Thursday, April 23, 2020
There's a line in the book Moon Dust, regarding people who fervently believe that the Apollo moon landings did not take place, that reads: "The only thing I feel sure of [with respect to a moon landing skeptic] is that he wants to believe this story...." A. Smith, Moon Dust, Harper Perennial (2005). In other words, no matter the evidence, the unbeliever will not believe. Sometimes I feel like that with the bar exam uncertainties and postponements.
As Professor Marsha Griggs points out, law schools (and most of the rest of education) flipped on a dime to online learning. Let me tell you about online learning. I was a skeptic. And, I was afraid, mighty afraid, because I didn't think I could do it. But guess what? I just finished my last class of the semester, online, with smiles and in celebration with my online students. It's too early to tell, but it seems to have worked. I think I'm now a believer.
That brings me to my first point...
Prior to online teaching, I just didn't believe that it could be done, at least not well. I was like the moon landing skeptics. I had heard that some had succeeded in online environments but I didn't really believe the stories. Not at all. But I'm no longer a skeptic because I've experienced online learning for myself. It's not quite a moon landing, but somehow I navigated through the ether of the internet space to make contact with my students, for them to connect with me, for all of us to connect with each other. Here's what I've learned. I was stuck in the past due to confirmation bias. To put it plainly, I lived in the rut of traditional classroom teaching because that was all I knew. And, because that was all I knew, I couldn't see that there might be other ways to deliver high quality legal education. That is until I had to teach online.
So that brings me to my final point - the bar exam...
If law schools can successfully switch to online learning in just a few weeks or two, it sure seems like bar examiners can switch to online bar exams with a few months of lead time. Yes, that would mean open book bar exams. Yes, that might mean reducing the bar exam to a one-day multiple-choice MBE exam. Yes, that might mean some lack of security. But, is there any real reason to hold onto the past model in light of the future pressing down upon us with some much uncertainty? I think not.
It's time for the bar exam to move past tradition and into a future that might be much better for all of us - for bar examiners, bar exam takers, and the public too. I know. Sometimes it's hard to give up what we know. However, if we only ever keep our hands gripped tightly around the present, we'll miss the wonderful chances that are all around us to improve the future of our world. The choice is ours, all of ours. (Scott Johns).