Given the Trump Administration’s denunciations of various Americans and numerous manufactured crises, we might easily overlook its attack on the humanities. For the third consecutive year, the Trump Administration has proposed closing down the National Endowment for the Humanities. It has also proposed major cuts for the National Archives Administration and the complete elimination of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.
The justifications for these kinds of cuts are predictable. The endangered programs are said to be too costly, although the projected savings of only $28 million for National Endowment grants is not even a drop in the bucket compared to military and defense spending. More generally, supporters of the cuts are prepared to echo the public’s growing skepticism about the value of the humanities, particularly because they purportedly do not result in marketable skills.
What we really need, some might insist, is more funding for STEM programs or, at least, a greater commitment to programs that develop roll-up-your-sleeves practical approaches to problem-solving. These are the types of programs, it is claimed, that best prepare people for life and especially for work and employment in the context of the proverbial market economy.
Holding to the side the fact that STEM and skills funding already greatly exceed grants for teaching and research in the humanities, denigrators of the humanities overlook what might be gained from teaching and learning in such disciplines as art, classics, foreign languages, history, literature, music, philosophy, and religion. Each of these disciplines in its own way invites us to reflect on the most fundamental of questions: What does it mean to be human? Continue reading “In Support of the Humanities”
Last night’s Republican National Convention has thrust “plagiarism” to the forefront of the news. One of last night’s speakers was Melania Trump, the wife of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump. Trump’s speech sounded to many strikingly similar to one given eight years earlier—by First Lady Michelle Obama at the Democratic National Convention in 2008.
Incredibly so. Not just identical words, but nearly identical context and sentence structure. At one point, Trump says, “Because we want our children in this nation to know that the only limit to your achievements is the strength of your dreams and your willingness to work for them” (emphasis added). Eight years earlier, Obama had said, “Because we want our children — and all children in this nation — to know that the only limit to the height of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work for them” (emphasis added).
That is plagiarism.
(You can see a side-by-side text comparison here and here and side-by-side video comparison here.) Continue reading “When is it Plagiarism?”
These days, it’s hard to find a law student who doesn’t come to class with a laptop or tablet of some type. Even if the student avoids the temptation to access the Internet during class and simply uses his laptop to take notes, it’s likely his recall of concepts will be not as good as a student who takes her notes by hand.
According to a post in The Chronicle of Higher Education, researchers have found that taking class notes by hand helps students better recall concepts in the lecture. The researchers asked students to take notes using “their normal classroom note-taking strategy.” Some used laptops (disconnected from the Internet) and others used pen and paper and wrote longhand. After 30 minutes, students were tested on the lecture. Researchers discovered that while the laptop note-takers took more than twice the amount of notes as the longhand note-takers, the laptop note-takers “scored significantly lower in the conceptual part of the test.” Both groups scored the same on factual recall. Continue reading “Learning the “Old-Fashioned Way”: Study Says Taking Notes by Hand Better for Recall”
There is a simple way to end the hypocrisy that is modern college sport and at the same time preserve the much-beloved pageantry of men’s college football and basketball.
First of all, we need to embrace the idea that college athletics should be a part of the educational mission of colleges, and not part of their “providing entertainment” function. Subject to the exception for men’s football and basketball set out below, participation in college athletics should be limited to regularly enrolled students who chose to attend their college free from the enticement of special financial support.
The first step is to abolish all athletic grants-in-aid (euphemistically called athletic scholarships) except for those awarded in men’s football and basketball. Except for a few pockets of fan support for college baseball and hockey and women’s basketball, the simple fact is that most sports fans do not care about college sports other than football and men’s basketball. Continue reading “Returning College Athletics to College Students”
There is convergence of ideas about teaching and technology around the Law School lately. The Law School is holding idea sessions as part of our strategic planning process. A significant part of the discussion involves teaching: effectiveness, learners, full and part-time education. Earlier this week Douglas Fisher published an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education on “flipping” his database course at Vanderbilt. Flipping a course refers to taking the in-class lecture component and moving it to an online component, usually accomplished by recording the lecture. Earlier this summer I attended a presentation by Professor Norman Garland (Southwestern School of Law) who flipped his Evidence course and reported on the process and results. These threads all come together this week for me.
We haven’t flipped any classes here but we have blended (a term Garland prefers to flipping) a few. Some MULS faculty have been long time adopters of technology both in the classroom and outside. Many have electronic course pages, electronic supplements, electronic casebooks, and even video webcasts of course supplements. Several faculty here have blended some of their traditional in-class instruction with required out-of-class viewing of lectures. The MULS faculty who have blended their classes use the out-of-class lecture to establish the basics of the topic, which means in-class instruction can focus less on establishing the topic and more about exploring its nuances and its applications. Continue reading “Teaching, Technology, and Eckstein Hall”
There seems to be a consensus today that the United States has too many law schools and too many law students.
The table below looks at how we reached the current situation. It compares the increase in the number of law students and ABA accredited law schools to the general growth of the U.S. population on a decade by decade basis for the past 60 years.
||Increase in Law School Combined Annual Enrollment
||Increase in Number of ABA Accredited Law Schools
||12.3% (114 to 130)
||10.8% (130 to 144)
||17.4% (144 to 169)
|| 3.6% (169 to 175)
|| 4.0% (175 to 182)
|| 5.4% (182 to 200)
As the table indicates, there has never been a correlation between general population growth and increases in law schools and law students.
Although the decline in the number of law students in the 1950’s may be somewhat exaggerated by the fact that law school enrollment boomed in the late 1940’s because of the disruptive effects of the Second World War and the benefits provided by the GI Bill, the period was a remarkably stable era for legal education. Although the number of ABA-accredited law schools increased by 16 in the decade, there was no growth in the number of law students. Law schools remained essentially the same size across the decade or else reduced their enrollments.
Continue reading “Looking at the Increase in the Number of Law Schools and Law Students, 1950-2010”
Student use of laptop computers to surf the web during law school classes has been a much debated “problem” in legal education for more than a decade.
A recent study conducted at St. Louis University suggests that the practice is wide-spread, and that second year law students are most likely to use their laptops for “off-task” purposes. According to research conducted in 2010 by Kim Morse, the associate director of writing support at SLU Law School and a doctoral candidate in education, second year law students spent 42% of their in class time involved in “off-class” Internet activities. In comparison, the figures for first year and third year students were 35% and 25%, respectively.
Continue reading “Study Finds That Second Year Law Students Pay Less Attention Than Their First and Third Year Counterparts”
[Editor’s Note: This month, faculty members are posting on upcoming judicial decisions of particular interest. This is the second post in the series.]
It seems almost certain that the Supreme Court will again take up the issue of affirmative action in higher education, as two highly controversial cases separately make their way up the appellate ladder.
On two occasions, Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978) and the companion cases of Gratz v. Bollinger (2003) and Grutter v. Bollinger (2003), the Supreme Court has, by narrow 5-4 majorities, upheld the constitutionality of college and graduate school admissions programs that take race into account when making admissions decisions. In the same cases, the Court, also by 5-4 votes, struck down the use of formal admissions quotas (Bakke) and the awarding of a specific number of points for race in a numerically-based admissions systems (Gratz) as running afoul of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Although there was no clear majority sentiment on this point, the use of race as an admissions “consideration” was famously justified in opinions by now-former justices Lewis Powell and Sandra Day O’Connor as a way of achieving the “compelling state interest” in “diversity” in the composition of college and university student bodies. Continue reading “New Affirmative Action Cases”
In a down-to-earth and sometimes self-deprecating way, Marquette University’s new president, the Rev. Scott Pilarz, S.J., offered a vision Monday of a university that simultaneously strengthens the quality of its academic programs and its research while becoming more involved with addressing Milwaukee’s needs.
Speaking during an “On the Issues” session with Mike Gousha, distinguished fellow in law and public policy, in the Law School’s Eckstein Hall, Pilarz described Marquette as one of the nation’s great universities. He said great universities successfully walk a tightrope in which student education and research are complementary, not competitive, interests.
Asked by Gousha what other universities he felt Marquette was competing with, he said, “I think we’re competing with Marquette to be the best Marquette we can be.” He said university leaders shouldn’t spend a lot of time looking over their shoulders. “We’re a major national university,” Pilarz said. The focus should simply be, “How do we improve Marquette?”
Pilarz took office as president on Aug. 1. Ceremonies to inaugurate him officially are scheduled for Thursday and Friday. Continue reading “Father Pilarz: Promoting Marquette’s Responsibility for Milwaukee’s Well-Being”
It was a privilege today to attend the lunch of the Section on Student Services at the Association of American Law Schools’ annual meeting. For our colleague, Professor Peter K. Rofes, received the section’s Peter N. Kutulakis Award. This award recognizes the outstanding contributions of an institution, administrator, or law professor in the provision of services to law students. Our Associate Dean for Administration, Bonnie M. Thomson, nominated Professor Rofes for the Kutulakis Award, and Professor Rofes richly deserves it.
Permit me to repeat what I said a year ago concerning Prof. Rofes. The context was my reporting to students, in my beginning-of-semester letter, that Prof. Rofes had elected to return this academic year to full-time faculty duties, in the tradition of the Law School, after lengthy service as director of the part-time program and associate dean for academic affairs. I wished to explain “my thanks and admiration”:
I have been especially impressed by Prof. Rofes’s ability—even while administering the academic program, including determining course offerings, working with full-time and adjunct faculty, overseeing the schedule, and running the Academic Support Program—never to lose sight of the individuals with whom he works and never to fail to make time, for example, for the individual in need of time, attention, or assistance. There is a lesson for you in his work. For your work as a lawyer also will be in support and service of others; indeed, the work of the lawyer inheres most basically in the attention to and care for another. I express at graduation my hope that you have found some models in these, your early days in the profession. You—we—would do well especially to consider the important ways in which Prof. Rofes is an exemplar.
Congratulations, Peter—and thank you.
Racial disparities in education has been one of the central legal and cultural problems in post-World War II America. A recent study published by The Education Trust reveals yet another example of the problem of African-American underperformance, although the data compiled has a fascinating regional twist.
The Education Trust study focuses on comparative graduation rates for black and white students at the same colleges and universities. Data was collected from 456 colleges and universities throughout the United States. For the study as a whole black students are twenty percent less likely to graduate from college than their white counterparts who attend the same school.
However, the discrepancy in graduation rates is not uniform. At some colleges and universities, African-Americans graduate at the same or nearly the same rate as white students. At other schools, the gap is as wide as thirty-four percent.
Although the Education Trust study does not address the issue of regional variance, it is apparent from the results presented that the gap between white and black graduation rates is much lower in the South than it is in other regions of the country, and that the gap is particularly wide in Wisconsin. Continue reading “New Study Shows Regional Disparity in African-American College Performance”
John McDill Fox was the first member of the Marquette Law School faculty to have attended Harvard Law School and the first to be hired as a dean at another law school. With his colleague Carl Zollman, he founded the academic field of aviation law, and unlike his faculty colleagues at Marquette, he believed that there should be such a thing as a distinctive “Catholic” legal education.
Fox was born in Milwaukee on January 3, 1891. Both of his parents had deep ties to the legal and political history of Wisconsin. His father, Dr. William Fox, was a surgeon and the grandnephew of William Fox, one of the signers of the 1848 Wisconsin Constitution. His mother, Narcissa McDill, was the daughter of Alexander McDill, a former Wisconsin congressman.
Fox was initially educated in public schools in Milwaukee, but at age nine, he was sent away to enroll in the preparatory department at Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana. At age 14, he moved up to the college and graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in 1909. After graduating, he accepted a position as a teacher at St. Edward’s College, a small Roman Catholic institution in Austin, Texas. Even by the standards of the early twentieth century, becoming a college professor at age 18 was quite precocious, although it is likely that Fox taught primarily in the school’s college preparatory division. Continue reading “John McDill Fox and the Idea of Catholic Legal Education”