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College vs. the Love of Wisdom

 

Part I: A sad realization

While we Ricochetti may find it regrettable, the vast majority of human beings aren’t interested in ideas. In my Advanced International Relations class, we met once a week after reading a book. It was mentally electrifying. We ran the gamut of different ideas and theories and hammered out what they all meant. The teacher was superb, and it was a smaller class, so it was perfect for discussion. The class was among the most intellectually productive things I’ve ever done. Sadly, I doubt that a majority of the students were really into it. I asked my Professor why the students were so uninterested in the morality of torture and wars and Empires. He shrugged and said that while he always found it odd, it was usually that way.

Furthermore, some of the straight-A students were as intellectually stimulating as dusty cardboard. They perfectly regurgitated whatever the Professor spoke or whatever the textbook said, but they never bothered to think about anything they absorbed. My Uncle and my Dad hate this argument. They think they can force people to be intellectual and thoughtful. I never saw a lot of that on campus, did you?

The majority, perhaps the vast majority, of college students want to get the accreditation and move on with their lives. To paraphrase Rob Long, “Probably the majority of college students treat their professors with mercenary calculation. They listen and they repeat what their Professors say just to get the grade.” He expressed himself much more eloquently than what I can recall, but the point is that without a love of ideas and history, repeating the Professor isn’t that useful.

Then there is the timing of it all. Why exactly is a class on Shakespeare more useful to a 19-year-old then a 39-year-old? Furthermore, young people have a lot of health and energy and can endure long hours to develop both wealth and, more importantly, skills that employers value. Putting all that energy into queer theory isn’t adding to the economy.

Part II: Accreditation and the problem of straight-A students

What we ought to do is separate the acquisition of useful skills from the acquisition of knowledge and the pursuit of the good and beautiful. All the straight-A students are going to get As with or without love of knowledge so might as well teach them the most utilitarian skills. Getting an A in philosophy without any love for wisdom means nothing.

Employers will always try to hire the most qualified people, so it might be useful to have qualifications that actually mean something. Instead of accreditation, we ought to create tests that demonstrate skill and or knowledge. Think of the Bar exam or the Sommelier test. Those are serious tests that convey competency in a given field.

Socrates did not give grades or teach marketable skills. He asked people what was good and bad, and he pursued what was good. That is fundamentally a non-monetary ambition. Socrates had no tests, and he did not ask his followers to agree with him (see Phaedo) but he always asked that they love Truth and that they pursue Truth. That cannot be replicated with grades and tests and bureaucracy. We shouldn’t pretend that it can be. The entire point of the first four books of Socrates is a spiritual one. It is about a human being aspiring to live in Truth and pursue Truth. Personally, I feel that Socrates demands the pursuit of Truth everyday. Ergo, if I read something on Facebook that sounds plausible and contradicts my beliefs, I am obligated to research. Pretty much like I did with my Professors in college.

Part III: The black lung disease of the intelligentsia (George F. Will)

On one of those wonderfully long back and forth discussions on Ricochet, a throwaway comment made me rethink the entire purpose behind higher education.

Zafar, our friendly liberal interloper, was saying that the American right and left can agree that Female Genital mutilation is a bad thing and that the laws against FGM were established in Michigan with strong support by the state’s Democratic Party. Some Ricochetti said that the left was too dominated by post-modernism and white guilt to demand that American immigrants abandon FGM. I said off-handedly that I agreed with Zafar and that only college-educated liberals would ever think that FGM would be good thing. … After I wrote that, I had to think for awhile.

Now, at a dinner party, people ask a doctor questions about medicine and they ask a lawyer legal questions. But an illiterate man has 50/50 odds of giving a more moral and sensible answer than a humanities major. So what exactly is a point of a college degree?

Speaking of the inadequacies of the elite, I heard from fellow Ricochetti that the workplaces where higher education was required were flooding with the tears of leftists. I was just finishing my shift at my blue-collar gig and everyone was surprised at the result. But they were all too busy living life to be concerned about politics. They had kids that needed to go to school tomorrow and bills to pay and actual problems to endure. The only political comment I heard from the staff on the following day was shock at how “butthurt” everyone was on Facebook. Clearly, the hysteria has gotten even worse with the attacks on Charles Murray and Heather Mac Donald.

So after spending years of youthful energy and tens of thousands of dollars, higher education seems unable or unwilling to diffuse the ideas that make people happy, stable, and moral. I must ask a question that leads the answer: What’s the point?

Part VI: For the love of Wisdom

To replace the corrupt, sclerotic system of American higher education we need more than accreditations. We need to create a culture that values the pursuit of knowledge after you leave college. Even the most educated people only go to college for a fraction of their life. Knowledge needs to be a lifelong pursuit. It’s OK if you are busy with kids or a high-stress job for about a decade, but society needs to encourage intellectual growth throughout your entire life. I’ve known Ph.D.s that, once they get their degree, stop thinking and debating anything.

Over a decade ago, I trained with Sigun Eric Lee, and he mentioned that getting a black belt can be devastating for certain students of the martial art. Once they get a black belt they feel that they don’t need to learn anything more. “Some practitioners haven’t learned a new technique in 10 years,” he said with lamentation. “Always have a white belt mentality and always be ready to learn.”

That mentality, above all other things, is what we ought to pursue.

Published in Education
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  1. Profile photo of WillowSpring Member

    The engineers that I have worked with who had degrees all seemed to feel that now that they had the degree, there was nothing else to learn. The few who were self-taught never stopped learning.

    • #1
    • June 18, 2017 at 2:40 pm
    • Like14 likes
  2. Profile photo of Chris O. Member

    Henry Castaigne: Ergo, if I read something on Facebook that sounds plausible and contradicts my beliefs, I am obligated to research. Pretty much like I did with my Professors in college.

    This is a marketable skill, and an indispensable one in marketing that is sorely lacking. The business schools, and other specializations, teach prescription when solutions change according to industry, size of business, budget, and targeted audience. Marketing majors can’t always adapt their thinking based on these criteria, though they’re training is meant to produce expertise. The solution is often the same size nail, struck by the same hammer.

    This only furthers your final point that education is a lifelong endeavor, but also contradicts the earlier statement that acquisition of useful skills should be separated from pursuit of knowledge. In other words, perhaps the most effective education is foundational with more “transactional” elements thrown in.

    Excellent piece. Thanks for sharing.

    • #2
    • June 18, 2017 at 2:52 pm
    • Like3 likes
  3. Profile photo of Judithann Campbell Member

    Thank you for this post; colleges have become nothing more than comfortable re education camps. I endorse you proposal wholeheartedly 🙂

    • #3
    • June 18, 2017 at 2:56 pm
    • Like2 likes
  4. Profile photo of Robert McReynolds Member

    Great piece. Main feed please.

    • #4
    • June 18, 2017 at 4:20 pm
    • Like1 like
  5. Profile photo of Robert McReynolds Member

    I gotta say that my recollections about college are mixed. My Bachelors was merely about completing the task and getting the grades. It was in International Relations. My Masters–International Affairs–was much more intellectually stimulating, but the work was not nearly as grueling as I initially thought. Law school on the other hand, holy cow. Not only is it a different way of thinking about problems, but it is also a different style of writing, researching, and formulating arguments. You see, in law school there is not “T” truth, there are only arguments and presentations of those arguments and how one persuades when making those arguments. Anything can be supported or discounted with a legal argument. And this is what I think fascinates me most about learning the law. It is no longer about having the facts and being correct. It is now about how you present those facts. I recon I will never stop learning how to do this as I progress through school and as I progress through life. Great piece, thanks for sharing it.

    • #5
    • June 18, 2017 at 4:40 pm
    • Like8 likes
  6. Profile photo of Richard Finlay Member

    Chris O. (View Comment):
    Marketing majors can’t always adapt their thinking based on these criteria, though they’re training is meant to produce expertise. The solution is often the same size nail, struck by the same hammer.

    The marketing genius I saw (way back when I was working — weeks and weeks ago) mostly consisted of looking back at programs/initiatves that were done about 5 years ago, filing off the serial numbers, and doing it again.

    I agree that specific skill-related certification would be more informative and useful than college degrees today. If we were to achieve that, it probably wouldn’t be long before it was corrupted to ensure inclusion, or something.

    • #6
    • June 18, 2017 at 5:35 pm
    • Like2 likes
  7. Profile photo of doulalady Member

    Of my four children, only one thinks college was worthwhile over and above gaining a job requirement.

    They all felt the class requirements restricted their education rather than broadened it, and read considerably more books outside their classes.

    • #7
    • June 18, 2017 at 5:54 pm
    • Like4 likes
  8. Profile photo of Susan Quinn Contributor

    I was fortunate to have a college history professor who taught me how to think, to reason, to understand societies through their writings. She was one of the most influential people in my life.

    Now I enjoy periodically reading books with a dear friend. We take our time making our way through a book and discussing it, sharing our thoughts and understandings. It’s one of my favorite ways to spend my time.

    This is also a reason I love Ricochet. I’m often learning something new, especially in my own posts where I was under-informed. I learn a lot from all of you, including you, Henry.

    • #8
    • June 18, 2017 at 5:55 pm
    • Like5 likes
  9. Profile photo of MarciN Member

    Sometimes I wonder if the middle schools and high schools are burning out the kids. The competition to get into the top colleges is so intense that it destroys the kids’ love of learning before they ever get there.

    When my kids were in high school, I was lamenting to one of my kids’ teachers how little free time my kids had. He said he too thought high school was far more demanding than it had been for previous generations. He said the schools have had to cram into the kids’ high school years an entire year more of learning and testing than was true just ten years before. So the top 15 percent of American high school students are working day and night in hopes of getting into the top colleges. By the time they get there, they are sick of everything.

    Coincidentally, when I was talking with my daughter’s guidance counselor at some point, I said, “My daughter doesn’t have too many extracurricular activities. All she does is study most of the time. She does have some interesting activities each summer, but during the school year, she is studying constantly.” Her counselor told me that the profile I had just described was true of the top five kids in every class. It’s as if they were training for the Olympics, only in intellectual pursuits.

    Some of the C-student friends of my kids actually enjoyed studying in college more than the students who were at the top of their high school class.

    • #9
    • June 18, 2017 at 6:36 pm
    • Like9 likes
  10. Profile photo of ChefSly Member

    Robert McReynolds (View Comment):
    You see, in law school there is not “T” truth,

    http://smbc-comics.com/index.php?id=3849

    • #10
    • June 19, 2017 at 7:24 am
    • Like1 like
  11. Profile photo of David Foster Member

    Chris O. (View Comment):
    Marketing majors can’t always adapt their thinking based on these criteria, though they’re training is meant to produce expertise. The solution is often the same size nail, struck by the same hammer.

    I have observed that people with advanced degrees–whether is’s an MBA or a Masters in Computer Science….are often excessively eager to apply the models & methodologies they have learned in school, even if it means forcing the real world into a procrustean bed.

    • #11
    • June 19, 2017 at 8:28 am
    • Like4 likes
  12. Profile photo of Mike H Thatcher

    Henry Castaigne: So what exactly is a point of a college degree?

    Signaling. Getting a degree at a 4 year college signals to employers that you are somewhere around the top quintile of conformity, intelligence, and can take a large amount of gruelling monotonous work and hoop jumping and see it through to completion. College is a long inefficient sorting mechanism and little more, no matter how much it’s ostensibly about building human capital, it simply isn’t, which is evident in how most people treat it.

    • #12
    • June 19, 2017 at 9:12 am
    • Like8 likes
  13. Profile photo of Mike H Thatcher

    Robert McReynolds (View Comment):
    Not only is it a different way of thinking about problems, but it is also a different style of writing, researching, and formulating arguments. You see, in law school there is not “T” truth, there are only arguments and presentations of those arguments and how one persuades when making those arguments. Anything can be supported or discounted with a legal argument. And this is what I think fascinates me most about learning the law. It is no longer about having the facts and being correct. It is now about how you present those facts. I recon I will never stop learning how to do this as I progress through school and as I progress through life.

    The law school mentality, arguing to “win” an argument rather than to pursue truth, is a cancer on intellectual integrity and, dare I say, morality.

    • #13
    • June 19, 2017 at 9:23 am
    • Like5 likes
  14. Profile photo of Amy Schley Member

    Mike H (View Comment):
    The law school mentality, arguing to “win” an argument rather than to pursue truth, is a cancer on intellectual integrity and, dare I say, morality.

    That’s the popular perception, but it’s not fair. Yes, one is trying to win one’s argument, but one still has to abide by rules to do so. Evidence is a mandatory or at least highly recommended class in every law school because not everything that one would use in a casual argument is permitted. (e.g. carefully defined limits on when one’s argument is allowed to rely on a witness’s recollection of what someone else said.)

    Yes, our “telos” is to vigorously represent our client by winning arguments, but we’re not allowed to lie or permit others to do so. And I’m sure @ryanm can discuss times when one knows one’s client is guilty, and one’s representation mostly involves making sure that the other side is playing fair themselves.

    Just as truth is a defense to libel, it’s also the ultimate winning argument in a fair fight, so yes, we are quite interested in the truth.

    • #14
    • June 19, 2017 at 9:41 am
    • Like2 likes
  15. Profile photo of Dan Hanson Thatcher

    Mike H (View Comment):

    Henry Castaigne: So what exactly is a point of a college degree?

    Signaling. Getting a degree at a 4 year college signals to employers that you are somewhere around the top quintile of conformity, intelligence, and can take a large amount of gruelling monotonous work and hoop jumping and see it through to completion. College is a long inefficient sorting mechanism and little more, no matter how much it’s ostensibly about building human capital, it simply isn’t, which is evident in how most people treat it.

    College degrees HAD value as a signal when college was something only the best students went to, and where you had to be above average to succeed.

    Now that most people go to college, college degrees have been watered down or most of the enrollees would flunk out. And if everyone is special, no one is. So a college degree just doesn’t signal what it used to any more.

    You can see this in hiring practices. Apple, Google and GE no longer require college degrees. There is a growing list of companies following suit. Instead, those companies have found that interviews and tests are much better predictors of employee performance, and also that some of the best employees they have hired do not have degrees.

    Colleges are simply not what they once were. The latest results from the Collegiate Learning Assessment Plus exam, which seeks to measure improvements in critical thinking and other basic mental skills in college grads, should be a wake-up call to every parent and every student:

    “At more than half of schools, at least a third of seniors were unable to make a cohesive argument, assess the quality of evidence in a document or interpret data in a table.” Even at some of the most prestigious flagship universities, “the average graduate shows little or no improvement in critical thinking over four years.”

    That’s pathetic. How do you even make it to your Senior year while lacking such basic skills? How do you get through four years of college with no improvement in critical thinking skills?

    The answer is that the colleges no longer teach critical thinking. They indoctrinate students into the ‘right’ way of thinking, and there is no intellectual diversity on college campuses any more, so none of these ideas are ever challenged and no one has to learn how to defend them against opposing viewpoints.

    There are still valuable courses and programs in college. Mostly in the STEM fields. But in my opinion, sending your kid to one of these colleges to take a general arts degree or a mushy social science degree (or even worse, a ‘studies’ program) is doing a grave disservice to the student. These programs teach questionable material as dogma, and probably actually interfere with a student’s ability to think clearly and maintain an open mind.

    • #15
    • June 19, 2017 at 10:11 am
    • Like6 likes
  16. Profile photo of Mike H Thatcher

    Amy Schley (View Comment):

    Mike H (View Comment):
    The law school mentality, arguing to “win” an argument rather than to pursue truth, is a cancer on intellectual integrity and, dare I say, morality.

    That’s the popular perception, but it’s not fair. Yes, one is trying to win one’s argument, but one still has to abide by rules to do so. Evidence is a mandatory or at least highly recommended class in every law school because not everything that one would use in a casual argument is permitted. (e.g. carefully defined limits on when one’s argument is allowed to rely on a witness’s recollection of what someone else said.)

    What I’m hearing is that it’s OK to get the wrong result as long as we’re playing by the rules. I guess you can make a consequentialist argument that this optimizes the outcomes of individuals in the long run, but Robert literally said:

    You see, in law school there is not “T” truth, there are only arguments and presentations of those arguments and how one persuades when making those arguments.

    My point was this is a poisonous thing to teach people, especially since our rulers tend to be self-selected from the people where this kind of thinking is normalized. There may be an argument for it in the specific instance of defence lawyering, but the fact that a lot of people use these skills to do evil things and convince people of things that are false should make you think twice about how virtuous this intellectual discipline is. In almost all situation it should be socially unacceptable to purposely move people towards untruth, but law seems to be culture largely devoted to the opposite of that.

    Yes, our “telos” is to vigorously represent our client by winning arguments, but we’re not allowed to lie or permit others to do so.

    What’s the moral difference between lying and purposely misleading in the hopes that people get the wrong idea in their head? They seem practically equivalent in intention and result.

    And I’m sure @ryanm can discuss times when one knows one’s client is guilty, and one’s representation mostly involves making sure that the other side is playing fair themselves.

    Sure, if the goal is to make sure your client gets a punishment in proportion to their crime and doesn’t get steamrolled by a prosecutor that’s entirely laudable.

    Just as truth is a defense to libel, it’s also the ultimate winning argument in a fair fight, so yes, we are quite interested in the truth.

    What does “quite interested” mean? Interested when it happens to be in your client’s interest?

    • #16
    • June 19, 2017 at 10:56 am
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  17. Profile photo of Amy Schley Member

    Mike H (View Comment):
    What does “quite interested” mean? Interested when it happens to be in your client’s interest?

    <snark> Even when it’s not in their interest; you have to know what the truth is to hide lie about it. </snark>

    Seriously, the real practice of law isn’t what you see in movies and TV; all those greasy characters would get their bar cards revoked for ethical violations.

    The reason you don’t focus on Truth in law school is that it’s not a lawyer’s job to play philosopher. A lawyer is given facts: conversations with his client, the facts provided by the other side, and other facts he can discover. He then finds the legal rules and precedents that help his case and undermine his opponent’s. The jury (or in bench trial cases, the judge) is in charge of determining the Truth.

    If that doesn’t sound like justice, your options are to move to a country with a legal system based on Justinian’s codex or no rule of law at all.

    • #17
    • June 19, 2017 at 11:21 am
    • Like3 likes
  18. Profile photo of bridget Member

    MarciN (View Comment):
    Sometimes I wonder if the middle schools and high schools are burning out the kids. The competition to get into the top colleges is so intense that it destroys the kids’ love of learning before they ever get there.

    Absolutely.

    As much as colleges say they want kids who love to learn, I think a lot of them select for kids who are good at checking boxes and doing exactly what is expected of them.

    There’s a saying in sports that two kinds of players aren’t worth a (): those who won’t do what you tell them to do and those who only do what you tell them to do. It seems like in academics, the latter is rewarded.

    • #18
    • June 19, 2017 at 11:29 am
    • Like6 likes
  19. Profile photo of bridget Member

    To add to @amyschley ‘s excellent comments on lawyering:

    Our adversarial system is designed to get at “Truth” as reliably as possible while maintaining limits on governmental powers and preserving social structures that we deem important (e.g., spousal privilege may impair the search for Truth, but we think it’s important to not force spouses to testify against each other).

    If a prosecutor correctly brings charges against a guilty defendant but does a terrible job of proving his case, we let that person go free (even if his attorney knows well and good that he is guilty): the solution isn’t to force attorneys to make bad arguments when the other side sucks or to throw their clients under the bus. Rather, we ask that both sides argue their best, within the limits of evidentiary rules that are designed to be privative and bring out truth instead of biases, and hope that the decider of fact (i.e. the jury or, in a bench trial, the judge) comes to a good result.

    When things are withheld from evidence, there tends to be a good reason. Sometimes it’s things like spousal or religious privilege; sometimes it is just that we do not want to give the police an incentive to violate our constitutional rights. If police can’t get unconstitutionally-seized evidence admitted during trial, the next time, they’ll get a warrant.

    In some people’s worlds, this is evil and nonsensical.

    • #19
    • June 19, 2017 at 12:00 pm
    • Like2 likes
  20. Profile photo of Amy Schley Member

    bridget (View Comment):
    sometimes it is just that we do not want to give the police an incentive to violate our constitutional rights. If police can’t get unconstitutionally-seized evidence admitted during trial, the next time, they’ll get a warrant.

    In some people’s worlds, this is evil and nonsensical.

    I will say, I dislike the evidence-exclusionary rule, but only because it punishes the populace for the police department’s malfeasance by letting criminals loose to commit more crimes instead of the police department. Were I setting up the system, I’d solve the problem by allowing improperly gathered evidence but abolishing the police’s immunity to lawsuits, both as a department and individuals.

    • #20
    • June 19, 2017 at 12:31 pm
    • Like3 likes
  21. Profile photo of bridget Member

    Amy Schley (View Comment):

    bridget (View Comment):
    sometimes it is just that we do not want to give the police an incentive to violate our constitutional rights. If police can’t get unconstitutionally-seized evidence admitted during trial, the next time, they’ll get a warrant.

    In some people’s worlds, this is evil and nonsensical.

    I will say, I dislike the evidence-exclusionary rule, but only because it punishes the populace for the police department’s malfeasance by letting criminals loose to commit more crimes instead of the police department. Were I setting up the system, I’d solve the problem by allowing improperly gathered evidence but abolishing the police’s immunity to lawsuits, both as a department and individuals.

    I seem to recall that America used to do that. (As a side note, reduction or elimination of sovereign immunity would be a great thing.)

    • #21
    • June 19, 2017 at 12:43 pm
    • Like1 like
  22. Profile photo of Amy Schley Member

    bridget (View Comment):

    Amy Schley (View Comment):

    bridget (View Comment):
    sometimes it is just that we do not want to give the police an incentive to violate our constitutional rights. If police can’t get unconstitutionally-seized evidence admitted during trial, the next time, they’ll get a warrant.

    In some people’s worlds, this is evil and nonsensical.

    I will say, I dislike the evidence-exclusionary rule, but only because it punishes the populace for the police department’s malfeasance by letting criminals loose to commit more crimes instead of the police department. Were I setting up the system, I’d solve the problem by allowing improperly gathered evidence but abolishing the police’s immunity to lawsuits, both as a department and individuals.

    I seem to recall that America used to do that. (As a side note, reduction or elimination of sovereign immunity would be a great thing.)

    Yeah, it’s the best method I know to solve the “ticking bomb” scenario that always gets brought up in this debate. Let the evidence be brought in, but make the officer know he’ll have to face a jury for his own malfeasance. If he’s not willing to put his own livelihood and freedom on the line for breaking the rules, it’s probably not a scenario where breaking the rules is necessary.

    • #22
    • June 19, 2017 at 12:48 pm
    • Like3 likes
  23. Profile photo of bridget Member

    Amy Schley (View Comment):

    bridget (View Comment):

    Amy Schley (View Comment):

    bridget (View Comment):
    sometimes it is just that we do not want to give the police an incentive to violate our constitutional rights. If police can’t get unconstitutionally-seized evidence admitted during trial, the next time, they’ll get a warrant.

    In some people’s worlds, this is evil and nonsensical.

    I will say, I dislike the evidence-exclusionary rule, but only because it punishes the populace for the police department’s malfeasance by letting criminals loose to commit more crimes instead of the police department. Were I setting up the system, I’d solve the problem by allowing improperly gathered evidence but abolishing the police’s immunity to lawsuits, both as a department and individuals.

    I seem to recall that America used to do that. (As a side note, reduction or elimination of sovereign immunity would be a great thing.)

    Yeah, it’s the best method I know to solve the “ticking bomb” scenario that always gets brought up in this debate. Let the evidence be brought in, but make the officer know he’ll have to face a jury for his own malfeasance. If he’s not willing to put his own livelihood and freedom on the line for breaking the rules, it’s probably not a scenario where breaking the rules is necessary.

    It also allows recourse to innocent people whose homes are invaded or who are unlawfully detained. Current case law makes it nearly impossible to do so.

    • #23
    • June 19, 2017 at 1:22 pm
    • Like2 likes
  24. Profile photo of Amy Schley Member

    bridget (View Comment):
    It also allows recourse to innocent people whose homes are invaded or who are unlawfully detained. Current case law makes it nearly impossible to do so.

    Amen to that.

    • #24
    • June 19, 2017 at 1:27 pm
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  25. Profile photo of Pugshot Member

    @amyschley

    I will say, I dislike the evidence-exclusionary rule, but only because it punishes the populace for the police department’s malfeasance by letting criminals loose to commit more crimes instead of the police department. Were I setting up the system, I’d solve the problem by allowing improperly gathered evidence but abolishing the police’s immunity to lawsuits, both as a department and individuals.

    So you don’t want to punish the populace by letting criminals loose when the police department errs, but you’re okay with punishing the populace by abolishing the police department’s immunity to lawsuits (which is actually not complete immunity even now). Who do you think would pay for the damages in such lawsuits – not the police departments. They are public entities and the tax-paying populace would have to pay if damages were awarded against the police departments. And, to the degree you make individual police officers less immune to lawsuit, the more you will make them hesitate to enforce the laws. There are two key considerations: (1) we are all imperfect humans and we will all make mistakes, and (2) there are always trade-offs (make it easier to sue the police and there will not only be more lawsuits – merited or not – but there will also be less law enforcement).

    In my view it’s up to the populace to monitor their departments and, if it appears the police are routinely acting inappropriately or unlawfully, either (1) give them more intensive training and supervision, or (2) get rid of the chief and his/her immediate circle and replace them with better managers, or (3) both.

    • #25
    • June 19, 2017 at 3:58 pm
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  26. Profile photo of Amy Schley Member

    Pugshot (View Comment):
    Who do you think would pay for the damages in such lawsuits – not the police departments. They are public entities and the tax-paying populace would have to pay if damages were awarded against the police departments.

    The police departments would pay first. They’d run out of money and beg the taxpayers for more, and the taxpayers, in any well-run universe, would say, “No, you get your act together and fire the people who are making you liable for lawsuits.” But even assuming taxes would go up — what’s worse: higher taxes to pay for lawsuits against corrupt cops or burgled houses and murdered civilians?

    Pugshot (View Comment):
    And, to the degree you make individual police officers less immune to lawsuit, the more you will make them hesitate to enforce the laws. There are two key considerations: (1) we are all imperfect humans and we will all make mistakes, and (2) there are always trade-offs (make it easier to sue the police and there will not only be more lawsuits – merited or not – but there will also be less law enforcement).

    Yes, we all make mistakes, but everyone but cops can get sued for them. Where’s the immunity for doctors, lawyers, engineers, housing appraisers who screw up? And why should there be no recourse when the cops bang down the wrong door in the middle of the night, shoot the dog, and then shoot the innocent homeowner who assumed he was being burgled? Somehow, the rest of us manage to still do our job knowing that if we screw up badly enough we can be liable to those we harm — what’s so special about cops that they get different rules?

    • #26
    • June 19, 2017 at 4:28 pm
    • Like2 likes
  27. Profile photo of Mike H Thatcher

    Amy Schley (View Comment):

    Mike H (View Comment):
    What does “quite interested” mean? Interested when it happens to be in your client’s interest?

    <snark> Even when it’s not in their interest; you have to know what the truth is to hide lie about it. </snark>

    Seriously, the real practice of law isn’t what you see in movies and TV; all those greasy characters would get their bar cards revoked for ethical violations.

    The reason you don’t focus on Truth in law school is that it’s not a lawyer’s job to play philosopher. A lawyer is given facts: conversations with his client, the facts provided by the other side, and other facts he can discover. He then finds the legal rules and precedents that help his case and undermine his opponent’s. The jury (or in bench trial cases, the judge) is in charge of determining the Truth.

    It may not be everyone’s job to be a philosopher, but it’s everyone’s job not to do things that are objectively wrong. It’s a pretty uncontroversial intuition that “I was just doing my job” is not an excuse for doing something objectively wrong. It also tends to be uncontroversial that lying and purposely misleading people is usually objectively wrong.

    So, unless you can successfully argue that the good a lawyer is accomplishing by misleading people sufficiently outways the presumptions against lying, then it is objectively wrong for lawyers to do that, whether or not it is in their job description.

    Do law schools make this distinction, because the people they pump out seem to argue against this.

    • #27
    • June 19, 2017 at 6:02 pm
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  28. Profile photo of Amy Schley Member

    Mike H (View Comment):
    It may not be everyone’s job to be a philosopher, but it’s everyone’s job not to do things that are objectively wrong. It’s a pretty uncontroversial intuition that “I was just doing my job” is not an excuse for doing something objectively wrong. It also tends to be uncontroversial that lying and purposely misleading people is usually objectively wrong.

    So, unless you can successfully argue that the good a lawyer is accomplishing by misleading people sufficiently outways the presumptions against lying, then it is objectively wrong for lawyers to do that, whether or not it is in their job description.

    Do law schools make this distinction, because the people they pump out seem to argue against this.

    Lawyers don’t lie. Lawyers who get caught lying lose their jobs and their bar cards. No one is arguing that we get to lie or even mislead people to win our cases. Our job is to persuade others that we are correct based on the facts and law. Sometimes you’re wrong but persuasive; sometimes you’re right and unpersuasive, and you just have to hope that truth comes out in the end.

    Hell, it’s not like science works any differently — you gather data, you make an argument to explain the data based on postulated theories, and the best argument wins … eventually. Look at plate tectonic theory — Wegener was right back in 1912, but his arguments were unpersuasive for 50 years until more evidence could be compiled.

    • #28
    • June 19, 2017 at 6:50 pm
    • Like2 likes
  29. Profile photo of Mike H Thatcher

    Amy Schley (View Comment):

    Mike H (View Comment):
    It may not be everyone’s job to be a philosopher, but it’s everyone’s job not to do things that are objectively wrong. It’s a pretty uncontroversial intuition that “I was just doing my job” is not an excuse for doing something objectively wrong. It also tends to be uncontroversial that lying and purposely misleading people is usually objectively wrong.

    So, unless you can successfully argue that the good a lawyer is accomplishing by misleading people sufficiently outways the presumptions against lying, then it is objectively wrong for lawyers to do that, whether or not it is in their job description.

    Do law schools make this distinction, because the people they pump out seem to argue against this.

    Lawyers don’t lie. Lawyers who get caught lying lose their jobs and their bar cards. No one is arguing that we get to lie or even mislead people to win our cases. Our job is to persuade others that we are correct based on the facts and law. Sometimes you’re wrong but persuasive; sometimes you’re right and unpersuasive, and you just have to hope that truth comes out in the end.

    Hell, it’s not like science works any differently — you gather data, you make an argument to explain the data based on postulated theories, and the best argument wins … eventually. Look at plate tectonic theory — Wegener was right back in 1912, but his arguments were unpersuasive for 50 years until more evidence could be compiled.

    We’re getting a little away from my contention. You are on the strongest ground when you’re talking about defending people in court. My position is that the idea that “there’s no capital-T truth” in law school is damaging because it permeates the culture far beyond the courtroom.

    • #29
    • June 19, 2017 at 7:03 pm
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  30. Profile photo of Hypatia Member

    Mike H (View Comment):

    Robert McReynolds (View Comment):
    Not only is it a different way of thinking about problems, but it is also a different style of writing, researching, and formulating arguments. You see, in law school there is not “T” truth, there are only arguments and presentations of those arguments and how one persuades when making those arguments. Anything can be supported or discounted with a legal argument. And this is what I think fascinates me most about learning the law. It is no longer about having the facts and being correct. It is now about how you present those facts. I recon I will never stop learning how to do this as I progress through school and as I progress through life.

    The law school mentality, arguing to “win” an argument rather than to pursue truth, is a cancer on intellectual integrity and, dare I say, morality.

    So who’s gonna resolve disputes? You? Just using your good ol’ common sense? Or your infallible sooth-saying powers? By ocmsulting some universal moral compass?

    @robertmcreynolds, legal education is a crucible. Painful as it was, I kinda envy you, still standing in the flame! “Croce delizia” as Verdi’s librettist put it.

    And Mike H: Next time you’re getting screwed, cheated, or criminally charged:

    call a priest.

    • #30
    • June 20, 2017 at 6:34 am
    • Like1 like
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