Grade Reform, Law Professors, Law Schools

The Wussification of Legal Education Continues

Instead of grades, maybe we should just give law students boxes of tissues? One box if you did really well, five boxes if you stink but nobody has the heart to tell you.

As we mentioned in Morning Docket, there is a law professor running around arguing that C’s should no longer be given to law students.

Because getting C’s makes law students sad. Eliminating C’s would improve the ““psychological well-being” of law students.

How do you say “how did I beat you” in Mandarin?

The paper, from Professor Joshua Silverstein of the University of Arkansas, makes the case against the “Gentleman’s C.” It’s the kind of “everybody wins” argument that millennials have been hearing nearly all their lives. Silverstein argues that C’s are applied inconsistently from institution to institution and that this disadvantages some students. He also says that “marks in the C range injure students psychologically. Students perceive C’s as a sign of failure.”

Let’s deal with the first argument first since that has at least of whiff of practical debate. The lament of every law student who gets a C is that somehow his institution was “more rigorous” than the school across town that gives out more B’s. You actually hear this argument a lot of the time in the affirmative action context, and it’s just as bad there as it is here.

It’s basically mediocre people bitching about not looking as good as other mediocre people. Instead of striving to out-compete the people at their own school for scarce jobs, people bitch about not being able to do as well as some “other” people, somewhere else, who they think are just as mediocre.

You want to deal with the unfairness of getting a C that would be called a “B-” at some other school? Why don’t you go out there and earn an A? Get an A or STFU. Whining about the perceived unfairness that happens to people who didn’t do well enough is soft use of intellectual resources.

Of course, there is nothing as “soft” as Silverstein’s second argument. He says that when students receive C’s, “their stress level is exacerbated in unhealthy ways. This psychological harm is both intrinsically problematic and compromises the educational process.” That has to be one of the dumbest statements I’ve ever read.

It is not “intrinsically problematic” to give students, especially adult law students, poor grades. Students have received poor grades for centuries. They don’t all fall to pieces. They don’t all cry. They don’t all jump out of buildings. Some students freaking learn after a poor grade and rededicate themselves to academic excellence. Some students take a C (or gasp… an F) as a kick in the pants.

And the ones who can’t handle it are weak. Silverstein writes:

Why do C grades cause such distress among law students? Why is it so difficult for law professors to convince their students that C’s are acceptable under the grading systems generally in operation in legal education? Because our students are raised in an “A and B world.” More specifically, they receive mostly A’s and B’s in high school and college. As a result, they are conditioned to expect marks above the C level.

Why in the f**k do we have to care about what these kids are “conditioned to expect”? MAYBE law schools should be in the business of teaching students how to think differently? Yes, I’m sure I read that somewhere.

I don’t mean to sound like Col. Nathan Jessup, but Christ on vitamin supplements, instead of playing into the weak-ass mentality of new law students, maybe law school should be training these kids for a life where not everybody can be above average! Some of these kids won’t get jobs, some of these kids will lose trials, some of these kids will have their briefs sent back to them drenched in red. What are these law students supposed to do then? Cry? BITCH ABOUT THEIR PSYCHOLOGICAL WELL-BEING?

Silverstein’s ideas might sound like they are helping students, but really this is the kind of thing that only helps law professors who don’t want to do the hard work of dealing with disappointed millennials confronting their own failure. Not giving out C’s means less time grading, and less time “justifying” the grades to pissed-off law students. It’s just another law school idea that makes things better for the faculty without actually helping students.

Because getting a C — and then coping with it and overcoming it — is probably the most valuable lesson some of these kids will learn in law school.

Law Prof: Let’s Scrap the ‘Gentleman’s C’ [WSJ Law Blog]

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