Archive for the ‘Education’ Category
posted by UCLA Law Review
UCLA Law Review, Volume 60 Symposium
Twenty-First Century Litigation: Pathologies and Possibilities
A Symposium in Honor of Stephen Yeazell
Volume 60, Issue 6 (September 2013)
Volume 61, Discourse
|Re-Re-Financing Civil Litigation: How Lawyer Lending Might Remake the American Litigation Landscape, Again||Nora Freeman Engstrom||110|
|Of Groups, Class Actions, and Social Change: Reflections on From Medieval Group Litigation to the Modern Class Action||Deborah R. Hensler||126|
|Procedure and Society: An Essay for Steve Yeazell||William B. Rubenstein||136|
|What Evidence Scholars Can Learn From the Work of Stephen Yeazell: History, Rulemaking, and the Lawyer’s Fundamental Conflict||David Alan Sklansky||150|
|Procedure, Substance, and Power: Collective Litigation and Arbitration Under the Labor Law||Katherine V. W. Stone||164|
August 31, 2013 at 4:09 am Posted in: Civil Procedure, Corporate Law, Education, Law Rev (UCLA), Law School, Law School (Law Reviews), Law School (Scholarship), Law School (Teaching), Law Talk, Legal Theory Print This Post No Comments
posted by Frank Pasquale
There are two basic responses to an economy as depressed as ours. In a neoclassical paradigm, the central problem is that certain people have become too expensive. They demand too much in wages, education, and health care. Coddled by food stamps and subsidies, they refuse to take low-paying jobs. Wealthy owners and managers are the ultimate arbiters of value. They can recognize valuable labor and will pay for it. If significant numbers of people remain unemployed, it’s because they have assigned too high a value to their own abilities.
The neoclassicals also have a theory of adjustment and positive change. Once low-productivity workers realize the sobering truth of their own diminished value, the market for labor will clear. Moreover, reduced wages won’t render them starved or homeless. For the neoclassicals, the decline of purchasing power of, say, the bottom 99% of the economy has a salutary, deflationary effect on the price of staples. If the poor can’t afford bread, its price will decline. Knock out the tax break for employer sponsored insurance, and health costs have nowhere to go but down.
Another school sees the commanding position of the wealthy as a problem to be solved, rather than the grounding framework of economic life. In this, more Keynesian, paradigm, government ought to redistribute some income from rentiers at the top of the economy to those who presently cannot afford food, education, health care, and housing. The Keynesian recognizes the stickiness of certain prices, and how disruptive (indeed, deadly) the situation can become if, say, income falls much faster than food prices. Read the rest of this post »
posted by Karen Czapanskiy
My article Special Kids, Special Parents, Special Education will appear in the Michigan Journal of Law Reform early next year. Here’s the abstract. Next week, I’ll blog about why my proposal requiring schools (ie, a bureaucratic organization) to announce and commit to rules about matters that affect members of the public is such a controversial idea.
Many parents are raising children whose mental, physical, cognitive, emotional, or developmental issues diminish their capacity to be educated in the same ways as other children. Over six million of these children receive special education services under mandates of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, called the IDEA. Once largely excluded from public education, these children are now entitled to a “free appropriate public education” or FAPE. In this article, I argue that the promise of the IDEA cannot be realized unless more attention is paid to the child’s parents. Under the IDEA, as in life, the intermediary between the child and the educational system is the child’s parent. The law appears to empower parents to participate in the planning, execution and revision of the child’s individual educational plan. The experience of parents, however, is not often empowering, to the detriment of both child and parent. Instead, many parents confront school systems that do not support their competence or conserve their resources.
I propose three significant reforms to the special education system that, I argue, better serve the needs of parents while improving the chances that children in need of special education will receive it. The three reforms are: 1) requiring schools to help parents be in touch with each other, 2) requiring school systems to commit to common special educational plans through a public process, and 3) adopting universal design pedagogies in general education when practicable. While the most expensive of the three proposals is the preference universal design pedagogies, the most controversial is requiring school systems to commit to common special educational plans for similarly-situated children. If the proposal were adopted, every child with the same problem would be provided with the same educational plan. The individualized plan now mandated would be provided only where a child’s situation is an uncommon one.
None of the proposed reforms is cost-free. I conclude by demonstrating that the costs of parent-oriented reforms are justified for reasons of pragmatism, to comply with congressional expectations, and to achieve social justice for parents with special needs children as compared with other parents and with each other.
posted by Karen Czapanskiy
Much to the relief of many parents whose children have diabetes, the California Supreme Court ruled recently in American Nurses Ass’n v. Torlakson that insulin shots can be administered by school personnel who volunteer and get trained for the job. School nurses, the court ruled, are not required under state law. That’s a good thing for the kids who attend the 95% of California public schools that have no fulltime school nurse. It’s good for their parents as well, since some schools were telling parents to come to school to give their kids their shots, something most employed parents had difficulty doing without upsetting their employers.
But to say, as the American Diabetes Association does, that the decision should make parents of diabetic kids feel confident that their child is in good hands at school is a bit of an overstatement. Whether they can get a routine shot of insulin isn’t the only health issue that kids with diabetes face during the school day. Some will face emergency health issues specific to diabetes, including hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia. Sometimes, it may take someone with medical training to know whether a shot should be administered at all or if it’s time to do something else, such as calling the ambulance. Diabetic kids also face health issues that other kids face. Like other kids, they fall off of climbing equipment and run into each other, and they may need to be assessed for concussions. Like other kids, they may get too hot when their team is practicing in hot weather, and someone with training will know best whether to get emergency medical care. Like other kids, they may get sick at school and need to be assessed for whether they need an hour on a couch or a call to a parent. Just as important, someone needs to figure out if it’s time to sound the alert about a communicable disease at the school.
The California legislature apparently decided that school nurses aren’t necessary because of the expense. And indeed it may be difficult to justify spending money on nurses when paying for teachers sometimes seems like a luxury. But what the parents of those California kids with diabetes know, as does the American Diabetes Association, is that a nurse is a better and safer alternative for the kids than a volunteer staff member, even one who is trained. Looking carefully at the diabetic kids, further, helps us understand that school nurses are a very good idea for all of the kids, not just those with chronic conditions. This happens a lot when a person has a disability – solving that person’s problem can improve the lives of others. (Think about curb cuts for wheelchairs the next time you’re pushing a stroller or pulling a piece of luggage on wheels.) All parents, not only those with diabetic kids, need to have confidence that someone at the child’s school is capable of paying attention to serious medical issues. It’s a good issue for parents to join together to solve.
posted by Karen Czapanskiy
First, many thanks to my exceptional and delightful colleague, Danny Citron, for inviting me to blog on Concurring Opinions. My blogging goal is to get you to focus on how law and policy could attend to the needs of family caregivers of special needs children. “Four in ten adults in the U.S. are caring for an adult or child with significant health issues,” according to a new Pew Research Center study. One would think that this large and growing population of family caregivers would command some attention. If they refused to do the job, after all, millions of frail elderly people, permanently-disabled veterans, and chronically-ill and disabled children could be left with nobody to meet their physical, emotional or medical needs. Social welfare organizations and institutions would be overrun, and social provision expenditures would skyrocket.
Refusing to do the job is not an option for many family caregivers, of course, for thousands of reasons, including love, duty and generosity of spirit. But many pay a price in terms of physical health, social isolation, and economic security. In my work about families raising children with special needs, I argue that we need to find ways to spread the costs so that they do not continue to fall almost exclusively on family members who step up.
Here are three examples of law and policy being blind (or at least astigmatic) to the impact of care-giving on these parents. First, when a child’s parents divorce or separate, family law entitles the parent who lives with the child to child support and, in some unusual situations, alimony. Child support is calculated on the basis of the child’s needs, and alimony is determined based on what the payee needs. Both assume that, ordinarily, both of the child’s parents will be economically productive. Where the parent’s special care-giving responsibilities interfere with that parent earning a living, however, child support and alimony are not usually adjusted–there’s no “chalimony.” Second, the public benefits system picks up very little of slack for parents when special care-giving responsibilities interfere with the parent’s earning capacity. Worse yet, since the mid-1990s, states became subject to increasingly stringent requirements in federal law about tying public benefits to the efforts of recipients to get and hold employment. A different route is not unimaginable: in 2009, a stipend was enacted for family caregivers of veterans left permanently disabled during their service in recent wars. Nothing similar, however, exists for parents. Third, if a child’s special needs affect his or her ability to benefit from school, federal law has guaranteed since the mid-1970s that the child will nonetheless be provided with a “free and appropriate public education.” The statute is not blind to the child’s caregivers; in fact, it gives parents specific rights in terms of participating in planning the child’s educational program. What it does not do, however, is make sure that parents can exercise their rights in ways that make sense if their lives are over-stressed because they are caring for special needs children.
As my work continues, I’m looking for additional examples of law and policy that attend to the needs of family caregivers for special needs children, and to those that don’t. If you can suggest a new avenue of research, please let me know.
August 5, 2013 at 10:56 am Tags: Caregiving, Child Support, Disability, Economic Inequality, Family Law, gender, health care, Public Benefits, Race, Special Education Posted in: Disability Law, Education, Family Law, Health Law Print This Post No Comments
posted by Michael Simkovic
(Reposted from Brian Leiter’s Law School Reports)
BT Claim 2: Using more years of data would reduce the earnings premium
Response: Using more years of historical data is as likely to increase the earnings premium as to reduce it
We have doubts about the effect of more data, even if Professor Tamanaha does not.
Without seeing data that would enable us to calculate earnings premiums, we can’t know for sure if introducing more years of comparable data would increase our estimates of the earnings premium or reduce it.
The issue is not simply the state of the legal market or entry level legal hiring—we must also consider how our control group of bachelor’s degree holders (who appear to be similar to the law degree holders but for the law degree) were doing. To measure the value of a law degree, we must measure earnings premiums, not absolute earnings levels.
As a commenter on Tamanaha’s blog helpfully points out:
“I think you make far too much of the exclusion of the period from 1992-1995. Entry-level employment was similar to 1995-98 (as indicated by table 2 on page 9).
But this does not necessarily mean that the earnings premium was the same or lower. One cannot form conclusions about all JD holders based solely on entry-level employment numbers. As S&M’s data suggests, the earnings premium tends to be larger during recessions and their immediate aftermath and the U.S. economy only began an economic recovery in late 1992.
Lastly, even if you are right about the earnings premium from 1992-1995, what about 1987-91 when the legal economy appeared to be quite strong (as illustrated by the same chart referenced above)? Your suggestion to look at a twenty year period excludes this time frame even though it might offset the diminution in the earnings premium that would allegedly occur if S&M considered 1992-95.”
There is nothing magical about 1992. If good quality data were available, why not go back to the 1980s or beyond? Stephen Diamond and others make this point.
The 1980s are generally believed to be a boom time in the legal market. Assuming for the sake of the argument that law degree earnings premiums are pro-cyclical (we are not sure if they are), inclusion of more historical data going back past 1992 is just as likely to increase our earnings premium as to reduce it. Older data might suggest an upward trend in education earnings premiums, which could mean that our assumption of flat earnigns premiums may be too conservative. Leaving aside the data quality and continuity issues we discussed before (which led us to pick 1996 as our start year), there is no objective reason to stop in the early 1990s instead of going back further to the 1980s.
Our sample from 1996 to 2011 includes both good times and bad for law graduates and for the overall economy, and in every part of the cycle, law graduates appear to earn substantially more than similar individuals with only bachelor’s degrees.
This might be as good a place as any to affirm that we certainly did not pick 1996 for any nefarious purpose. Having worked with the SIPP before and being aware of the change in design, we chose 1996 purely because of the benefits we described here. Once again, should Professor Tamanaha or any other group wish to use the publicly available SIPP data to extend the series farther back, we’ll be interested to see the results.
July 29, 2013 at 11:38 am Tags: Economic Value of a Law Degree, economics, law and economics Posted in: Accounting, Economic Analysis of Law, Education, Empirical Analysis of Law, Law Practice, Law School, Philosophy of Social Science Print This Post No Comments
posted by Michael Simkovic
(Reposted from Brian Leiter’s Law School Reports)
BT Claim: We could have used more historical data without introducing continuity and other methodological problems
BT quote: “Although SIPP was redesigned in 1996, there are surveys for 1993 and 1992, which allow continuity . . .”
Response: Using more historical data from SIPP would likely have introduced continuity and other methodological problems
SIPP does indeed go back farther than 1996. We chose that date because it was the beginning of an updated and revitalized SIPP that continues to this day. SIPP was substantially redesigned in 1996 to increase sample size and improve data quality. Combining different versions of SIPP could have introduced methodological problems. That doesn’t mean one could not do it in the future, but it might raise as many questions as it would answer.
Had we used earlier data, it could be difficult to know to what extent changes to our earnings premiums estimates were caused by changes in the real world, and to what extent they were artifacts caused by changes to the SIPP methodology.
Because SIPP has developed and improved over time, the more recent data is more reliable than older historical data. All else being equal, a larger sample size and more years of data are preferable. However, data quality issues suggest focusing on more recent data.
If older data were included, it probably would have been appropriate to weight more recent and higher quality data more heavily than older and lower quality data. We would likely also have had to make adjustments for differences that might have been caused by changes in survey methodology. Such adjustments would inevitably have been controversial.
Because the sample size increased dramatically after 1996, including a few years of pre 1996 data would not provide as much new data or have the potential to change our estimates by nearly as much as Professor Tamanaha believes. There are also gaps in SIPP data from the 1980s because of insufficient funding.
These issues and the 1996 changes are explained at length in the Survey of Income and Program Participation User’s Guide.
Changes to the new 1996 version of SIPP include:
Roughly doubling the sample size
This improves the precision of estimates and shrinks standard errors
Lengthening the panels from 3 years to 4 years
This reduces the severity of the regression to the median problem
Introducing computer assisted interviewing to improve data collection and reduce errors or the need to impute for missing data
Most government surveys topcode income data—that is, there is a maximum income that they will report. This is done to protect the privacy of high-income individuals who could more easily be identified from ostensibly confidential survey data if their incomes were revealed.
Because law graduates tend to have higher incomes than bachelor’s, topcoding introduces downward bias to earnings premiums estimates. Midstream changes to topcoding procedures can change this bias and create problems with respect to consistency and continuity.
Without going into more detail, the topcoding procedure that began in 1996 appears to be an improvement over the earlier topcoding procedure.
These are only a subset of the problems extending the SIPP data back past 1996 would have introduced. For us, the costs of backfilling data appear to outweigh the benefits. If other parties wish to pursue that course, we’ll be interested in what they find, just as we hope others were interested in our findings.
July 28, 2013 at 5:01 pm Tags: economic rec, Economic Value of a Law Degree, economics Posted in: Accounting, Blogging, Corporate Finance, Economic Analysis of Law, Education, Empirical Analysis of Law, Law Practice, Law School, Philosophy of Social Science, Sociology of Law Print This Post No Comments
posted by Michael Simkovic
(Cross posted from Brian Leiter’s Law School Reports)
Brian Tamanaha previously told Inside Higher Education that our research only looked at average earnings premiums and did not consider the low end of the distribution. Dylan Matthews at the Washington Post reported that Professor Tamanaha’s description of our research was “false”.
In his latest post, Professor Tamanaha combines interesting critiques with some not very interesting errors and claims that are not supported by data. Responding to his blog post is a little tricky as his ongoing edits rendered it something of a moving target. While we’re happy with improvements, a PDF of the version to which we are responding is available here just so we all know what page we’re on.
Some of Tamanaha’s new errors are surprising, because they come after an email exchange with him in which we addressed them. For example, Tamanaha’s description of our approach to ability sorting constitutes a gross misreading of our research. Tamanaha also references the wrong chart for earnings premium trends and misinterprets confidence intervals. And his description of our present value calculations is way off the mark.
Here are some quick bullet point responses, with details below in subsequent posts:
- Forecasting and Backfilling
- Using more historical data from SIPP would likely have introduced continuity and other methodological problems
- Using more years of data is as likely to increase the historical earnings premium as to reduce it
- If pre-1996 historical data finds lower earnings premiums, that may suggest a long term upward trend and could mean that our estimates of flat future earnings premiums are too conservative and the premium estimates should be higher
- The earnings premium in the future is just as likely to be higher as it is to be lower than it was in 1996-2011
- In the future, the earnings premium would have to be lower by **85 percent** for an investment in law school to destroy economic value at the median
- Data sufficiency
- 16 years of data is more than is used in similar studies to establish a baseline. This includes studies Tamanaha cited and praised in his book.
- Our data includes both peaks and troughs in the cycle. Across the cycle, law graduates earn substantially more than bachelor’s.
- Tamanaha’s errors and misreading
- We control for ability sorting and selection using extensive controls for socio-economic, academic, and demographic characteristics
- This substantially reduces our earnings premium estimates
- Any lingering ability sorting and selection is likely offset by response bias in SIPP, topcoding, and other problems that cut in the opposite direction
- Tamanaha references the wrong chart for earnings premium trends and misinterprets confidence intervals
- Tamanaha is confused about present value, opportunity cost, and discounting
- Our in-school earnings are based on data, but, in any event, “correcting” to zero would not meaningfully change our conclusions
- Tamanaha’s best line
- “Let me also confirm that [Simkovic & McIntyre’s] study is far more sophisticated than my admittedly crude efforts.”
July 26, 2013 at 1:26 pm Tags: Economic Value of a Law Degree, economics Posted in: Blogging, Corporate Finance, Economic Analysis of Law, Education, Empirical Analysis of Law, Law Practice, Law School, Philosophy of Social Science Print This Post No Comments
posted by Michael Simkovic
Here is the overview.
Here is the first part.
July 24, 2013 at 8:52 am Tags: Economic Value of a Law Degree, economics Posted in: Economic Analysis of Law, Education, Empirical Analysis of Law, Law Practice, Law School, Law Talk Print This Post No Comments
posted by Michael Simkovic
posted by Michael Simkovic
“The study blends the winners and losers, to come up with its $1,000,000, earnings figure, but that misses the point of my book: which is that getting a law degree outside of top law school – and especially at bottom law schools –is a risky proposition . . . Nothing in the article refutes this point.”
Professor Tamanaha is correct that the $1 million figure is an average, but we didn’t write a 70 page article with only one number in it.
The Economic Value of a Law Degree not only reports the mean or average—it reports percentiles, or different points in the distribution. At the 75th percentile, the pre-tax lifetime value is $1.1 million – $100,000 more than at the mean. At the 50th percentile, the value is $600,000. At the 25th percentile, the value is $350,000. These points in the earnings distribution do better than breaking out returns by school—they allow that even some people at good schools have bad outcomes (and vice versa). Thus we capture, and at length, exactly the concern Tamanaha expresses.
As we discuss in the article, for technical reasons related to regression of earnings to the median, our 75th and 25th percentile values are probably too extreme. The “75th percentile” value is likely closer to the 80th or 85th percentile for lifetime earnings, and the “25th percentile” is likely closer to the 20th or 15th percentile.
In other words, roughly the top 15 to 20 percent of law school graduates obtain a lifetime earnings premium worth more than $1.1 million as of the start of law school. Roughly the next 30 to 35 percent obtain an earnings premium between $1.1 million and $600,000. In the lower half of the distribution, roughly the first 30 to 35 percent obtain an earnings premium between $350,000 and $600,000. Roughly the bottom 15 to 20 percent obtain an earnings premium below $350,000. These numbers are pre-tax and pre-tuition.
Even toward the bottom of the distribution, even after taxes, and even after tuition, a law degree is a profitable investment. And that is before income based repayment, which can substantially reduce the risk at the bottom of the distribution.
We also present student loan default rates for 25 standalone law schools, most of which are low ranked institutions, and all of which have student loan default rates that are below the average for bachelor’s and graduate degree programs. The average law school default rate is approximately one third of the average default rate for bachelor’s and graduate programs.
People with law degrees are not immune from risk. No one is. But the law degree reduces the risk of financial hardship. Law degree holders face significantly less risk of low earnings than those with bachelor’s degrees, and also face lower risk of unemployment. Increased earnings and reduced risk appear to more than offset the cost of the law degree for the overwhelming majority of law students.
Frank McIntyre and I did not miss the point of Brian Tamanaha’s Failing Law Schools. Rather, we disagree with his conclusions about the riskiness of a law degree because data on law degree holders does not support his conclusions. We discuss Tamanaha’s analysis on pages 20 to 24 of The Economic Value of a Law Degree.
We believe that Professor Tamanaha’s views deserve more attention than we could give them in the Economic Value of a Law Degree. Because of this, last Spring, we also wrote a book review of Failing Law Schools, pointing out both the strengths and weaknesses of his analysis. We will make the book review available on SSRN soon.
If Professor Tamanaha disagrees with our estimates of the value of a law degree at the low end, we’re happy to hear it. But he should not say that we ignored the issue. We look forward to a productive exchange with him, on the merits.
posted by Frank Pasquale
In our era of austerity, many want to see government support for university budgets on the chopping block. It doesn’t matter to them that state support has already been cut dramatically (click to enlarge):
Why? There’s always ideological opposition to higher education. That’s hard to reason with. But there is also a persistent meme that student loans are some massive drain on the treasury. That view is getting harder and harder to square with reality:
“The federal government is due to book $51 billion in profit this year off new and existing federal student loans, according to estimates by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The record amount brings the government’s profit haul to nearly $120 billion over the past five years, according to CBO forecasts and Department of Education budget documents. The CBO estimates that the government will generate $184 billion in profit for new loans made this fiscal year through 2023.”
Given these enormous profits, it would seem that income based debt forgiveness would be the least the government could do for the students it is now profiting from. Of course, the government can’t be too generous to students—banks have to come first:
But let’s just be clear on exactly who is a drain on the federal budget, and who is a source of gains. Income-based repayment and some forms of income-based debt forgiveness are the least that the government (and more specifically, the elite whose declining taxes are the main reason for austerity) can do for Generation Debt.
posted by Michael Simkovic
In the classic film It’s a Wonderful Life, George Bailey suffers financial hardship, becomes depressed, and wishes he had never been born. As Bailey attempts suicide, a Guardian Angel, Clarence, intervenes. Clarence magically shows Bailey an alternate universe in which Bailey never existed. Clarence helps Bailey realize that although his life may be hard, a world without Bailey would be far worse for those Bailey cares about.
In an ideal world, we could do for law students what Clarence does for Bailey: run the universe twice. In the first version, the law student attends law school. In the second version, he or she follows another path. With perfect knowledge of long-term outcomes, the student could decide which choice leads to the better life.
In the real world, the closest we can come to this ideal is to compare past outcomes for two groups of individuals who are similar to our prospective law student and were substantially similar to each other, until one group obtained law degrees while the other group did not.
This is the approach that Frank McIntyre and I take in The Economic Value of a Law Degree. Using large samples and detailed earnings data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Survey of Income and Program Participation, we measure differences in annual earnings, hourly wages, and work hours between those with law degrees and those who end their education with a bachelor’s degree. Because we include those who are unemployed or disabled, our analysis incorporates differences in risk of unemployment. Read the rest of this post »
posted by UCLA Law Review
Volume 61, Discourse
|The New Investor Cliffhanger||Stephen M. Bainbridge||2|
|2013 William Rutter Award Acceptance Speech||Patrick D. Goodman||12|
posted by William McGeveran
Thanks so much to the Concurring Opinions gang for having me back for another guest blogging stint. My semester has ended, so let the blogging begin!
Except … even though I have not received my students’ exams from the registrar yet, I am grading. Why? Because I assigned group projects during the semester and have not completed marking the last one. This raises an uncomfortable question for me: have I done the students any good by giving them a graded assignment during the semester if they don’t receive feedback on it until they are on the cusp of taking the final exam?
That really depends on the reasons for requiring “grading events” such as group projects, short papers, quizzes, midterms, or oral presentations during the semester. Like many of my colleagues, I have increasingly moved away from the traditional law school model that based the entire course grade on a high-stakes final examination, perhaps with some small adjustment for class participation. It seems clear to me that this is a good decision — even though it has meant a lot more grading (every professor’s least favorite task) and even though the institutional incentives for law faculty don’t really encourage or assist us to do depart from the tradition of the all-or-nothing final exam.
But I have to confess that my views of the reasons for continuing assessment are unsettled and even a little muddled. Here are the main candidates in my mind:
- Earlier graded events give students feedback about their understanding of the material and performance in the course while there is still time to correct it.
- Basing the course grade on more than one event reduces the “fluke factor” of a student who is ill or overtired or just not in top form the day of the final exam.
- The events themselves — say, a group project — serve valuable pedagogical goals and making them part of the grade ensures that students will take them seriously.
- Educational research shows that students learn more effectively if they synthesize knowledge as they go along rather than just doing a big outline at the end of the course, and graded events spur them to synthesize earlier.
- Basing the grade on different types of exercises rewards varied abilities beyond the particular (and slightly bizarre) skill set that excels at law school issue spotter exams.
Only the first of these requires me to return students’ grades sooner than I’ve managed to do for this group project. Of course, I am saying this partly to assuage my guilt over my own tardiness. But I also wonder how well we articulate the reasons for continuous assessment to our students — or even, frankly, to ourselves. I have now more carefully engaged in the sort of reflection about these goals that I should have gone through before the semester started. Now I know for next time that my answer is: all of the above.
Uh oh. I better get back to grading those group projects right now.
Can We Lean Anything from Brazil about Remediating the Lingering Consequences of Racial Discrimination?
posted by Taunya Banks
I sometimes show the 2007 documentary Brazil in Black and White in my Law in Film seminar to give my students some exposure to how other racialized countries handle the difficult business of mediating the lingering consequences of slavery and de jure race discrimination. I also have them read Tanya K. Hernandez, 2005 article To Be Brown in Brazil: Education & Segregation Latin American Style. Her recent book, Racial Subordination in Latin America: The Role of the State, Customary Law and the New Civil Rights Response (Cambridge Univ. Press, Oct. 2012), contains an even more nuanced discussion.
Like the United States, affirmative action in Brazil is a controversial issue. I remember having a deja vu like experience when I visited the country in 2007 and heard some of the discussions. Opponents’ arguments sounded very much like the arguments I had heard in the U.S. years earlier. But there are important differences between the two countries. Notions of race are far more complex and confusing in Brazil as the documentary and a recent article in The Economist explain. Further, unlike the United States public universities in Brazil are more prestigious than private schools. In addition, “Brazil’s racial preferences differ from America’s in that they are narrowly aimed at preventing a tiny elite from scooping a grossly disproportionate share of taxpayer-funded university places. Privately-educated (ie, well-off) blacks do not get a leg-up in university admissions.”
The notion of racial quotas never went over well in the United States, and most observers believe that our current weak form of affirmative action, most apparent in university admissions, is on its last leg. As we anxiously waited this term to see what the Supremes will do with the latest case, Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, the Court agreed last month to hear another higher education affirmative action case, Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action. The issue in that case is “whether Michigan voters in 2006 had the legal right to bar the state’s public colleges and universities from considering race or ethnicity in admissions.” Briefs in the case can be found on SCOTUSblog. Whatever the outcome in Fisher, it seems clear that the ongoing controversy over affirmative action in higher education will not be resolved this term. Read the rest of this post »
posted by Deven Desai
It dawns on me that Turing tests may have a role for the future of education and MOOCs. In short, can one create a Socratic style system that automates probing what a student knows? A combination of gamification (not a great word) and machine learning might allow a system to press a student to express more than “I memorized X” and move to explaining why in a discussion. If I understand the simple idea of Turing tests, one should not know that the other side is a machine in a conversation. It should be a discussion. That is what a professor does in Socratic method. There would likely be a wall of sorts where the student has no more questions or perhaps the machine determines that some level of mastery is in place. To me, a key reason to press questions is to see whether the student can answer why their claim or understanding is correct. When they can do that they may at last “own” the idea and then do something with it. Insofar as the key is to keep questioning, this approach will hit a different wall where a person may need to engage with the student. In addition, when a student asks something the teacher has not considered, a “does not compute” response will likely be a let down. Assuming one solves that personal dimension, that moment would be a signal to shift to other resources including instructors to go deeper into the issue. Otherwise we are left with test passing equals knowledge. As Erika Christakis put it, we have:
a broken system built on the dangerous misconception that testing is a proxy for actual teaching and learning. Somehow, along the path of good intentions, testing stopped being seen as a diagnostic tool to guide good instruction and became, instead, the instruction itself. It’s as if a patient were given a biopsy, learned she had cancer and was then told that no further medical treatment was necessary. If that didn’t sound quite right, we could just fire the doctor who ordered the test or scratch out the patient’s results and mark “cured” in the file.
Although I am leery of easy solutions, I think that a system that may prod a student to see what they know and then come to a teacher to gain further insight and evaluate what they grasp would be great. It might be a step away from a system that asks students to jump through a hoop and receive a star or treat for performing a trick without knowing why the words or ideas coming from them matter or how to apply the words and ideas to new contexts, which I think would be knowledge rather than inert data.
posted by Aaron Saiger
Since I began posting as a guest on Concurring Opinions at the beginning of March, “MOOCs” – massively open online courses – have been repeated topic. The blog search engine reports that the term did not appear on the blog until 25 Feb 2013; in the six weeks since, MOOCs have been a topic here, here, here, here, here, here, and, in Deven Desai’s interesting post two days ago, here. Deven says, and I agree, that the aggregation of students together inside an immersive academic, learning community is a real good, and one that cannot be duplicated by a set of MOOCs. But the question MOOCs make pressing is how to value that good, once it can be unbundled from training in the classroom. Nannerl Keohane, in a recent review in Perspectives on Politics (11:1, March 2013, p.318), says that “online education … is the easiest and cheapest way to learn a variety of subjects, especially useful ones,” and describes it is the contemporary analogue of “mutual-aid societies and lyceums.” This seems apt.
University insiders like to say that even unbundled academic community is indispensable, and should be subsidized by both state and university. I suspect that the marketplace will put a much lower value on it. State legislators, ever strapped for cash, will likely do so as well. There will still be a market for 24/7, bricks-and-mortar academic communities; but the online availability of downmarket, imperfect, but genuine partial substitutes will mark such communities more clearly as luxury goods. Once such luxuries are no longer inexorably bundled with direct instruction, the argument that they still deserve state or even philanthropic subsidy is not, it seems to me, a slam-dunk.
Deven posted that the key question is how to “leverage MOOCs and other technology to improve the way education is delivered while not offering only the virtual world” but also social context to those not in the luxury-goods market. Another way of phrasing that question is to ask whether there is a mid-market good, somewhere between the aggregation of naked MOOCs and the bricks-and-mortar private college, that could command interest in the marketplace and justify third-party subsidies. What features of the “code” of online courses – the way that they are presented, taught, bundled together, and converted into credentials – might be adjusted to create a closer approximation of an immersive community, without sacrificing the advantages virtual teaching offers in terms of access over distance, asynchronicity, economies of scale, and cost?
posted by Deven Desai
MOOCs will solve our education problems. No one wants to pay for education. Everyone wants education to be free. MOOCs will at least bring down the costs and bring the best lecturers to all the world. I own some land in Florida, the Glengary project. Perhaps you’d like to buy a tract? I am fascinated by MOOCs but reject the claims being made about them as demonstrating some sort of magical new education system.
Yet, when I think about taking a great class with a master teacher, I get excited. Heck, I already listen to lectures from iTunes U and MIT’s Open Course Ware when I work out. MOOCs seem like a step up. And the reality of the cost problem means that they will likely play a role. Then I saw that Dan Ariely is offering a MOOC. And he wrote about the experience. His thoughts track much of what I think. On costs he says, “I have learned that some students feel that it is their basic human right to get free education (they call it free but of course free in this case is a shorthand for “someone else should pay for it,”) while the majority feels privileged to live in a time when such adventures are possible.” But more important are his ideas about where MOOCs may fit and why live learning has a place. I think he is correct, but he may miss a deeper problem.
On MOOCs’ place in the future, Ariely offers:
I don’t think that the future of the university is doomed for a few reasons. First, having a scheduled class with obligations, deadlines, exams, real consequences and real rewards is incredibly important for human motivation and getting people to spend the necessary time and effort to really understand the material. The second reason is that the model of many universities, in which students study and live together, is a particularly helpful model for creating the environment that people need to take their education seriously. It is not just about the particular classes, but about being immersed in an academic environment for a substantial period of time.
The latent problems of MOOCs flow from the benefits of physical place-based teaching; they are expensive and will be for the few; not the many. Assume Ariely is correct. The advantages of the scheduled classes etc. matters. That can be mimicked online. That kills the claim that schedules will require the university. Studying and living together is important. Think of The Social Life of Information by John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid. Drawing on Xerox PARC, (and the California “Virtual University”) they show that social context is vital for technology and information to help society going forward. But again that physical structure costs money. My concern then is how do we leverage MOOCs and other technology to improve the way education is delivered while not offering only the virtual world, one that may lack social context, to the poorer parts of society.
If we run to replace classrooms at state schools, only the rich will have the benefits I had. That is a mistake. I was lucky. I went to private schools, UC Berkeley, and Yale Law. I have gained social capital. I know some of the language, manners, styles, and more that are part of getting into the game and playing it. That aspect of life is possibly undercut unless everyone in the future works only on social networks and online culture. To date, it still matters to be in Silicon Valley, Wall Street, Hollywood, etc. so that one can have the day-to-day chance to leverage connections and be part of the so-called conversation. Put differently, back room deals are about who you know. Interviews, for now, may be on videochat, but they still reveal diction, ideas, and manners that influence hiring. Plus, I prefer to read, explore, and solve things on my own. Those who may not be so motivated are precisely those for whom a more disconnected teaching system will not work. So far the drop-out rate for online courses is high. Now, I think there are ways to address these issues. I have believed and continue to believe that technology coupled with social reality can be powerful and beneficial. I stand by that belief.
The danger is to think that because certain facets of universities cannot be duplicated, universities will survive and all is well. Only certain versions of the university will survive. Duke and other elite schools will survive. At those schools students will be part of all the benefits, on and offline, education can offer. For others, access to the benefits Ariely sets out will be even less than today.
Education is a public good with many dimensions beyond the obvious mastery of a subject. It is better thought of as liberal, as in freeing, one to address the myriad problems and changes one encounters in work and life. MOOCs and other advances in technology can and should help that process. Relying on them alone may increase the problems of an education system that delivers a meal, proves that person ate the meal, but the customer has no idea how to fish for herself when on her own.
posted by Deven Desai
3D printing and its related technology is general purpose technology that can train kids for the future. I saw an example of that yesterday when I was able to visit La Jolla Country Day School where sixth to eighth grade kids on spring break were learning basic 3D Modeling and Design. Last week they worked on How to Make Musical Electronics. In the 3D modeling program, Ann Worth, an MIT School of Architecture graduate, guided the youngsters as they manipulated files of their heads so that at the end of the program they could print them. I also watched a video of two girls who had been shown how to make an amplifier and oscillator for their iPhones. Brendan Bernhardt Gaffney, UCSD was their instructor. The kids talked about trial and error, vectors and faces, and circuit boards with energy and joy. How often does that happen? If Katie Rast and her co-visionaries at FabLab San Diego have their way, much more often.
Despite some nerds are cool ideas, we still hear that kids are turned off by math and science and that there is a lack of good Science Technology Engineering Math (STEM) education. New programs may change all that. By taking an old idea like shop and updating it, a FabLab (short for Fabrication Lab) offers the chance to make learning about programing, engineering, geometry, and the jot of creation. Kids are willing to engage with formulas; start, fail, and restart projects; and work rather hard at their projects, because there is fun and an outcome for them. The spring break program I visited is called Science Technology Engineering Arts and Math, or STEAM. The University of California, San Diego and FabLab SD worked together to offer the classes (which to me is a tech transfer moment that is quite important).
In the 3D modeling program, the kids started with a series of photos, which were uploaded to 123D (a suite of 3D modeling apps by Autodesk). That service knits the images together into a file that the kids then download. In many cases there are holes in the images. As they made models of their heads, they laughed at the holes in their heads. They then used a program called Blender to learn about filling the gaps. That meant some kids were telling me about vectors, others about textures, and all showed off as they pulled, stretched, and edited files to create the proper rendering of their heads. After that, they grabbed files for the bodies. A range of animal bodies will be virtually sliced up to make the new creature upon which the heads will attach. When asked what they might do next, these folks talked about how metals, glass, and other materials would be awesome so they could make really functional items. Some talked about being able to have a home printer that could make solar cells to power other printers. When told that these ideas were already being pursued, eyes popped out of their heads, and then grins covered their faces at thoughts of what’s next (and I think a little pride at predicting where the technology could go).
The skills learned in these programs will persist even as the machines and software are superseded. Who knows? If I had access to this sort of tech training combined with math and science education, I might have stuck with that path. Even if I didn’t, I’d have a greater ability to play with and understand the technology that surrounds us. In short, congratulations to La Jolla Country Day School, UCSD, FabLab SD, Ann Worth, Brendan Bernhardt Gaffney, and Katie Rast for pursuing ways to make STEM fun and for kids. The ideas here remind me of Julie Cohen’s work about play and its importance in her book, Configuring the Networked Self: Law, Code, and the Play of Everyday Practice. As Rast said on a panel at SxSW, computer labs were often seen as saviors for education especially in low income areas, but they often gathered dust. The key is to have maker spaces that work for the group’s context. A lab need not have the latest technology. If the technology is connected to people in meaningful ways, then the magic can happen. I agree. The magic of playing with technology, understanding what you can do with it, and seeing new possibilities will fire the desire to learn and create. As Neil Gershenfeld (a leader in the Maker and Fab movement) put it, this is a liberal, as in liberating, art. But don’t take my word for it. As one kid told me at lunch, adults’ brains are not as good at learning as kids’ brains, and kids like showing what they can do. Now that is education.