Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Does Harvard Teach Law Anymore?

Harvard is to law what Winchester is to bolt actions.  Powerful, dependable, well engineered and the mark of a serious craft, at least that’s what I was told.

These days, Harvard graduates probably don’t know much about bolt actions, unless they are a member of the Harvard Law School shooting club.  A stroll through the Harvard Law School course catalog also makes you wonder how much they know about the real practice of law.

The course catalog from Harvard Law School hints that the answer might be — not as much as we thought.

The Harvard Law School course catalog frequently reads more like an ideological training academy than it does a program for teaching lawyers how to practice law.

I may be unqualified to opine about Harvard Law considering that I went to a law school in the SEC.  That’s the Southeastern Conference, not the Securities and Exchange Commission.  As such, I spent most of my law school years taking courses that trained future lawyers to practice real law in real American courtrooms: remedies, civil procedure, criminal procedure, legal writing, trusts, evidence, and even more civil procedure.

Six of nine United States Supreme Court justices attended Harvard, so they must be doing something right.  But the course catalog at Harvard reveals a great divide emerging in American legal education.

Is law school about learning to practice law, or fundamental transformation?

Elite universities are graduating lawyers who seem most qualified to engineer fundamental social change, not represent clients in court.  Law schools in most of America still seem to focus on graduating lawyers who know how to practice law.  The course descriptions, below, reveal a different approach to legal education at Harvard.  The political ramifications for the nation should be obvious, especially when so many positions of power are filled with graduates of elite law schools.  That’s not just me saying it, Harvard’s own website boasts of this fundamental transformation:

Harvard Law School recently undertook a sweeping overhaul of its first-year curriculum. The new curriculum reflects legal practice in the 21st century, adding courses in legislation and regulation and international and comparative law to the traditional curriculum of civil procedure, contracts, criminal law, property, and torts. . . . In the second and third years of law school, Harvard students shape their own courses of study, selecting among a wide offering of electives. . . .  Five optional Programs of Study – Law and Government; Law and Social Change; Law and Business; International and Comparative Law; and Law, Science and Technology €”developed by the Law School faculty provide pathways through the upper-level curriculum.

Sorry, but “legislation” doesn’t reflect the “legal practice in the 21st Century.”  I took legislation in law school, and a small fraction of lawyers ever dabble in the area.  Lawyers inside the D.C. Beltway seeking to expand the power of the federal government are one exception.  I’ve sat in courtrooms listening to thousands of docket calls, and never once heard “comparative law” on the menu.  Worse, in most of America, no lawyer has any use for nonsense like “Law and Social Change,” unless politics are on the agenda instead of law.

Joel Pollak, a graduate of Harvard Law School and editor at Breitbart News, told me that the shift isn’t always passive, where Harvard law students can hear both sides and peacefully choose.  “Many of the professors who teach the ‘core’ classes are conscientious about fostering debate, open to different perspectives, and able to separate their own political views from their pedagogy. Others, however, seem unable to resist the urge to foist their personal ideological convictions onto their classes, resisting questions from students who disagree.”

And therein lies the danger — law professors with a captive audience of first year students turn law into political ideology, a training academy for the institutional left at an elite law school.  And after the first year of core classes ends, just imagine what happens in these actual classes (detailed below) that are now taught at Harvard Law School:

The Art of Social Change

“We will bring into the classroom as visiting lecturers leaders from the worlds of policy, practice, and academia — people who have themselves operated as successful change agents and who represent different disciplines, career paths, and strategies for change.”

Fidelity in Interpretation

“This seminar will develop a theory of interpretation for the Constituiton [SIC!!!!!] of the United States tied to a particular conception of interpretive fidelity. The aim is Dworkinian — to develop the theory that best explains and justifies our constitutional tradition.”

Feminist Legal Theory

“This course will survey the most important sources of feminist thinking in and around law and law reform, with attention to the ways in which differing feminist ideas have and have not become operationalized as law that actually governs. We will pay attention to the rise and fall of feminist ideas; to competitor theoretical frames and ongoing contests among different feminist worldviews for influence on law; to nonwestern sources of feminist legal thought; and to modes of transmitting feminist ideas from one national, regional, and/or international system to another. A constant theme will be the collaborations among and conflicts between feminist social movements and social movements for emancipation of groups other than women: racial minorities, sexual minorities, immigrants, the poor.”

Law and Psychology: The Emotions

Ironically taught by Professor David Cope:  “Love, jealousy, guilt, anger, fear, greed, compassion, hope, and joy play important roles in the lives of lawyers and those with whom they interact.”

Law and the Political Process

Professor Lani Guinier teaches Law and the Political Process. “Prerequisites: None. Constitutional Law is strongly recommended but is not a prerequisite for this course.”   No surprise in a Guinier-taught course.

Litigating Health Rights: Can Courts Bring More Justice to Health?

“The question of whether courts can not only call for modifying legislation and policies but also enforce affirmative entitlements to care has been answered in many contexts. Yet questions still persist as to when and how litigation can lead to greater equity in health and enhance the functioning and oversight of health systems, rather than distorting priorities and budgets.”

Animal Law

A course, perhaps, about laws surrounding animal-based commodities?  Maybe a survey of useful contractual issues involving agricultural commerce?  Stop it, this is Harvard, not the University of Wyoming!:

“The course will also engage with fundamental questions about animals and the law, such as: Are some animals more deserving of protection than others, and if so, on what basis? What role does culture and belief play in animal law—why are dogs considered pets in the U.S. and food in some parts of the world, for example? Does the status of animals as property pose an insurmountable barrier to increasing protections for animals? What are the advantages and disadvantages of the concepts of “animal rights” and “animal welfare”?


'Posh tests' won't rob your child of a job - socialist snobs did that years ago

Why is the Tory high command in love with Alan Milburn, a chip-on-the-shoulder Blairite class warrior, who shows little sign of having grown out of the Marxism he once embraced?

George Osborne and Michael Gove have publicly praised this former Labour Minister, and he has been put in charge of a nasty little quango, the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission.

Under his leadership, this body ceaselessly complains that Britain is unfair (which, of course, it is) while flatly refusing to mention the main reason – the disastrous comprehensive school system.

Last week, launching a particularly silly report, Mr Milburn claimed: ‘This research shows young people with working-class backgrounds are being systematically locked out of top jobs.

‘Elite firms seem to require applicants to pass a “poshness test” to gain entry. Inevitably that ends up excluding youngsters who have the right sort of grades and abilities but whose parents do not have the right sort of bank balances.’

The claims of a ‘poshness test’ were duly taken up by many in the media, who swallowed them whole. I actually read the report. It is remarkably free of specific evidence from named companies or about named individuals. Much of it is a simple statement of the obvious. Big City firms hire the sort of people who are likely to succeed in the work they do.

And since they can choose from huge numbers of applicants for every job, it is no surprise that they pick men and women from the best universities, who are confident, fluent and literate.

The sad truth is that such people come overwhelmingly from private schools and the tiny few remaining state grammar schools. Some others will come from the sort of schools favoured by our Left-wing elite, which pretend to be ‘comprehensive’ but in fact select on the basis of postcode, wealth or religion.

Something similar happens at the opposite end of the labour market. In such unposh sectors as the building trade, employers understandably prefer rigorously schooled Poles to the young victims of British bog-standard comprehensives. That is not the employers’ fault.

People’s fates in life are decided largely by their schools. And many must wish it were not so (as we shall see).

But Mr Milburn (who refuses to tell me where his own children went to school) is, like the whole British political class, a dogged supporter of comprehensive state education.

He can’t admit it’s been a disaster for the poor he claims to speak for. Instead, he blames the employers for picking the recruits they need, not the school system, for destroying the hopes of poor boys and girls early in their lives.

This is deeply unfair, as Mr Milburn’s own press release actually acknowledged in a less-noticed passage: ‘Some of our country’s leading firms are making a big commitment to recruit the brightest and best, regardless of background. They should be applauded.’

In fact, much of the report describes the considerable efforts made by such firms to encourage applicants from poorer backgrounds. And it flatly dismisses claims of old-fashioned snobbery.

There is a fascinating passage on judging people by their accents, in which one interviewee says such things used to happen but have now virtually died out.

The real dead hand of snobbery in this country is to be found among Left-wing elitists, dwelling in their warm pockets of state-funded privilege, refusing, after 50 years of failure, to admit that they are wrong about anything.


Why This Iowa Principal Is Thankful for School Choice

For this coming fall, Timothy Christian School will welcome just 45 students in kindergarten through 8th grade—the fewest to begin an academic year since the school opened in 1941.

In a state where 30 entire school districts have been eliminated in the last decade and more than 4,000 have been wiped out since 1950, this would seem to be bad news for Timothy, a non-denominational school.

But Janna Voss, who has been at Timothy for 31 years—the last 18 as principal—could not be more pleased with where things stand. The school has been aggressive about fundraising, prudent about spending and diligent about prayer, she said.

As a result, “The school has never been more financially sound than we are right now,” Voss told The Daily Signal in an interview.

Timothy Christian, which Voss describes as a “parent-run school” in which parents “form a society who then appoint and vote on school board members,” has taken advantage of some school choice laws enacted by the Iowa Legislature.

One law, passed in 2006, created the Student Tuition Organization.  This program allows non-public schools to raise scholarship money. This is done by partnering with another private school to form a separate non-profit organization.

The non-profit can bring in donations to be distributed to families based on their income. A set cap is imposed by the legislature on how much can be raised each year. Schools get money based on enrollment from the previous year.

And for those that donate? They receive 65 percent of their donation back as a direct tax credit on their Iowa income tax.

“It’s a win-win,” Voss said. “People are lining up to do this. They are happy to help kids attend private school.”

Then, in 2013, Iowa became one of the last states in the nation to allow independent accreditation of private schools. Before, schools had to be accredited by the Iowa Department of Education to benefit from the Student Tuition Organization and other federal funding opportunities, such as transportation cost reimbursement to parents.

Timothy Christian is accredited through Christian Schools International, to which it has belonged for years.

Voss calls this “the single biggest thing that has happened in Iowa in terms of private education.”

But she has her sights set on an even bigger thing for private education. The Iowa Legislature is considering legislation that would create Education Savings Accounts, in which parents receive a portion of the average cost for a child to attend a public school in the state. The parents are then able to put the money toward their children’s schooling.

States typically create a list of accepted expenditures, such as schools, therapists, educational specialists, materials and other expenses. This could benefit the some 250 private schools that serve almost 47,000 students in Iowa.

Voss, who has served on the board of the Iowa Association of Christian Schools for the past seven years, said these accounts would give parents “the opportunity to use the taxes that they’ve already paid where they want to use it.”

Even better, she said, “The money is not coming to our school. It goes directly to parents to then use how they choose.”

Voss said if the legislation does not pass this year, she thinks it will within the next two or three.  “We can’t wait,” she said.


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