Sunday, August 14, 2005

A life of fear

One of the things I always hated about teaching was that I was always afraid of getting in trouble. When you are in a situation where there is no way you can truly avoid trouble, no matter how good you are, it isn't healthy. The totally incompetent principals would wander in and out of my class room and I was always afraid of what would be happening at that moment. If I broke up a fight I got in trouble, if I didn't I got in trouble. If a taught to the standards the kids hated me and learned nothing. If I taught history I wasn't doing my job. If I let kids walk all over me it made them worse; if I stood up to them, then some of them would try to destroy me by lying, bringing in their horrible parents, etc...

Now in law school, you get this three hour period to show how much you learned in a fourteen week period. Three questions, and that's it. IT is "sink or swim" in the extreme.

I'm looking down the barrel of community property, the hardest class here at Empire. This guy has something to prove, and I admit I like the way he puts people on the spot when they brief a case. The problem is the seven page fact pattern replete with numbers and facts that create such a dizzying array of issues that the danger is one of vaporlock. But the worst of all, and my greatest enemy on the exam, is the non-issue issue.

The non-issue issue, or "straw man" is a set of facts from which one cannot really discuss anything. When a business grows in value during marriage but is started with separate property, then the community obtains an interest in that business, depending upon whether it is growing as a result of the business operator's efforts or the character of the asset. If it is because he is a great car salesmen, then he gets screwed and the community gets most of the money (yes it is counterintuitive). If a monkey could have done it, then the community gets whatever his salary would have been for that position, and the guy gets the rest. Wife likes the first one, called Periera and H likes the second one, called Van Camp.

SO we get a fact pattern where the property doesn't appreciate in value. Thus no assets, thus no discussion on CP. But without discussing these two formulas in relation to this CP interest that doesn't exist, you are looking at losing ten points. Law professors and students who do well on these tests argue this is fair. I call bullshit. The difficulty is in moving on to things that are AT ISSUE. If there is nothing AT ISSUE, then there shouldn't be a discussion. In fact, you should lose points for discussing non-issues. But that isn't the way it works, my friend.

I had a philosophical debate with myself the other day about a life lived in this kind of fear. Is it worth it? How can you avoid it? Where can you go where you aren't afraid of fucking up, riding on that thin line? If anyone knows, let me know.


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