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September 09, 2016


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I think the issue is not "caring" because all of us care about something, even if that something is only one's self (as, it seems to me, is the case with the vast majority of the members of law faculty, if we expand the term "self" to include one's own "suspect classification" or the "suspect classification" that pandering and catering to one feels will aggrandize one's self image.)

Law professors are rated by student evaluations based on a.) easy course load, b.) non-threatening classroom demeanor, and, c.) the "cool" factor (as in "I teach Torts by way of showing clips from the Simpsons" and like asinine techniques that just amount to trying to please the students.) (For those of a certain age, remember "film strips"? Students love wasting time in class with frivolous activities.) I would submit that any law professor who goes for these methods does NOT care about students.

Likewise, the role of law professor is not social worker. SO many law profs these days believe that the way to student's hearts (remember, self interest is the driving force here and being "liked" is the goal) is to act like a "caring" parent or psychologist for the fragile little ones facing such terrible pressure. Again, this is not "caring" in the sense that a law professor should care.

Finally, so many law professors believe that teaching is not the main or most important focus of their profession, and thus DON'T care about the only thing they should care about.

Educators are hired to educate students. That is what a law professor should care about. IF a law professor believes that he or she has to be a social worker, surrogate parent or dumb down the material to an inordinate degree, caring only about evaluations and being "liked" by the students, then I would submit that law professor is not focused on the what that professor should "care" about.

If, in educating students, a professor can also play all these other roles, of course, I would have no objection. But, given that evaluations are all about self interest, and law professors are notoriously a selfish and self interested group, I wouldn't count on the former being the case.

Remember: law professors are very rarely measured by the extent to which their students have learned anything. The measurements are evaluations and biased peer evaluations (see, first paragraph).

Enrique Guerra Pujol

When I'm teaching a required course (which these days is always), I operationalize my caring ethic by trying to create courses that students would actually want to take, by requiring weekly (but short) writing assignments, and by providing for continuous feedback throughout the entire semester.



But, again, I don't think this is a "caring" issue, unless we define "caring" as "doing your job."

It's like saying, "I show my banker I care about the bank by paying my mortgage."

Except, insofar, as creating courses "students would actually want to take." THat, I fear, is the reason our educational system produces so many uneducated college graduates, as any law prof knows. That isn't part of the job of an educator. That is just pandering, which rarely accomplishes much.

Captain Hruska Carswell, Continuance King

No. Stopped after Bush v. Gore was handed down.


Great post.

I wonder if the caring/coddling critique that "anon" brings up and you hear all the time is mostly a red herring. I think profs typically agree that our most important role vis law students is as educator. When I say I care about the students, I mean that I put an enormous amount of time/energy into prepping every class, helping them get jobs, etc, and what makes this "caring" as opposed to just my job is that I do it even if there is no direct connection between these efforts and my professional advancement. All the things you mention fit into this caring by fostering a better learning environment. (In fact, as someone who has known you since your time as an AUSA I hope your students appreciate the opportunity you are giving them to pick your brain.) On the coddling front anon raises, I don't see any problem with profs being as nice as they want to the students as long as they are professional about it and the nice-ness is consistent with learning objectives. You want to bring donuts, bring donuts (or maybe something healthier). Show Simpsons clips if that keeps the class engaged and forwards some learning objective. But, and I think everyone basically agrees with this, if a prof does the donuts and clips instead of making sure each class is a serious value-added proposition, then probably that prof is not so caring after all.



It's good to see someone with training in education in the legal academy. Your post hits upon something I've been thinking about for a while, but haven't looked into. There are a variety of learning styles, e.g. verbal, oral, aural, kinesthetic, etc. I've been wondering whether there is also an emotional learning style. A few years ago a student came into my office crying because she felt like one of her professors didn't care about her or the class in general. She didn't know how to handle the situation -- anonymous note to the prof? Letter to the dean? She told me who the professor was, and I knew he did care and that he was someone she could talk to about it. We discussed how this was a test of her professionalism, and that she should go talk to him in office hours, which she did. She didn't see a complete turnaround in the behavior after their conversation, but felt much better about the situation afterwards, which calmed her down and enabled her to focus on learning the course material. As I thought about the situation and the student, I realized that she was a person who learned best when she felt a personal connection to her professor. Now, on the first day of my property course, I introduce students to learning styles and post a link that helps the to identify their learning styles. In the site's list of learning styles it does not include emotional as a learning style, but I do pose the question to the students, leaving the answer open. If there is such a learning style, the question becomes, it seems to me, how to develop strategies to reach a distinct learning style within the context of the classroom -- without devolving into pandering. A starting point would of course be taking your teaching seriously, but are there more specific strategies we could develop for those whom we might identify as more strongly emotional learners, as opposed to, say, visual learners?


Thank goodness judges and clients delve into all the weird (and largely discredited) theories about attorney's proclivities, personal preferences, emotional instabilities, learning styles and tastes when deciding whether the attorney has done/will do a good job.

Making up strange academic puffery about all the special, fragile little children (most of whom are grown adults, expending relatively huge amounts of money is a serious endeavor to enter a serious profession) in law school will surely lead to excellent training for the real world!

REally, really caring.

ONe hopes that those training our doctors are also focused on coddling a crying child about her perception that a professor not was not personally connecting with her enough to satisfy her. Perhaps, when a judge does likewise, a letter to the supervising judge? Or, demand an in chambers conference to tell the judge you don't think he "connected with you" enough on an emotional level?

Yes, indeed, that's what we should train these "kids" to believe is appropriate.


Much has changed since i attended law school in the 1980s. Then, the students were concerned about impressing the Professors and getting into THEIR good graces. The evaluation model instills justifiable fear into non-tenured Professors. I know colleagues who are concerned about student reviews and the classes suffer because he/she is mindful that material deemed "too complex" and/or a "too" demanding and rigorous demeanor in class may be grounds for bad evaluations. Surely we all experienced overbearing and mean Professors but IMO we have gone too far in trying to correct this wrong.



The attitude of baby boomers toward their children (and society in general) has created the hyper partisan, immature and emotionally unstable nature of contemporary culture.

For example, 26 year old "children" are praised because these "kids" remain on the their parent's health insurance policies under the Affordable Care Act. Because the baby boomers are so selfish and greedy, there are fewer and fewer opportunities for anyone else, so, there are no jobs for their special little adult "children" and these "kids" are moving home in record numbers, relying on mom to wash their clothes and clean their room when in years gone by they already would be raising families of their own.

What is so shocking is that legal educators, steeped in this culture of the spoiled and pampered, can't see any of their quite obvious faults. Instead, they cater more and more to the little princes and princesses they have created in their psyche (to, of course, please their own sense of self worth - just listen to any of their boasting and bragging for proof) and twiddle away the years doing as close to nearly nothing as possible or engaging in mostly frivolous scholarly pursuits while the notion of a law school education goes steadily down the tubes in terms of quality, practicality and ethical content.

It sounds bleak, but, after reading the main post, and the comment about the weeping child, who needed to be consoled because her law professor didn't sufficiently demonstrate in class that he "cared about her" one cannot help but recoil at the absurdity of these contemporary attitudes and the outcomes these attitudes produce.

Again, if you are a law prof, and you want to know how you should "care" about your students, why not try to be a legal educator who educates his students about the subject he teaches? Nah. One would much rather be a "good guy" (i.e., smother the fragile egos of the students with faux attention and let the rigor slip).

Vote Trump

Anon, agree with your message. We can look at the nonsensical "time-out" as discipline as an example. Ritalin and having social workers intervene were not long after. Doesnt work too well. When kids know their fathers cannot (or are unwilling) to do a degree of physical discipline it contributes to the coddling, lack of achievement and ultimate decline.

Jeff Stake

I think you are right about the importance of caring.
I too have heard the "grumble" about students, but all of the times I've heard it the Professor was joking. Of course, I'm not saying the times you heard it were not grumbles. But sometimes it is a joke that is making fun of the fact that we temporarily forget that the students are the reason we have these jobs. [posted elsewhere by mistake; not sure how to delete it there]

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