Shailini Jandial George, Suffolk University Law School Professor of Legal Writing, posits the following scenario, which she says is growing ever more common in law classrooms:

[Lara Law Student] arrives to her first-year torts class, flips open her laptop, and rests her iPhone on her desk.  Her professor starts his lecture, while she checks her email.  She visits Facebook to check out “must see” photos flagged by a friend.  When the professor turns to the subject of negligence, Lara Law Student remembers that her mom is getting sued and emails her for an update.  She’s then distracted by a text from a friend inquiring about her lunch plans…and so on.

I think George underestimates the deficiency; such behavior is growing more common in all classrooms.  Regardless, she has a solution:

“Instead of conveying all the class information via reading, lecture, and discussion, which can overtax the verbal channel in working memory,” educations should use more pictures….

[L]aw students can greatly benefit from using visuals to remember rules, apply rules to slightly modified hypothetical situations, and apply rules to completely novel situations in exam situations.

Imagine teaching our social compact documents—our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution—and their underlying principles from pictures (how many drawings did Locke use in his Second Treatise?).  Imagine teaching the British constitution—which is much more document intensive than our own—from pictures.

“Conveying…information via reading, lecture, and discussion” does not at all overtax the “verbal channel in working memory;” each of those media already are rife with visual aids (Locke notwithstanding).  What overtaxes “verbal channels” is lack of practice and lack of focus (both of which STEM-ers as well as lawyers need in spades), and that lack results from all of those distractions which George illustrates in her scenario.

Maybe another education reform would be to enclose classrooms inside Faraday cages.

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