July 6, 2009

LAW AND THE PEOPLE: Reader Dennis Dezendorf writes:

I read your blog every day, as do thousands of other people. Thanks for your thought snd the effort you put into it.

I was reading your post about Law School 4.0 and was intrigued by the idea that there is discussion in some circles about the way that attorneys are trained. I think the discussion is long overdue.

I’ve been a cop for thirty years and have spent a tremendous amount of time in court. I’ve known great lawyers and lousy ones and I toyed at one time with the idea of going to law school. It was impossible for a number of reasons, but the main barriers to entry are:

Accessibility. I live in Louisiana and going to law school means moving to Baton Rouge or New Orleans. There aren’t any law schools in central or north Louisiana.

Cost. Law school is expensive, though not exorbitantly more expensive than graduate school. However, when I was researcing law schools (and th is may have changed in the past decade), law school required the student to be unemployed for at least the first year. Families require sustenance and going to law school full-time demands sacrifies from the family that might not be overcome for a long time.

I went to graduate school at nights. My family was young and I was able to juggle a fairly rigorous academic load while taking care of my obligations. My family was aware that Daddy was studying, but they didn’t suffer. Any reasonably intelligent person can enroll in graduate programs in business, the clergy, education, or any number of other disciplines and attain their education on a night-school basis.

Of course, if the mission of a law school is to maintain the income and status of the faculty, you need do nothing.

Thanks again for all your writings.

Well, as the pressure mounts to end night law programs, it sounds like the public-service ideal is fading. In fact, there’s a good argument that changes in the educational system in general tend to favor the children of those who are already high up on the occupational ladder. This somehow made me think of Ross Douthat’s column on Race, Class, Gender, and Sarah Palin:

If Palin were exactly what her critics believe she is — the distillation of every right-wing pathology, from anti-intellectualism to apocalyptic Christianity — then she wouldn’t be a terribly interesting figure. But this caricature has always missed the point of the Alaska governor’s appeal — one that extends well outside the Republican Party’s shrinking base.

In a recent Pew poll, 44 percent of Americans regarded Palin unfavorably. But slightly more had a favorable impression of her. That number included 46 percent of independents, and 48 percent of Americans without a college education.

That last statistic is a crucial one. Palin’s popularity has as much to do with class as it does with ideology. In this sense, she really is the perfect foil for Barack Obama. Our president represents the meritocratic ideal — that anyone, from any background, can grow up to attend Columbia and Harvard Law School and become a great American success story. But Sarah Palin represents the democratic ideal — that anyone can grow up to be a great success story without graduating from Columbia and Harvard. . . .

Here are lessons of the Sarah Palin experience, for any aspiring politician who shares her background and her sex. Your children will go through the tabloid wringer. Your religion will be mocked and misrepresented. Your political record will be distorted, to better parody your family and your faith. (And no, gentle reader, Palin did not insist on abstinence-only sex education, slash funds for special-needs children or inject creationism into public schools.)

Male commentators will attack you for parading your children. Female commentators will attack you for not staying home with them. You’ll be sneered at for how you talk and how many colleges you attended. You’ll endure gibes about your “slutty” looks and your “white trash concupiscence,” while a prominent female academic declares that your “greatest hypocrisy” is the “pretense” that you’re a woman. And eight months after the election, the professionals who pressed you into the service of a gimmicky, dreary, idea-free campaign will still be blaming you for their defeat.

All of this had something to do with ordinary partisan politics. But it had everything to do with Palin’s gender and her social class.

Sarah Palin is beloved by millions because her rise suggested, however temporarily, that the old American aphorism about how anyone can grow up to be president might actually be true.

But her unhappy sojourn on the national stage has had a different moral: Don’t even think about it.

What Joel Kotkin calls “the Gentry Faction” has taken over the Democrats completely. Wherever they dominate, you see a lot of talk about equality — and a lot of effort at maintaining inequality and keeping the proles in their place. There are plenty of Gentry in the Republican party, too. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see a populist backlash arise, on either the left, or the right, or both, or somewhere in between.

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