Sunday, November 11, 2018
Ever found yourself giving this advice to students? Do you have colleagues who do so? In this series of posts, I hope to push back against this practice … sort of. There are five reasons why giving this advice is generally unwise. Here goes….
- Missed opportunity. We all know that students will use supplements regardless of our advice. I am a realist, and so I doubt that each of my 60 students will blindly and universally heed every word I say. (Dear students reading this: You should blindly and universally heed every word I say.)
As a result, if my only input on this issue is a blanket policy lacking any nuance, I’ve lost my ability to guide students towards the good stuff (which I call “hornbooks”) and away from the schlocky stuff (which I call “supplements”). (I make this nomenclature distinction because I want to capture the positive connotation of the former, and the negative connotation of the latter. This allows me to focus students on professor-authored resources written with the primary purpose of supporting students, and non-professor-authored resources written for the primary purpose of revenue).
Moreover, if some of my students’ other professors do recommend certain sources, I have just undercut my colleagues and probably undermined my credibility. I would rather influence my students and support my colleagues than posit myself as the all-knowing sage.
- Mitigating the advantage legal education grants to students from privileged backgrounds. Imagine a student whose mother, father, aunt, uncle, or cousins attended law school. No doubt these family members will spend hours at a family barbeque in July inflicting imparting their advice upon the anxious pre-1L, especially if they attended the same law school. This student now knows that her Criminal Law professor closely follows “Understanding Criminal Law.” The student then positively kills it (pun intended) when cold-called on Queen v. Dudley & Stephens, and she gains points for doing so.
Now imagine the student who is first in his family to attend college, let alone law school. Not surrounded by those “in-the-know,” this student goes through law school not knowing some of the crucial hints that might support his success. He struggles through State v. Wilson and loses points. He does less well in the course not because he lacked aptitude or diligence but because he did not enjoy the privileged background that provided others with pre-knowledge.
If the professor admonished the students not to use supplements, she can share the blame for this troublesome reproduction of socio-economic hierarchy. Not only did her blanket rule likely intimidate the second student more than the first, but her failure to guide her students towards quality materials exacerbated the imbalanced playing field that already existed.
In my next post, I’ll continue to lay out the arguments against the blanket policy of “Don’t Even THINK of Using Supplements.”