Monday, June 25, 2007
Osler, Langdell, and the Atelier is the intriguing title of a new article by Professor Richard Neumann at Hofstra University. Professor Neumann explains that Osler was to medical education and the atelier was to architecture education what Langdell was to legal education. Well, sort of, because they take very different approaches with very different results, which is also Neumann's point. Here's his abstract:
"Langdell, together with Ames, is associated with the key elements of traditional legal education: the case method, the law school version of the Socratic dialog, the casebook, the three-year law degree, the prerequisite of a bachelor's degree, the student-edited law review, the library's role as the center of the law school, and a classroom faculty with relatively little practice experience or interest in practice. In medical education, William Osler played a similar role, although with an entirely different emphasis. Osler is associated with the creation of the modern teaching hospital, the most valuable forms of teaching that can occur there, and the structure of and sequence of study in the typical four-year medical degree program. American architectural education was created not by individuals like Osler and Langdell, but instead developed from a kind of place ? the French atelier, from which the modern architectural design studio is descended. An architecture school is built around a design studio, and architectural education's values and practices are studio values and practices.
"This article compares the influence of Langdell, Osler, and the atelier in their respective fields and considers what they can reveal about legal education today. Among other things, that comparison reveals that although very little skills learning is required in law schools, skills learning is at the core of both medical and architectural education. For that reason, the Oslerian and atelier traditions have substantially raised the standard of practice in medicine and architecture, although that is probably much less true for the Langdellian tradition in law. Although most courses taken by a medical student or an architecture student are required, most courses taken by a law student are electives. Law school curricula are only lightly regulated by accreditation, but curricula differ little from one law school to another. The reverse is true in medicine. Architectural accreditation evaluates in detail what students are learning. Architecture and medicine, in fact, have developed inventories of what a capable practitioner should know and have incorporated those inventories into relatively demanding accreditation standards. Law developed a similarly thoughtful inventory of competencies in the MacCrate Report but has not converted it into its accreditation standards as a body of competencies that every school must teach and every student must learn. In comparison with medical and architecture schools, law schools can in some ways resemble graduate liberal arts departments. In reflectiveness, intensity, and continuity, the quality of law school skills teaching compares favorably with skills teaching in medical and architecture schools, although there is much less of it in law than in the other two professions. Traditional thinking about legal education has obscured the fact that law schools probably already have or can develop the resources needed to teach skills to all students. Even though law faculties often consider skills teaching to be expensive, the cost is tiny compared to the expense in medical schools, which must own or affiliate with teaching hospitals and must support the extraordinarily expensive equipment, layers of bureaucracy, and support staff normally found in a hospital."
You can access the complete text at http://ssrn.com/abstract=992801.