Law in Contemporary Society
As I got to thinking about my first paper, I posted a quote by Antoine de Saint Exupery that reads "If you want to build a ship, don't drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea." I used it as a metaphor for how Eben's class makes me yearn for pursuing a legal education and career that means something to me and the world, and for how I would like to build a ship to navigate to that goal.

Ron commented that the quote speaks to him for a different reason, namely, of collaborating with others without using them as a means to an end. Ron micro-manages more than he might like, but only trusts himself to get things done as he would like.

Devin commented that he read the quote as standing for the proposition that motivating people happens best through providing them with a positive vision of what could be rather than criticizing the status quo. He related this to how Dr. King presented his "dream" and to the Marshall "know what you want/know how to get it" creed. Devin related this to his work with environmentalism that might be stymied by the "public perception that the environmental movement is mainly against things, not for things."

Eben moved our conversation to another page since it did not directly correspond to practical suggestions for my paper. For everyone else who is commenting on papers "Use Talk pages when you want to talk, please." Eben then explained that de Saint Exupery (not Exupery, my bad) wrote and illustrated The Little Prince, which is a masterpiece everyone should have the pleasure of reading.

Eben thinks Devin's reading of the quote is possible, but not totally logical since "the positive program, the building of the ship, is a given, and could not be accomplished by criticism." Also, Devin's reading is contrary to de Saint Exupery's recurrent themes.

Eben commented that Ron offered an idea that is implied by the text but has nothing to do with what de Saint Exupery is actually writing about. If you look at the history of this page, you can see what Ron wrote as it might interest the "risk-averse control freaks" that the admissions system targets and are thus over-represented in our school.

Eben's reading of the quote, as informed by his readings and knowledge of de Saint Exupery is that "if you want a practical outcome, a ship, inspire in human beings a deep restless longing for the immensity, for the endless vastness, of the sea. Then they will devise and build with all the energy of their restless longing the engines of their exploration." Eben does this in his practice with the free software movement, and in class with us. The first step in building my boat is asking the right question. If you have any suggestions to that end, please comment on my paper page,

Nona, I find it is often easier to rip things down than to build them up (no value judgment, just an observation). I think this is partly because in building something, there is usually some kind of goal, which can vary, and which may be difficult to articulate. The same can be said of destruction, though it seems relatively a bit more inclined towards being an end in itself, i.e. destruction for destruction's sake. Though again, I'm sure there are many cases of construction for its own sake.

You've already decided to build (your boat), and your goal seems to be "pursuing a legal education and career that means something to me and the world." My question (as Art) is do you expect to build this boat, or like Antoine de Saint Expurey seems to suggest, do want to encourage the building of boats (and perhaps in the process obtain a boat of your own)?

If the latter, the first question I would ask (as you) is, why am I encouraging to build? (Simply to build, or for some other reason? Is it to have a ship, or to sail? Do I expect to find something at sea, or am I trying to leave something behind on land? Is it for my men or for "the people", or for me? etc.) Obviously I snuck in several more questions, but the first one is so open, it will inevitably lead to more. You will probably (and maybe should) have several answers. I don't know if these types of questions help or not, but what I'm really saying is that I think a certain amount of awareness about why you are writing will help with how and what to write. Then again, maybe you already have obtained a satisfactory hold of that awareness, in which case you are much closer to your boat than I : )

- Art

Nona- I see that you have a lot of questions within this page and your paper page. Hopefully, I can help by sharing what I think are some other important questions to be asking, and maybe try to shed some light on the ones you've already posed. I'll look at the Antione de Saint Exupéry question about how to build a ship. Without a deeper knowledge of Antione de Saint Exupéry other than Le Petit Prince to guide me, I think (in line with Eben's idea, if I'm understanding it correctly) that the suggestion here is that to achieve an outcome in practice (shipbuilding) we need to inspire the motivation to accomplish a certain thing (yearning for/exploring the sea) which will then instill the drive to build the best boat possible to achieve that goal. It seems to me that deep desires and wants will lead to the best outcomes: we work hardest when we know what we want and have a feeling of urgency to get it. But you've already got the yearning for the sea, and now you need to know how the ship gets built. I think the next step is to translate a general "yearning for the sea" into something concrete: maybe the question is a very simple one. What do you want to achieve? What is it that you really find important? I know you say you want to use your license to shape the institutes to which you belong. I think I have a similar feeling. And so maybe we're at the same roadblock: shape them how? Do something good in this world, but what? What is it that instills in you an urgent desire to change an institution or use your license to achieve a specific practical outcome? What is the problem in this world that you think needs fixing? Those are the questions that will help us figure out what exactly our "yearning" is. But then comes the boat. I don't think we can figure out how to build the boat until we know more about the sea. I think this all speaks to something Eben said in one of our first classes: (approximately) that the only thing you need to change the world is know exactly what you want to do and exactly how to do it. I think that the first part of this might be the hardest. Knowing what we want to do will help drive us to "build with all our energy" the machinery that will help us do it. Figuring out what we want is a hard question, because it isn't one that anyone else can answer or we can find out in some empirical way. But I think just constantly thinking about things we learn, trying to figure out what seems right and what seems wrong, trying to get a feel of our sense of justice and when it is misplaced or nonexistent, and what particular issues strike us the most can all help us formulate some idea of what it is we want. I'm realizing that this is all getting a little bit impractical and abstract, so I'm going to post this in the Talk page rather than the paper page. I hope that some of these questions are helpful for thinking about your ideas, but I also realize that they are kind of nebulous, so if you have any advice on how to refine them or turn them into something more concrete, I would love to hear.

-- JessicaHallett? - 23 Feb 2010

Moved from my paper page: 1. Orientation should include a curriculum about CLS, its history, its alums, its struggles, its triumps... Everyone knows it is a "top law school" but all of our students should be able to describe why. 2. Putting the period from 12:10-1:10 on everyone's schedule as "Lunch." Meals are social times. . The fact that the administration has kept 12:10-1:10 as a period for us to invite guests, eat with friends, hold group meetings etc is a sign that they understand the importance of facilitating a break in the middle of the day for ALL of us to break bread. At NYU and Harvard (the only places I called) there is NO shared lunch break. If we had a lunch period, it would anchor all of our schedules, and we could refer to the period that starts at 12:10 as "lunch" instead of inviting people to a meeting from 12:10-1:10.3. The academic rules seem to allow anyone to take a class pass/fail whenever they want. Dean MGK has explained that when the administration asked students about making the first year p/f they did not like the idea. Why don't we educate the incoming 1Ls about this option, give them the pros and cons, and let them make individual decisions? 4. Every 1L class should, at bare minimum, have a midterm assignment. Even the most busy professors can give an hour at lunch to break down an assignment and give some insight as to what his/her expectations are. 5. Columbia gear. I am proud to be at CLS. I want to share that sense of pride with people in the legal profession, potential new students, my peers, people at the gym, etc. I want to rock some great tees, sweats, and hats. It has proven almost impossible to get this done over the past few months. 6. Pictures of students in class. One of my biggest regrets from last semester (really!) is that I did not ask the entire class and professor to take a picture together towards the end of the semester. Let's give a photo company the responsibility to do this. Students can purchase a picture for a few bucks if they want, have academic keepsakes, and CLS can have a great archive of every class. 7. Deck the hall. We do not have money for any large scale work. Why not get some prints from the CLS archives and decorate with those? 8. An advisory board of students involved with different facets of the school who report to Dean Schizer on a monthly basis. 9. There are already some nice 1L rituals in place (student/faculty dinner for example). I do not yet know enough about the 3 year trajectory for events like that is, but let's at least tie together what we have in a cohesive way and give it some thematic muster.

[Nona -- I think you have captured some of the most important/necessary institutional changes above. My question is this: Many students have a sense of what changes we need (with varying biases and preferences), but isn't the problem that we haven't opened our eyes to the vast and endless seas before us (using Saint-Exupéry's image). It seems to me that the above changes are the planks and nuts that can be used to build the boat. But unless we yearn (as you say) for the immense, would these changes have any tangible effect on what distances we take our boat? The A-student (whatever that may mean), the B-student, etc. must all determine that these grades are meaningless for purposes in which they are used. Unless they understand the fallacy of it (by aspiring for the endless), wouldn't the reformed institution just create new meaningless standards? -- MohitGourisaria - 23 Feb 2010 ]

Mohit: I do not agree that everyone has to stop caring about grades, nor do I think they are a complete fallacy or meaningless. My point is not to make everyone yearn for what we could achieve without grades, but what we could achieve if we worked together in an environment that reminded us that we are worth something and that we can make something together. Eben's class does this for me, but I still care about doing a good job in his class and having that reflected in a grade. If the yearning and the grades were mutually exclusive I do not think that would be the case. It is more the dehumanization of people that weirdly creeps in here than the grade-based labeling system (which of course has its own flaws), and the fact that I can do something (however small) about it while I am here.


Webs Webs

r6 - 26 Feb 2010 - 05:43:17 - NonaFarahnik
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