Thursday, December 15, 2005

Go ahead JDs, prove me wrong

So -- on an uber cynical day in October, I wrote a post questioning how much some idealistic 1Ls (first semester..) were really going to change the world. Some were upset by this, and for that I'm sorry. (note -- original post was edited so as not to be as personal -- that was wrong of me)

I would love to be proven wrong. It isn't as if I don't think you CAN change the world. It isn't as if I don't think you WANT to change the world (now) -- it is simply my experience that most people who start law school with those ideals are slapped in the face with the real world and the financial challenges that face those who want to change the world. It is also the case that I think you could probably be more effective changing the world doing other things than going to law school-- I also think that law school is attractive because of the potential to do good -- but terrible in the real life of a lawyer and the debt that most law students have to incur.

So -- go out there and do it. Send me an e-mail when you've been in the trenches doing good with your degree -- tell me I was wrong. I'm very open to being proven wrong, and I'm happy to be wrong when the world is a better place to live-- I'd take that any day. I would love to hear about how you've been doing public interest law for a few years and are only getting more interested in saving the world. I would be thrilled to hear that you've spent the last 20 years suing the housing authority on behalf of "dirty, stinky old men" -- and loving it (a direct quote from a lawyer friend who has done just that..). You'll be able to find me teaching freshman philosophy in the philosophy factory...

Don't blame me for being cynical -- it is what comes from seeing and being in the real world for a while longer than y'all. It is what comes from teaching people who are as smart as you, but not nearly as fortunate. There are real life injustices, I see them impact my students on a daily basis.

Don't get defensive when I think there may be a different way to solve the problems and that I think that for most law students, going to law school is a default choice, not a choice out of passion for the law. I think this is sad and even if you aren't one of those people -- many in your class are and it is these people who will diminish your credibility in society.

Show me you are wrong -- make the sacrifices necessary to do good -- or, at least be honest and admit that making some money is an acceptable goal and something you've worked hard to be able to do. That is fine-- I don't think you have a unique duty to change the world -- just don't fool yourself if that is really how it is going to end up.

Also, don't look down on your classmates who have to make the choice of making money over saving the world.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Could you at least make some sense in this post? Either you meant every patronizing word you said, or you didn't. Either we're supposed to not look down on those who have to make the choice to make money, or we're not (and then why can you?).

Finally, an apology that says "i'm sorry you're upset" is no apology at all. You make some fantastic qualifications, regarding the pressure of debt, none of which have to do with your actual original post. So if that's your actual opinion, and you're not actually sorry, don't pretend to be.

Just admit that there are some people, even now, who do not fit into your little mold, who do not know this "privilege" that you speak of, who had a combination of luck and damn hard work, some of whom already turned down the "make partner" jobs (or deliberately eschewed them in the first place) you looked down your nose at to represent those who cannot afford their own attorney.

Don't characterize me not liking the way you described me and my life choices as defensive. On your decision to teach. . .I think it's a great one, and even if I didn't, I surely wouldn't condemn it in as snide a tone as you did mine.

You were not addressing the "vast majority" of my fellow students in your post. You were attacking particular people, by nickname and by learning institution. Even if I wasn't one of those people, I know I was lumped into their consideration.

I'm glad your blog is a chance to air your id. For that reason, I'm sorry I found it. Sometimes it is better to not know what people truly think about you.

Oh, and I don't think I'll be emailing you. Sorry. I'm sure that'll be better for both of us, as you can assume the worst of me as a result, and I don't have to worry about whether I've finally become "interesting to you".

There's nothing that can really replace the satisfaction of thinking that you're right, even if evidence to the contrary is right in front of you.

I don't expect to see this pass moderation on your blog. It'll go on mine instead.

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

First --- whomever you are -- here it is..

Second -- you should note a couple of things.. first of all, the post was written in October... generally a hard month for me for personal reasons (you'd figure it --if you cared at all -- by reading the other posts). The tone came from there.... at least in part. October to late November is the time of the year I generally think the world sucks. It has been that way for the past four years --- you'd probably think so too...

Third -- I actually do think those things, but regretted being as personal as I was in the post and edited the original to take out the nicknames... as that was a bit over the top.

Fourth -- The purpose of the original post wasn't to attack people who are currently idealistic -- but rather to notice how many people go into law school with high ideals and leave with the hope of a high salary. I really don't think that is a bad choice.

Fifth -- I've always had the policy that if you can't bear to hear the truth from me, you aren't a friend. This is my space to use as I'd like, and if we were face to face and the topic came up, I'd probably say the same things I am now -- in BOTH posts. Frankly, we probably weren't "friends" in the first place...

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

ps... it would have been decent to give me the chance to post it here before assuming I wouldn't and putting it immediately on your blog. Your choice and assumptions weren't much of a surprise, but it would have been decent.

Andrea said...

In a general sense, I share frustrations with people who see amazing students enter law school full of ideals and leave full of self-interest for money. I blog about it ALL the time. Your post hurt me because it called ME out by name and school and suggested you assumed I was ONE of those people, and would continue to assume so until I proved myself to you in 20 years. Especially since I spent three years as an inner-city teacher and volunteer making sure I wasn't going to law school for the wrong reasons and being inspired by my wonderful students into entering public interest law. I don't know what I could possibly do to get off your "presumption that greed will take over" list.

Or your "presumption of privilege" list, for that matter. The fact that I am at Harvard does not prove that my life has been more privileged than someone at a community college, or more importantly, that I cannot serve the poorest or the most needy communities. I grew up with a single parent who was a teacher. I went to public school and worked my ass off. We were on food stamps when I was small. It hurts to think that because I now go to Harvard, I am assumed to be an elitist.

Some people are in law school to make money and they can wrestle with that ethically themselves. I am here for something else. No one has to believe me, but most people do. You've invited to join those who believe in and support me, and Dan, and Amy, and Marie, and Alan, and Ian, and Brett, and on and on, now, rather than later.

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

I guess the thing is that, when I wrote that post I was in a very cynical place.. my sister's 34th birthday was in a couple of weeks, she's been dead for 4 years... I'm always pretty cynical at that time of the year... it isn't anything personal. In hindsight, I edited the first post to make it less personal than it really should have been all along, as it wasn't fair.

What nobody who has read and commented so far really seems to get is that I don't doubt the sincerity of your plans to change the world, I'm sure you want to do just that -- I hope you do. My post was about how that changes for many people, maybe I didn't make that clear... don't let it change for you and you won't see yourself there in 10 years.

And, frankly, since you brought up your background -- your foodstamps and public school teaching single mom gave you a decent education. If you didn't get it in school, mom had the tools to give it to you at home. For this you seem to be pretty darned lucky. in my view, you don't have to be wealthy to have privilege.

UCLA and Harvard aren't really accessible to someone withtout a bit of privilege... just ask some of my students about that one. See the post I'm about to make about a student and paragraphing for further insight.

Besides, when did I ever say that having privilege was actually bad?? Frankly, I'm ok with elitists and those who have had a bit of luck -- as long as they admit it to themselves.