Thursday, November 30, 2006

Some sophistry

The third comment back by "anonymous" was my mom saying she loved me, the second back was my dad saying I would have been better named Katie and the last one was calling me meaningless, pedantic, and arrogant. It feels like growing up all over again.

To be fair, the last anonymous called my writing meaningless, pedantic, and arrogant. Meaningless I disagree with, I think it has meaning but its rough and could be shorter and easier to access. However, I have a small history in academic writing or legal writing, so really - I am kind of faking it. To pedantic, I have always consider that word too ironic to really process (the only time I have heard it used was by someone being pedantic there). And to arrogant, I think that is a bit unfair. I think I rightly characterize the post and its comments with me being a 1L law student sort of guessing my way around.

I actually don't care about the response in itself, I believe it was sarcastic (again, anyone who uses "pedantic" is either being sarcastic or is an idiot - and most of my friends, hopefully, fall into the former): but it did get me thinking.

When do I get to start being arrogant with my arguments again? If I have learned one thing in law school: the answer is always maybe. Sure there are questions that don't get answered with maybe, but those questions don't get asked. Not by teachers and not by students. Which leads to professors saying: "Welllllllll" a lot more than they should.

In my "lawyering" class the other day we were asked what we had learned about ourselves over this semester that would make us a good lawyer. The results: nothing short of disastrous. I see it as an issue of timing. Last Tuesday may have been the climax of kids feeling both unprepared for tests and guilty about having not been studying.

Answers were met with a lot of sighs, entirely different from when our semester began. Day 1: we were all told to say something about ourselves. We had fine answers, most were rather impressive and constructed with a delicate layer of modesty over a good core of self pride. Now the class was awkward and fidgety about how they feel they would be a good lawyer.

To be clear: I think every one of my lawyering classmates would (and for the most part, will) be a good lawyer. I got a great class, eerily so. If I listed people I don't like in the class, I think I would put myself in the top three, its just that good.

But it was a rough time to ask.

Tests from this side of the 1L veil of ignorance seem like this vague cloud of threats. We know what they look like. We can practice them. We will study for them. But there are a lot of unknown factors: what if we get a freak test, what if we have a freak day, what if pressure+law=instant death, and what if we are good, but not as good as our peers.

The latter is the most interesting because its weird for NYU law students to fear, who I think by and large are not that competitive. They are shockingly competitive with themselves, but they are not necessarily competitive with their peers. There are exceptions (almost startlingly exceptions really), but most seem competitive with themselves more than anyone else.

But that is not how tests are graded.

A lot of my peers I think have come to the best solution: get Bs. Learn the material, do as well as you can, but don't stress, and don't drown in books, just swim in them.

I think there is a lot too that, because there is a, not to be pedantic, diminishing returns problem here. Doing better does not directly equal success.

But for most law students it seems to me, the 1L is to abstracted for that. A tunnel vision occurs from the nature of the beast unless you have something else going on in your life. Because NYU law has a bunch of very involved, eclectic, and individualistic students, I think a good lot of the population here has something to go back to. But those who don't run the risk of tunnel vision.

I went the tunnel route by choice, I knew I would, and I planned on this. Best reason? What else do I have to do? I guess I could appreciate New York and any number of other things, but I got time for that. I know I will get back to those things, probably after this first semester. I have always been good at balance, and then saving few months for abundance, and I tend to appreciate those experiences.

So now here is my situation (the aforementioned arrogance is how I took this broad diatribe and put it to the only clear point: myself): when do I start being arrogant and, maybe not pedantic, but academic?

I take a pride in "Level II" analysis. I think I can do well given material and asked, what's under this? This is what got me through undergrad with shockingly little studying (minus my thesis). But after that, I am at a loss. I am historically not very good at "creating" theories, or looking for something deeper where someone else hasn't. But I think that is partially lack of confidence. Most times I don't want to say something that I think is "deep" because I think it is something that was said before.

Thats what was going on in that legal diatribe (my comment on which I think was better than the actual post): I recognized that it was not the first time it was said, but I was trying to say it before I read it or heard it. Afterwards, my classes basically covered the same thing: some risks are assumed, some are not, some risks are allocated, some are not. I think meaningful, but the comment is right, my posting such an argument was meaningless.

I hate comments in class sometimes because everyone just says the book notes. In one class, she basically asks "What's the deal with this?" No one puts their hands up, finally a gunner (myself included, sigh) puts up their hand and goes: "I know, I mean, its totally like this?" This being note four in the book first paragraph, another hand goes up, "Yeah, but what are like, totally, forgetting this" which is the second paragraph. And it goes on like that.

Its not that the comments aren't smart, but sometimes I question the source or the genuineness of that system. I mean, I guess it helps us learn the law, right?

Anyway, now that I know that NYU students are actually checking this (its not like I kept it a secret - I posted it on facebook), to those who don't like me: I am not as much of a jerk as this post would indicate. Or even some of the last few. They are just getting a weird outlet for wanting to rant at a source that won't respond by pointing out the obvious vanity involved...wait, well, I guess thats not true anymore...whatever...


Anonymous said...

I think you are that big of a jerk, but mostly because you didn't come to my party and got up this morning to post this. Members of your lawyering class were having a good time, while you were doing God-knows-what. Probably studying or some nerd stuff....

Or maybe you did a ton of blow and stayed up all night with a bunch of hookers, then posted this in a post-coital, post-high afterglow and comedown. In that case, and in that case alone, I salute you.

Matthew K Warner said...

Well...that is not going to help me on the job market much...sigh...

I actually posted this well before the party. But it came down to your party vs. Natasha's, and it ain't your birthday pally.

Don't worry, when there is a more opportune parties I will be there.