I had wanted to post up something on the Zero Sum mentality in light of exams and law school in general – which I think is pretty silly, especially in a large law school with multiple curved sections. I think that our section has been pretty good at resisting/undercutting this mentality thus far, and I’m happy to have played my small part in that. The outline resource is a case in point – if a critical seed group decides to share information publicly, they raise the bar. It’s now just not possible for an isolated person within the section (assuming there are such) to not have access to class notes/outlines, which levels out things like someone being sick and missing class, or dozing off and not taking good notes on any given day. Given that one can only spend so much time studying and prepping for the exams, by providing resources which will probably raise the base level of knowledge a bit, I think we’re in some manner protesting against the artificiality of the curve. The public posting of outlines discourages clique formation/information hoarding, which, unfortunately, can still be something of a problem. Is it possible for a law school to design an educational/testing structure that encourages the sharing of information/ideas across the student body? (Beyond the long-term argument that your classmates are your peers and your future contacts in the legal world, so you want them sharp and competent and sympathetic to whatever you might ask of them. And that zero-summers just seem to be more stressed out/miserable than your average student - life in a "hostile" world does that I suppose.)
I understand why a grading curve makes sense for the law school as a financial institution (in the sense that, more or less, a law school is paid by firms to a) rate the meat, and b) impose a kind of slightly paranoid mindset that’s very receptive to structural authority/hierarchy. But not even the law schools themselves pretend the current systems of grading (not evaluation) represent a “fair” way of measuring the student’s knowledge of their courses' content (both overt black letter law and rhetorical devices) against a neutral baseline. And I'm not particularly interested in offering arguments to justify this or in helping the law schools make more money (There's a prof here who keeps telling us that they donate a large percentage of their law school income to charity. I always thought this was tantamount to saying, "I only use the system to financially rape people to the point of my individual satiation. I give all the surplus back. Praise me.")
Anyway, personally, I’d like to see the curve dispensed with. I think it encourages laziness in both professors and students. (Actually there’s a lot of things I’d like to see changed about law school in general, but more on that later.) I would hope that our professors, if faced with a brilliant class that “got” more of the material relative to other years or relative to an absolute scale would feel a deep and abiding sense of shame at handing out the exact same percentage of grades year after year. Unfortunately, I think none of them, even the self-styled radicals, will do anything about it.
There’s lots more to say about this but, alas, I’m whipped. I'll probably add scattered bits as I go/if the mood strikes me. Comments are open. Thoughts? Pros? Cons?