Wednesday, March 08, 2006

"Those Who Can't, Teach"

So goes the refrain of an old saying: "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach." Considering the number of people throughout my extended family who work in education, both on my side and my wife Serach's, and knowing how talented they are, I know just how wrong this quote is.

However, I have had enough poor professors who were somewhat unsuccessful in the "real world" to acknowledge that there are plenty of people teaching because they were not able to put their knowledge into practice. The best teachers I have had were all also quite successful in their fields, and I think that is the biggest difficulty schools face: Many of the best and brightest will never even consider teaching, as they can be far more successful by actually working in the fields they have studied. Add in the fact that many simply have no interest in putting up with students, and there's a dearth of quality teachers out there.

One would expect, however, that top law schools would have top professors: Experts in the law who are able to handle the often brilliant and difficult questions that the nation's top students will be asking during a lecture. And I think that this is usually the case - most law professors in places such as Harvard, Yale, Cornell, NYU, etc. are probably the creme de la creme. Prestigious - and wealthy - law schools such as the ones I mentioned are undoubtedly able to shell out the money necessary to draw successful lawyers and brilliant legal scholars into their classrooms, and I am certain that it is a worthwhile investment for those schools.

So how could a fiasco such as the one that occured Monday happen? The Supreme Court voted unanimously against a large group of law professors: 45 professors from Yale Law School, presumably among the top law professors in this country. 45 professors including Law School Dean Harold Koh. These are not English professors, philosophy professors, or even political science professors; these are law professors who are responsible to educate some of the brightest prospective law students of this country about the laws of this country - and they were all wrong on the law. Is this not striking?

James Taranto noted that only one law school filed a brief that agreed with the Supreme Court's decision.
Only one law school, George Mason in Arlington, Va., filed a brief on the winning side. Given that not a single justice agreed with the views put forward by profs at Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Cornell, NYU, Chicago, Penn, etc., it seems fair to say that George Mason has the most competent professors of any law school in the nation.
Should we be worried that the majority of the supposed top law professors in this country are so disconnected with the actual law? Many liberals I know, despite their disagreements with the military's policy regarding homosexuals, felt that the Supreme Court was absolutely correct - yet the top law professors from the top law schools in the country did not. Unanimous decisions by the Court are fairly rare, and it is surprising that such a rare decision should happen when the defendants are such prestigious and quality law professors.

Has academia swung so far to the far-left fringe as to be out of touch with reality? How does this reflect on the top law schools of this country - are they too focused on law theory, philosophy of the law, and politics to be trusted to properly give over the actual law to the next generation of lawyers?