posted by Marcy Peek
a couple of weeks ago in which he quotes Thomas S. Kuhn as noting that:
Almost always the [individuals] who achieve these fundamental inventions of a new paradigm have been either very young or very new to the field whose paradigm they change. . . . [B]eing little commited by prior practice to the traditional rules of normal science, [these individuals] are particularily likely to see that those rules no longer define a playable game and to conceive another set that can replace them.
Chen applies this reasoning to the world of legal academia, and worries that:
the creeping insistence on an ever larger set of credentials — clerkships, degrees beyond the J.D., VAPs — necessarily delays the physical age at which law professors begin their careers in earnest. Indeed, if Thomas Kuhn’s observation about scientific revolutions holds true in law, we may be wasting some of the most potentially transformative years of individual careers by delaying would-be upstarts’ full-fledged arrival within the academy.
I share the same concern, but a summer article in Wired magazine — pointing to different types of “genius” — leads me to another, related concern. In What Kind of Genius Are You?, Wired magazine cites to recent work by University of Chicago professor David Galenson that argues that some genius (i..e, creative innovation) arrives early while other genius arrives late – sometimes very late.
[G]enius – whether in art or architecture or even business – is not the sole province of 17-year-old Picassos and 22-year-old Andreessens. Instead, it comes in two very different forms, embodied by two very different types of people. “Conceptual innovators,” as Galenson calls them, make bold, dramatic leaps in their disciplines. They do their breakthrough work when they are young. Think Edvard Munch, Herman Melville, and Orson Welles. They make the rest of us feel like also-rans. Then there’s a second character type, someone who’s just as significant but trudging by comparison. Galenson calls this group “experimental innovators.” Geniuses like Auguste Rodin, Mark Twain, and Alfred Hitchcock proceed by a lifetime of trial and error and thus do their important work much later in their careers…[This phenomenon] applies to virtually every field of intellectual endeavor.
In other words, while the steady upward-creep in age for new law professors may cause legal academia to miss out on some of our most important conceptual leaps (because the conceptual innovators are plugging along in their two years of clerkships, for example), the myopic focus on hot-new-academics and stars-in-the-field (who were once the hot-new-academics) may cause us to overlook much older academics whose great insights come at a much later stage in their career — when their work may be overlooked because they are not well known.
Or perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps there are many legal academics who have managed to thrust themselves into the academic spotlight as older, very-much-tenured professors by way of some great work that was deemed to be of a much “higher caliber” than their earlier works.
Are there discernible patterns either way? Do they tend to support or refute Galenson’s theory?