Sunday, June 28, 2015
I have often stressed that it is important to understand how the brain works in order to develop the best techniques for teaching and learning. Gary Marcus, a professor of psychology and neural science at New York University, has an interesting piece in the New York Times comparing the brain to a computer.
Professor Marcus writes, "There is much that we don’t know about brains. But we do know that they aren’t magical. They are just exceptionally complex arrangements of matter. Airplanes may not fly like birds, but they are subject to the same forces of lift and drag. Likewise, there is no reason to think that brains are exempt from the laws of computation. If the heart is a biological pump, and the nose is a biological filter, the brain is a biological computer, a machine for processing information in lawful, systematic ways."
As Professor Marcus notes, the analogy between the brain and a computer is not perfect. However, thinking of the brain in this way gives us a much better idea of how the brain works than scientists had at the time Langdell developed his approach to legal education. Considering that cognitive psychology has advanced so much since Langdell's time, why are so many in legal education still rejecting advances in learning theory? It is a disservice to law students that much of legal education is still in the horse and buggy stage.