but I am convinced that more of the time needs to be spent marrying the doctrinal and theoretical work to practical skills into the current curriculum.
Third, schools can look to their communities. In addition to using adjuncts to bring practical experience to the classroom, schools, the public and private sector should develop partnerships where students can intern more frequently and easily for school credit in the area of their choice, including nonprofit work, local government, criminal law, in house work and of course, firm work of all sizes. Current Department of Labor rules unnecessarily complicate internship processes and those rules should change.
This broader range of opportunities will provide students with practical experience, a more realistic idea of the market, and will also help address access to justice issues affecting underserved communities, for example by allowing supervised students to draft by-laws for a 501(c)(3). I’ll leave the discussion of high student loans, misleading career statistics from law schools and the oversupply of lawyers to others who have spoken on these hot topics issues recently.
Fourth, law schools should integrate the cataclysmic changes that the legal profession is undergoing into as many classes as they can. Law professors actually need to learn this as well. How are we preparing students for the commoditization of legal services through the rise of technology, the calls for de-regulation, outsourcing, and the emerging competition from global firms who can integrate legal and other professional services in ways that the US won’t currently allow?
Finally and most important, what are we teaching students about managing and appreciating risk? While this may not be relevant in every class, it can certainly be part of the discussions in many. Perhaps students will learn more from using a combination of reading law school cases and using the business school case method.
If students don’t understand how to recognize, measure, monitor and mitigate risk, how will they advise their clients? If they plan to work in house, as I did, they serve an additional gatekeeper role and increasingly face SEC investigations and jail terms. As more general counsels start hiring people directly from law schools, junior lawyers will face these complexities even earlier in their careers. Even if they counsel external clients, understanding risk appetite is essential in an increasingly complex, litigious and regulated world.
When I teach my course on corporate governance, compliance and social responsibility next spring, my students will look at SEC comment letters, critically scrutinize corporate social responsibility reports, read blogs, draft board minutes, dissect legislation, compare international developments and role play as regulators, legislators, board members, labor organizations, NGOs and executives to understand all perspectives and practice influencing each other. Learning what Sarbanes-Oxley or Dodd-Frank says without understanding what it means in practice is useless.
The good news is that more schools are starting to look at those kinds of issues. The Carnegie Model of legal education “supports courses and curricula that integrate three sets of values or ‘apprenticeships’: knowledge, practice and professionalism.” Educating Tomorrow’s Lawyers is a growing consortium of law schools which recommends “an integrated, three-part curriculum: (1) the teaching of legal doctrine and analysis, which provides the basis for professional growth; (2) introduction to the several facets of practice included under the rubric of lawyering, leading to acting with responsibility for clients; and (3) exploration and assumption of the identity, values and dispositions consonant with the fundamental purposes of the legal profession.” The University of Miami’s innovative LawWithoutWalls program brings students, academics, entrepreneurs and practitioners from around the world together to examine the fundamental shifts in legal practice and education and develop viable solutions.
The problems facing the legal profession are huge, but not insurmountable. The question is whether more law schools and professors are able to leave their comfort zones, law students are able to think more globally and long term, and the popular press and public are willing to credit those who are already moving in the right direction. I’m no expert, but as a former consumer of these legal services, I’m ready to do my part.
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Alas, this is the last post of my guest blogging stint here at the Glom. Thanks again for an informative and transformative 2-week set of experiences and memories.
I second Erik's post about law schools fostering humility. Eric poses these 2 fundamental questions:
1. Can one be both ambitious and humble?
2. Can law schools both inspire to dream large dreams -- personal and social -- while still warning about our own fallibility and the limitations of law?
I believe and hope that the answer to both of Eric's questions is yes.
1) Ambition is a great motivator for action, but unless ambition is accompanied with humility ambition often leads to arrogance, conceit, and hubris. A consequence of ambition often is great power and as is often quoted, "with great power comes great responsibility."
2) Not only law schools, but also such other professional schools as those for business, medicine, and public policy can and should "both inspire to dream large dreams -- personal and social -- while still warning about our own fallibility and the limitations of" the profession for which they are preparing their students to enter.
I will be teaching Legal Ethics and Professionalism for the first time next semester and have decided after detailed consideration of the many books and supplements from Aspen, Foundation, and Lexis to adopt these 3 books:
a) Nancy Levit and Douglas O. Linder, The Happy Lawyer: Making A Good Life in the Law (2010), ISBN: 978-0195392326. This book is just a wonderful source for law students and lawyers about recent scholarship about happiness and how to balance professional work and personal life. More generally, the book helps readers think about and find meaning in their quest for a satisfying career in the law.
b) Scott L. Rogers, Mindfulness for Law Students: Using the Power of Mindfulness to Achieve Balance and Success in Law School (2009), ISBN: 978-0977345519. This little paperback is another great resource for law students to help them integrate mindfulness into their busy and stressful lives.
Leonard Riskin, the Chesterfield Smith Professor of Law at the University of Florida, who currently is visiting at Northwestern law school, has been a long-time pioneer in championing the benefits of practicing mindfulness to law and mediation:
3) Michael C. Ross, Ethics and Integrity in Law and Business: Avoiding "Club Fed" (2011), ISBN: 978-1422479704. This paperback textbook succeeds at being a delightfully engaging, fresh, funny, and practical take on the professional responsibility course, which is often required in law school. This book contains many relevant quotes from authors, economists, humorists, judges, philosophers, and scientists. It also has wonderfully on point cartoons and comics from the Wall Street Journal and P. C. Vey, among others.
This book imparts much pragmatic wisdom about how to choose ethical behavior during tough economic times.
Not surprisingly to readers of Glom who have read my posts about business movies, I also plan to show film and television show clips in class to provoke discussion about violations of ethical rules and what sort of lawyers and values are possible and which of those possibilities are likely to lead to personal happiness and professional satisfaction. For example, three recent television programs that raise issues related to professional ethics and personal values are these:
I close this post and my guest blogging by providing the opening two paragraphs from a just completed manuscript, Tiger Cub Strikes Back: Memoirs of an Ex-Child Prodigy About Parenting and Legal Education. This working paper is related to many of the issues and themes I've raised in the 10 posts during this 2-week guest blogging opportunity. And yes, the first paragraph may seem to be immodest and ironic after discussing the importance of humility. The reason to include that paragraph in this post is that everything in that paragraph is true and verifiably so. Also, this post advocates true humility and not false humility. It would be an exercise in false humility to hide or deprecate my own past for the mere sake of appearing humble.
I believe that Amy Chua, tiger mom and Yale law professor, would see my life as exemplifying successful tiger parenting. I am an American born Chinese, who at age 14 enrolled as a freshman at Princeton University and 3 years later at age 17 after being a University Scholar there graduated Phi Beta Kappa earning an A.B. in mathematics. I also earned a Ph.D. in applied mathematics from Harvard University and a J.D. from Stanford University (after having been a 1L at the University of Chicago). My Ph.D. thesis advisor was 1972 economics Nobel Laureate and mathematical economic theorist, Kenneth Joseph Arrow. After serving as an economist in the Division of Consumer Protection in the Bureau of Economics of the Federal Trade Commission, I taught in economics departments from coast to coast, including at Stanford University, the University of California Berkeley, and the University of California Los Angeles; in the finance department of the A.B. Freeman business school at Tulane University; and in law schools at Yale University, University of Chicago, University of Pennsylvania, University of Virginia, University of Minnesota, and University of Southern California. I co-authored a law school course book about law and popular culture, while a member of the Institute for Advanced Study School of Social Science, during its psychology and economics thematic focus academic year. I am currently a professor and the inaugural DeMuth Chair at the University of Colorado School of Law after having been a professor and the inaugural Kohn Chair at Temple University law school.
This Essay reflects upon the desirability, efficacy, and motivational consequences of having a tiger mom such as Professor Chua or my own immigrant mother, who is a New York University medical school biochemistry professor. This Essay also points out many similarities between mainstream modern American legal education and tiger parenting, including their common hierarchical, top-down learning environments that entail authority, compliance, extrinsic incentives, fear, memorization, obedience, paternalism, precedent, and respect for one’s elders. The educational methodologies and philosophies of tiger parenting and the prevailing orthodoxy of United States legal instruction, especially the substantive content of the standard first year law school curriculum, explicitly and implicitly privilege a type of information processing known as system two over a type of information processing known as system one. System two reasoning is analytical, cognitive, conscious, controlled, deliberative, effortful, logical, rule-based, and slow; while system one is affective, associative, automatic, fast, habitual, heuristic-based, holistic, intuitive, and unconscious. Ironically, the Socratic method of legal instruction often places a premium on answering a professor’s questions aggressively, quickly, or superficially instead of deeply, mindfully, or thoughtfully.
If I recall correctly, it's been a while since the Glom addressed the value of a joint JD/MBA.
As this is a subject I find myself repeatedly discussing with my students, I recently took it upon myself to get to the bottom of this question.
I reviewed whatever literature I could find, and spoke to a number of colleagues and practicioners.
Here's what I concluded:
1. The acquisition of practical knowledge and skills that can be helpful throughout an attorney’s career (wherever that career may ultimately take him or her)
2. A lasting, life-long credential
a. That said, it’s my fairly strong opinion that over time, credentials fade in importance – and are replaced largely by individual accomplishment (or lack thereof)
b. As for whether this credential will assist a newly-minted lawyer in obtaining a job, it appears to be of some value to “middle-of-the-pack” graduates who need to distinguish themselves; this credential seems unnecessary for top-performing students
3. May open additional career opportunities
4. The simple pleasure of additional education / additional intellectual stimulation
1. Time (ordinarily an additional year of schooling)
3. With regard to recruiting / hiring:
a. May be read by some law firms as a sign that the graduate is not necessarily committed to a career in law
b. For law firm hiring, grades and class rank remain of paramount importance; if one’s efforts to obtain the joint degree came at the sacrifice of one’s grades, it would most likely be an unwise decision
I'd love to hear what others think about this.
With the law school hiring process moving along at a fast clip, it is worth knowing about the alternatives, and there are a couple of good possibilities in business schools - one at Oregon State, and one at Indiana. You can find them after the jump.
The College of Business at Oregon State University invites applicants for an anticipated full-time (1.0 FTE), nine-month, tenure-track position in Business Law at the rank of Assistant Professor to begin September 2012.
Primary teaching responsibilities include delivering undergraduate and graduate courses in business and environmental law.
Required qualifications include graduation from a) an ABA accredited law school with a JD or equivalent, bar membership in at least one state and at least one year of experience practicing business or environmental law, or b) a PhD in business ethics, business law, environmental law or a related field from an AACSB-International accredited university or equivalent; an excellent academic record and evidence of or potential for research and scholarly publication; potential to teach graduate and undergraduate courses in environmental and business law. A strong candidate will have expertise focused on legal issues related to clean technology.
Applications must be submitted using the university's on-line application process at http://oregonstate.edu/jobs Posting No. 0007846. For full consideration, applications must be submitted by 11/30/11. Candidates should submit: (1) a letter of interest that clearly indicates interest in the position (2) a vita, including summary information of courses taught and student evaluations, description of legal research work and publications as well as the names, addresses and phone numbers of three professional references (3) a brief statement that describes research potential and interests and teaching philosophy. OSU is an AA/EOE.
The Kelley School of Business at Indiana University in Bloomington seeks applications for lecturer positions in the Department of Business Law and Ethics, effective August 2012. The candidate(s) selected will teach business law and ethics courses in Kelley’s undergraduate and graduate programs.
Qualified candidates must have an excellent academic record and a completed J.D. prior to the appointment. They must also demonstrate the potential for excellent teaching and service. Experience teaching law or legal writing is highly desirable but not required.
Applicants should send (1) a letter of application describing their teaching qualifications and experience, (2) a current vita or resume, and (3) evidence of teaching ability (such as summaries of course evaluations) to: Jane Mallor, Professor of Business Law and Chair, Department of Business Law and Ethics, Kelley School of Business, Indiana University, 1309 E. Tenth St., Bloomington, IN 47405. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Candidates selected for an on-campus interview will be required to provide three letters of reference. Application materials received by November 15, 2011, will be given full consideration.
Indiana University is an Affirmative Action, Equal Opportunity employer committed to excellence through diversity. The University actively encourages applications of women, minorities, and persons with disabilities.
You can criticize all you want, but you can’t argue with success. Above the Law has confirmed that Sophia Chua-Rubenfeld, the oldest daughter of Amy Chua and fellow YLS professor Jed Rubenfeld, received her Harvard acceptance earlier this week. Sophia has already made up her mind that Harvard is where she’ll attend college. (Can you blame her for wanting to trade New Haven for Cambridge?)
Some readers of Amy Chua’s book wondered whether it was premature of her to “end a parenting story when one child is only 15,” in the words of Elizabeth Chang of the Washington Post. Well, now we know how the story ends — very, very happily. As I previously observed, speaking from my own personal experience, “to Asian parents, sending a child to a top college is the ultimate vindication.” And colleges don’t get more “top” than Harvard (which is #1 in the current U.S. News rankings; but even if it weren’t this year, it would still be #1 in the minds of many Asian parents).
I don't want to diminish Sophia's many accomplishments, which are extraordinarily impressive. But all this excitement over Harvard seems a bit overblown. For my particular brand of Asian upbringing--Indian by way of Goa--Harvard was never that big a deal. The advice I think I'm going to give my daughters when they're Sophia's age (many, many moons from now) is not to focus too much on getting into the "best" undergraduate institution. Save that stress for graduate school, where it really matters. But maybe I'm wrong? I have nary a hint of Ivy in my education, a conscious choice. Am I foolishly discounting the value of getting into Harvard? (HT: Dahlia Lithwick)
So, the Internet chatter is abuzz with freaked-out high school students who were faced with an essay prompt about reality TV the last SAT testing session:
Reality television programs, which feature real people engaged in real activities rather than professional actors performing scripted scenes, are increasingly popular. These shows depict ordinary people competing in everything from singing and dancing to losing weight, or just living their everyday lives. Most people believe that the reality these shows portray is authentic, but they are being misled. How authentic can these shows be when producers design challenges for the participants and then editors alter filmed scenes?
Assignment: Do people benefit from forms of entertainment that show so-called reality, or are such forms of entertainment harmful? Plan and write an essay in which you develop your point of view on this issue. Support your position with reasoning and examples taken from your reading, studies, experience, or observations.
Apparently, many high schoolers who are really concerned with their SAT performance do not watch a lot of television, perhaps in particular reality television. So, they are a little upset that they will be graded on pop culture that they have sworn off in their quest for academic excellence. Interestingly, the old argument about standardized tests were that they were skewed toward elites with particular cultural frameworks. Perhaps it is impossible to devise a test with no cultural framework.
But, as the SAT folks are pointing out, you don't really need to have watched reality television to write an essay given the preface and the prompt. If the preface was about the rules of Sumo wrestling, then the prompt asked whether a particular rule is fair, I probably have enough to go on to write an essay, even though I've never seen a Sumo wrestling match. But, I might believe, mistakenly or not, that others who follow Sumo wrestling have an advantage.
I feel for the test-writer. Take reading comprehension excerpts. They are usually on obscure topics, and the reader has all the information the reader needs in the excerpt to answer the qeustion. But there is some sense that if I know all about the phenomenon of "St. Elmo's Fire" (one of the questions on my SAT), then I can read the passage quicker and possibly answer the questions quicker, on the margin. (I had seen the movie St. Elmo's Fire, but it didn't help me.) Presumably, if an SAT test-taker was a huge consumer of reality TV, that test-taker may have been more likely to have thought about and had conversations about how "real" reality TV is, on the margin. The actual contest of the shows wouldn't have supplied any insight, but might have supplied examples, which would have given the essay richness and texture.
But any question about reading or writing has to have a topic, so we hope it all comes out in the wash. I often think of this when I write Torts essays. I really try to be sure that I'm not basing the outcome of the question on whether a student knows the rules of baseball or the industry customs in the hotel industry. I try to cut all of that out.
The second SAT prompt that day was on photography and asks a similar prompt about whether photographs are "real" or orchestrated depictions by reflecting the photographer's point of view. Surely there were some photographers in the testing rooms, but that has not caused such a controversy! This prompt seems to be stirring people up because it might possibly give an advantage, or the perception of an advantage in a way that seems contrary to the goals of the SAT -- presumably to signal which students are equipped for college. If an essay prompt might give an unintended advantage to someone who read The Canterbury Tales, then that's hard to complain about because the student may "deserve" an extra edge. The test-takers who are reading Chaucer instead of watching television however may feel cheated if the Survivor aficionado just got a higher score on the SAT because she threw in a great example from Survivor: Heroes v. Villains.
I'm certainly not saying it's such a great thing that we've got an Ivy League that disproportionately adds value, and it is certainly good that our educational system has a few more good options than does, say, France or Britain. But as Steve Hsu says,
But this doesn't matter if the success of HYPS grads becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Once soft elite firms and large parts of the rest of society (in particular, clients) have accepted the idea that elite universities should be trusted to do the filtering, these schools will automatically produce large numbers of successful alumni -- the imprimatur itself has value. The outsourcing of human capital filtering is more dangerous for hard elite firms, with their more objective criteria: if they find that Yale grads aren't actually any good at pricing derivatives, writing code or designing chips, then they'll have to adopt a different filter. Fortunately, since even the dumbed down SAT is still pretty g loaded, hard elite firms can be confident that the lion's share of top talent is at elite universities.
He summarizes Lauren Rivera's paper on the advantages of an elite education for jobs with banks and consultancies here; it is worth a read, and no, they won't recruit outside of any of five schools.
And here's Andrew Gelman at the Monkey Cage with a personal reflection on this:
I've long been glad that I went to MIT rather than Harvard, maybe not overall--I was miserable in most of college--but for my future career. Either place I would've taken hard classes and learned a lot, but one advantage of MIT was that we had no sense--no sense at all--that we could make big bucks. We had no sense of making moderately big bucks as lawyers, no sense of making big bucks working on Wall Street, and no sense of making really big bucks by starting a business. I mean, sure, we knew about lawyers (but we didn't know that a lawyer with technical skills would be a killer combination), we knew about Wall Street (but we had no idea what they did, other than shout pork belly prices across a big room), and we knew about tech startups (but we had no idea that they were anything to us beyond a source of jobs for engineers). What we were all looking for was a good solid job with cool benefits (like those companies in California that had gyms at the office)
I take this all to be an inconsistent with the Dale and Kreuger view.
Or a "puzzler"?
Hayek was a puzzler. Or, if you prefer, a "muddler."
I am, too.
Most of the members of this here blog will be headed to Philadelphia (some of us will not have far to go) tomorrow, to participate in various activities related to transactional legal education, hosted by Karl Okamoto at Drexel. There is a meet, and there is a conference too. I will be interested to compare the ways that law schools are trying to get deals into the classrooms - it, as you might expect, is a question that occupies business schools as well. Anyway, the conference reminds me of the venerable American Society of International Law, which also combines a meeting component and a contest.
Lower Merion, host of U.S (Golf) Opens, and heart of the Philadelphia Main Line, is the essence of genteel suburbia - viz, some schools give out laptops to all the students. Which must be nice.