By Samantha Plesser • December 03, 2007•Curriculum and Classroom Dynamics
I am taking an amazing class at law school, the first one that I remember being truly excited to go to. It’s called Biblical Law, my first small seminar at law school, and the first class that has reminded me of the thrill of my undergraduate institution. The other classes I’ve taken--the first year curriculum and then a few other “highly recommended” courses, are done via large lectures with the other students either furiously typing away or playing solitaire on their computers--don’t stimulate me. I am diligent and hard-working, do the assigned reading, listen to the professor as much as one can listen to another person talking at me for 50 minutes straight, but in truth, I am bored. Law school doesn’t stimulate me like my undergraduate courses did. I don’t know what I thought law school was going to be when I made the decision to attend. I was in for a rude awakening... This was definitely a professional school, with married people and people with children working long into the night to get their degrees, where students were all competing for the same jobs, and where one test determined your grade.
I remember attending my courses in undergraduate school and being truly excited to go each day. I remember students engaging in amazingly interesting dialogue with themselves and with the professors with profound ideas being bantered back and forth. I remember agonizing over the five or six papers or three or four tests I had to do each semester per class. Now I wish for that method of assessment, as one test in law school can make or break your grade for a whole semester’s work.
I wish my courses at law school were more interactive, more creative, and frankly, more interesting. I believe that the method for teaching most classes, the Socratic method, when students sit in terror after studying their passages all night, waiting with baited breath to be called on by some harsh, presumptuous professor.
I don’t know if this is a realistic wish to have. I know that in undergraduate school, I was exploring a variety of topics; and here in law school, I should treat my studies as a job and not something that should be fun. However, this does not have to be the case. At my law school, there are very few relationships made with other law students. You know people in passing, can recollect their names occasionally, but real friends, friends like you made in college who will last you a lifetime, are not made because every person at law school is there to learn a trade. In college, the rhythm is different in college than in law school precisely because they are such different institutions.
However, I believe that a law school can function more like an undergraduate experience which links directly to learning being exciting again. If students were engaged in classes, less solitaire would be displayed on their computer screens while the professors are lecturing. If a professor asked a question but asked it in an inquisitive way instead of conduction an inquisition, then students would be more likely to respond with thought-provoking and “right” answers. Furthermore, if students were allowed to interact with each other instead of sitting next to each other in silence, they could benefit from an exchange of ideas just as in undergraduate school.
I suppose I am disappointed with my law school experience because I feel that my love for learning has been bashed. Instead of attending class with enthusiasm, I now trudge to class, lugging my heavy course book, and nervous about the professor calling me to attention. I don’t interact with anyone, except on occasion to smile briefly or nod coldly. It's an isolating place, somewhere I don’t feel comfortable being in, a place to complain about because of the workload, the boring reading material, and the competitive students. And the most infuriating thing is, it doesn’t have to be. Law school can remain professional: where people learn a trade can be more social, more interactive, and less of a pressure-cooker than it is now. If discussion were facilitated on the topics we must learn, if more classes were taught in seminar form so that students and the professor could learn one another, if tests throughout the semester were given instead of the one test at the conclusion of the semester... then law school would be a tolerable experience. But in the very definition of law school, it is supposed to be miserable.