Sunday, April 24, 2011

There's something happening here (and there), what it is ain't exactly clear...

Recently I had an interesting trip into the world of anonymous and unrestrained of blogging. I attempted a relatively mild defense of UF after the embarrassing publicity of last week (which, by the way, common sense would lead one to believe is based on a partial story) and got clobbered by a few anonymous commentators. Not all of the personal criticism was unfair.

Some of the more interesting quotes are these.

"It’s ironic how UF Law professors complain about their students being unprofessional, when UF Law professors are violent, rude, unprofessional, not collegial and childish in their daily actions."

"Unfortunately, the Dean and the professors at UF School of Law have created and fostered a very hostile and unpleasant environment. The professors don’t seem to get along with each other and most of the professors seem to dislike the students."

"And, it is known that the faculty isn’t a student-friendly faculty—the students make that clear. Maybe to each other, the faculty pretends they are student friendly and you can feel better about yourselves, but the students and alumni know."

"I have taken many classes where the professors openly talk bad about students during class—either about students in another class they are teaching or a previous year’s class or the student body in general. In offices, the courtyard and in the hallways, I have heard many professors talk negatively about their colleagues and the students in general or talk about how their fellow professors hate teaching or hate the law school students. I’m tired of hearing from UF law professors that we act entitled, are lazy, are worst than previous classes, that we don’t work as hard as you professors did when in law school, that the professors deserve to be teaching at better schools with more intelligent students, that we are racist or homophobic, that we are elitist, that we are conservative bigots, that republicans are evil, that all southerners are bad, that we are rich snobs, that the grading curve is too high, that we are idiots or disrespectful when we may disagree with your jurisprudential views, that we are inappropriate, and that practicing lawyers are bad people."

"My classmates and I have heard professors bitching ad nauseam about students and other professors. It is a ramped problem at the school. Most students don’t even want to hear these things. But, it does create an unhealthy, negative environment. As for the students taking responsibility for being spun--spin or not (we may not believe the spin being shoveled), it nevertheless creates a feeling that the professors are “nasty” and makes the law school’s environment unpleasant--a place where students don’t want to be."

Much of this was delivered an what I would call an angry tone. Of course, I happen to appreciate strong feelings, even anger, when there is an injustice. Moreover, the commentators represented a small but perhaps representative sample and all were anonymous. Nevertheless the themes were consistent: 1) Faculty do not respect students; 2) Faculty do not like each other and 3) Faculty take their gripes about each other to the students. I am sure all of this is true at every law school and have had personal experience. I recall a recent conversation with a new colleague who said had been "briefed" within a day or two of his arrival able how evil I am. The faculty flowing to his office to recruit him one way or another (not with respect to me) has surprised him. He heard so many different versions of UFs history I am sure his head was spinning. The question is whether these thee conditions exist only at the margins of a School or begin to define a School. I do not know.

It is ironic that this exists in an era in which the Socratic method is dead and the average student is guaranteed a B+ average. In fact, at a recent retreat with faculty and alums the alums seemed generally surprised that teaching styles had made a 180 degree turn from what they were used to. My perception was that they felt it was a bad idea.

So, what is going on here in a era in which at least on a formal level things would seem to be the best ever for students but, in fact, they may very well be the worst.

I do not know but I think any explanation that focuses only on UF is too narrow. There is something bigger going on here. My own theory, upon which I hope no one will place any reliance, is that it starts with the late 60s, the generation that came of age then or shortly thereafter, a culture of over-affirmation, the pervasive sense of entitlement, and the lessons many of us influenced by that generation have taught our children. It may be a sign of an experiment that did not work

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