September 16, 2011
High School, Baseball, and Legal Education
The New York Times Magazine includes the article, What if the Secret to Success Is Failure?, by Paul Tough. The article begins with a discussion of New York City's Riverdale Country School, and talks about the educational philosophy of Dominic Randolph, the school's headmaster:
For the headmaster of an intensely competitive school, Randolph, who is 49, is surprisingly skeptical about many of the basic elements of a contemporary high-stakes American education. He did away with Advanced Placement classes in the high school soon after he arrived at Riverdale; he encourages his teachers to limit the homework they assign; and he says that the standardized tests that Riverdale and other private schools require for admission to kindergarten and to middle school are “a patently unfair system” because they evaluate students almost entirely by I.Q. “This push on tests,” he told me, “is missing out on some serious parts of what it means to be a successful human.”
The most critical missing piece, Randolph explained as we sat in his office last fall, is character — those essential traits of mind and habit that were drilled into him at boarding school in England and that also have deep roots in American history.
Sounds like high school education and legal education have some things in common. Any time we try to filter our assumptions based only on numbers, we're likely to be wrong a good part of the time. It's especially true when the numbers are indicators of potential, and not performance. To use a baseball analogy, it's often better look at a pitcher's ERA than the speed on the radar gun. It's nice to get the player with both (see, e.g., Justin Verlander), but you're often better with Tim Wakefield or Cole Hamels than Todd Van Poppel.
Furthermore, in addition to assessing potential, it also means we have the job of developing that talent. In teaching students to become lawyers, we need to ensure that we teach skills our students lack; hone, refine, and expand those skills they have, and of course, eliminate bad habits. A tall order, certainly, but possible. In fact, it's essential, and it's happening in many, if not all, law schools around the country (notwithstanding what some people may think). Still, we can do better, and we must.
How do we do that? Take a page from our own book: learn teaching skills that we lack; hone, refine, and expand those skills that we have; and of course, eliminate bad habits.
September 16, 2011 | Permalink
I have to agree with headmaster Randolph, failure builds character and character builds lasting success.
Posted by: Oklahoma City Divorce Lawyers | Sep 17, 2011 5:15:42 PM