Thursday, May 05, 2005

Law school grading...again...

The controversy over law school grading isn't one I think will ever be adequately resolved since in my opinion there is an inherent subjectivity to the whole system and people make mistakes; big ones. I have only anecdotal evidence at the moment to go by at the moment, and I'm not inclined to even bother with the mathematical analysis offered in the particular debate found here
which I regard as rather befuddled and beside the point.

My recollection from Real Property serves me in this manner. I wrote an answer on the matter of Joint tenancy. My comrade, who is brilliant but reserves the last week of class for actual study, wrote on Landlord Tenant. The Professor, scored his test one point higher than mine, although the issue had very little to do with landlord tenant law. When I met with him, he already had an argument formulated to deal with that issue, though I didn't even call him on it. I personally think that unless I get below a seventy, there is no need to challenge a Professor and make him look like a fool, and since this was only the midterm, I decided to suck it up and just say "what can I do better."

I understood exactly why he was a good lawyer upon listening to his argument because it was utter bullshit yet sounded convincing. He, incidentally, gave us five pages of fact patterns and an eleven page land sale contract with certain sections blacked out, for our final.

The other experience regards a Magnu Cum Laude student who won the appeals process. In this case, the Professor, who is a walking encyclopedia, simply missed an entire blue book.

There are a number of different styles of grading; the most suspect is the "holistic" method, or Connoisseur method, where the Professor leaves nary a mark on the paper, and writes the score on the top. It tastes good, or it tastes bad. Or it tastes okay. The middle kind is the "check marker" who sees certain points and marks them, offers an issue sheet and looks to see how well you covered those. Then there is the "math teacher" who assigns specific points to each issue and checks off each one with a separate score.

I am not yet able to articulate why the mathematical conversations resonate oddly in my ear, but having spent years in the field of history and being familiar with the concept of assigning numbers to essays, (this is where we hear the "law school is different" camp weigh in) I think people who honestly believe in the objectivity of our Professors are both right and wrong.


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