These dangerous characters are not limited to the faculty lounge, but can be found in any social group.
Most of the entries from this year’s Times Higher Education survey of British “exam howlers” are only mildly funny. This one stands out from the pack:
Throughout one essay, a student from the University of Portsmouth wrote about “anus” crimes. The academic marking the paper eventually realized that he meant “heinous” crimes.
The phrase “Canadian legal academia” wouldn’t ordinarily conjure up an image of heated controversy. But, as Inside Higher Education reports, our neighbors to the north “have been buzzing in the last week about a harsh critique of the country’s law schools, which are compared to ‘psychotic kindergartens’ in a journal article published by Robert Martin, a retired law professor at the University of Western Ontario.”
Right at the top of my ever-lengthening list of “things about Canada which I cannot understand” is the fact that, every year, we spend billions of dollars on institutions which we are pleased to call universities.
People arrive at university after completing lengthy processes, which we call education, of idiotisation and moronification. They have also spent years immersed in a barbarous popular culture which is, in my view, vulgar, coarse, and infantile. The universities, thus, face a severe challenge, one which they largely fail to meet.
Each fall a horde of illiterate, ignorant cretins enters Canada’s universities. A few years later, they all move on, just as illiterate, just as ignorant, and rather more cretinous, but now armed with bits of paper, which most of them are probably not able to read, called degrees.
Martin blames this woeful state of affairs on a combination of consumerism and feminism. Cutting through the bile, Martin’s criticism of “The Corporate University” and “The Commodification of Legal Education” has a good deal of merit. His jeremiad against feminist “Repression”, on the other hand, is simply the same old warmed-over “political correctness” spiel that is now well past its sell-by date.
Martin concludes with a modest proposal:
Current levels of homelessness are a disgrace in a country as wealthy as Canada. I have a two-step plan for freeing Canada at once of two major social ills. This is the plan.
Step One: Close every law faculty in Canada; and
Step Two: Hand the premises of the former law faculties over to homeless people.
The books in the law libraries would serve a much more socially useful function as cooking fuel than they do being gawped at by illiterate students.
Meanwhile, at the Northwestern of the Southeast, the controversy du jour concerns a study of sex toys. As part of the study, female students are invited to attend a “one-hour party” at which they will “view sex toys and engage in sexually explicit conversation with other female Duke students.”
The director of the campus Catholic Center expressed concern: “[T]hese students are in this developmental phase, and I don’t think it’s a good developmental practice to just tell somebody to just sit around and masturbate. I don’t think that promotes relationships.”
Two Northwestern University thought it would be a real hoot to don blackface for Halloween. Reaction on the campus and beyond ranged from justified indignation and shock at such a crass display of racist imagery, to predictable whining about “political correctness”.
Personally, I find the most outrageous tidbit in the story to be the absurd characterization of Northwestern as the “Harvard of the Midwest”. Everyone knows that Northwestern is the Duke of the Midwest. There is no Harvard of the Midwest–a fact very much to the Midwest’s credit. Instead, Harvard might possibly claim to be the University of Chicago of New England.
The Fall term may be winding down (I teach my last class on Monday), but there is no slackening of activity at the law school. After the Thanksgiving break, while the students run the gauntlet of final exams, we will play host to several very promising faculty candidates. Now, thanks to Jeffrey Harrison, I’ve got some good questions to ask:
1. What was your favorite book at age 15?
2. What were the last 10 books you read that had nothing to do with law?
3. Name your favorite opera, aria, symphony or any non pop, folk, alt music?
4. Who was your favorite teacher before law school and why?
When I was a candidate, I’m sure I’d have found these more interesting to discuss than the standard interview queries, though I’m not at all sure whether I’d have fared better or worse in the process. In any event, here are my own answers:
1. Favorite book at age 15:
- Arthur Conan Doyle, “A Study in Scarlet” (actually the entire Homes canon).
2. Last 10 non-law books read:
- H.G. Wells, The Invisible Man and The Time Machine;
- Joseph Mitchell, My Ears Are Bent;
- Kingsley Amis, Everyday Drinking
- Studs Terkel, Giants of Jazz
- Jonathan Lethem, You Don’t Love Me Yet
- Zane Gray, Riders of the Purple Sage
- Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash
- Tom Boellstorff, Coming of Age in Second Life
- James Prosek, Fly-Fishing the 41st
- Sholom Auslander, Foreskin’s Lament
3. Favorite opera, aria, symphony or any non pop, folk, alt music:
- Opera:Verdi, Aida
- Symphony: Mahler, No. 1
- Other “non pop, folk alt music”: Thelonious Monk(I’m presuming that this qualifies)
4. Favorite teacher before law school and why:
- Moishe Postone, University of Chicago. More than any teacher I’ve had before or since, Moishe challenged me to think critically and carefully, especially but not exclusively about sociological theory. He also gave me my favorite University of Chicago image, when he described students not dancing at parties because they feared falling off the edge of the existential abyss. He is the epitome of a scholar and a mensch.
Robert Paxton, the president of ICCC for 13 years, resigned Thursday following a report in the Des Moines Register that he was photographed shirtless, while holding a small Coors Light keg over a woman’s mouth. The photo, showing Paxton with a group of young women and one man, was taken aboard a boat on Iowa’s West Lake Okoboji, according to the Register, which received the photo from an area resident.
Leonard Fein’s column in The Forward today caught my attention, not because of its substantive focus (the Clinton campaign’s ridiculous attempts to excuse Hillary Clinton’s fictional account of her Bosnia excursion as “misspeaking” or “mistaken remembrance”) but because of its opening paragraph:
Harvard’s motto is “Veritas” — truth. The motto of Brandeis is “Truth Unto Its Innermost Parts”; Yale’s is “Lux et Veritas,” light and truth (and the same for the University of Indiana); and Johns Hopkins goes with “Veritas Vos Liberabit,” the truth shall make you free.
When I was an undergraduate at Johns Hopkins, noted alumnus Russell Baker (’47) gave a speech on the theme of the University’s motto. He began, as I recall, by contrasting the Hopkins motto with those of Harvard, Brandeis & Yale. While Harvard, Brandeis & Yale cite truth for its own sake, Hopkins emphasizes the instrumental value of truth. He then pointed out that the JHU motto was not necessarily true. For example, he noted, in the case of a felon, the truth might get him fifteen to twenty years in prison, while, in the case of an unfaithful husband, the truth might set him a good deal freer than he cared to be.
Of course, even Russell Baker couldn’t have anticipated the Clintons.
BYU law professor Gordon Smith has embarked on a fascinating study of business organization and relations among cheesemakers in Wisconsin. What a great idea — he’ll undoubtedly have loads of fun collecting his data, and the study promises to shed light on the interesting, and underexamined, world of business cooperatives. And it gives me a great idea for yet another project in my burgeoning research agenda on law and fly fishing: business organization and relations among fly shops. In his cheesemaker study, Gordon is looking at how small Wisconsin producers have adapted in the face of competition from large national operations (many based in California). Traditional local fly shops are likewise facing competition from large national retailers like Cabela’s, Orvis, L.L. Bean, and a slew of online vendors. It would be interesting to examine the business strategies local fly shops have adopted in an effort to stay alive.
(Alas, YouTube doesn’t appear to have a clip of the Harlan Pepper fly shop scene from Best in Show.)