September 4, 2005

The Harvard Law School collage assignment.

Prettier Than Napoleon went to Harvard Law School and got assigned to make "a collage, a drawing, a crayon rendition, or any form of expression that depicts the qualities of the lawyer you most want to be." She links to the collage, which is hilarious.

She's responding to this Joanne Jacobs post about collaging in a high school pre-calculus class.

What idiotically inappropriate art assignments were imposed on you when you were in school? Law school assignments most heartily welcomed!

What is the educational theory behind this (if any)? I'm guessing it's some sort of attempt to make people who don't take easily to books feel welcome. I have way too many memories of listening to teachers at my kids' schools murmuring about the wonders of "hands on" assignments and "learning by doing" and thinking they don't believe children can learn by reading. Then there's also the whole self-esteem angle, taken to the extreme of making the subject the student himself — what it means to me, how I feel about it, what my self-image is within it. I've got to admit that as a student, I thought about myself a lot. But what I mostly thought is: I'm bored and you people are stealing my precious time.

Arrrgghh! I just had a flashback to a high school art class where I was assigned to make a collage and given the subject: "society." The hell! Anyway, at least it was an art class and not history.

26 comments:

Charlie (Colorado) said...

You think a picture of Scrooge McDuck swimming in money would be acceptable?

Joan said...

Ann, is there anyway you could host the image? We've exceeded bandwidth on the link...

So far I'm enjoying the curriculum at my kids' schools, which have avoided pointless art assignments. About the closest we've come was when my son was assigned to do a family tree in 2nd grade, which was overwhelming (huge family here) but not pointless.

Amber said...

The collage file has been moved and should work now.

Ann Althouse said...

Thanks, Amber. Thanks for dropping by. I'm surprised you made a collage. I'd have taken "any form of expression" as leeway to write a poem. Haiku, I'm sure.

Ann Althouse said...

I'm assuming it wasn't graded. If it was, I'd be drawing up a storm. Fueled by anger. But then, my motto is "art rages."

Amber said...

It was ungraded, as I recall, but even if it wasn't, FYL is graded High Pass/Pass/Low Pass/Fail, with only a handful of LPs awarded.

Freeman Hunt said...

My little brother just finished his second year of college. For one class he was assigned to create an interpretive dance about the nature vs. nurture debate. Being a computer guy who'd rather slit his own throat than do an interpretive dance, he took a zero instead.

Yevgeny Vilensky said...

So, if I decide to enter math academia, I'm going to assign my students in calculus class to do an interpretive dance on the meaning of the Chain Rule. When we get to integration, we'll go to the pool for group work. Teams of four must do a synchronized swim representing Integration by Parts. Brilliant! That way we'll catch the Chinese and South Asians in mathematical aptitude!

Wow... I just actually considered going into academia for a year or two just so that I can do this.

k said...

Ann, it may be true that some children "can't" learn from reading. I have a hard time believing that, but - be that as it may. And you may learn something about yourself from this type of artistic expression. But at some point, don't you need to pick up the books and begin learning from them? So, echoing the question: What does this teach you?? I am guessing the answer approaches Zero. And I can relate to Freeman. Once in a gym class, because it was an Olympic year, the teacher had all of us choreograph a gymnastic floor routine. I refused. I wasn't in that gym class cuz I was looking to be a world class (or even a community-class) gymnast. They made me take that danged class. Did some quick calculations in my head, relating to grades, humiliation, and pride quotients ... and took the zero.

Charlie (Colorado) said...

I'd be worried that an interpretive dance for the Chain Rule could only be filed in the San Fernando Valley.

Jim Lindgren said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jim Lindgren said...

Ann,

I'm always amazed at the range of assignments that teachers give. For law professor Charley Reich's class on the Greening of America at Yale in the early 1970s, the main (or only) assignment was to do something involving American life, which could be a paper, or a collage, or even baking a pie. I didn't take the course.

Contrast this with my daughter's (mandatory) 9th grade assignment at the University of Chicago Lab High School. While reading Catcher in the Rye, they had to write an essay discussing how Holden felt the first time he saw the word "f*ck" scrawled on a wall, and how his feelings about seeing the word changed as he saw it later on walls and buildings. (And the word "f*ck" did not have an asterix in it.) I remember laughing and saying to my wife, "Well, this is certainly proof that she doesn't go to a public school." As far as I know, no complaints were lodged about the assignment, which had probably been given for years.

Jim Lindgren
Northwestern

Susan said...

As an adult I went back to school to study horticulture. In my Soils and Fertilizer class we were required to give a talk on anything related to S&F and were STRONGLY encouraged to incorporate "visual aids". One of the reasons I perversely chose my topic was so I could introduce my talk, "I'm giving my talk on Manure, and you'll be really happy to know I don't have any visual aids."

peter hoh said...

I feel the need to defend hands on education.

I taught 4th grade everything at a prestigious elementary school. I got to focus on the science curriculum and came to the conclusion that our science textbook (and the alternatives I looked at) were worthless. What's the point of reading about simple circuits when you can learn by building them? Well, it's a heck of a lot easier on the teacher to simply assign the reading and the questions at the end of the section. But schools do not exist for the convenience of the teacher.

An interpretive dance about circuits -- silly. But building and experimenting, finding out what works and what doesn't, and then as a class outlining the principles learned into coherent rules about circuits -- that's priceless. In a sense, we wrote our text as we went along, as a follow-up to our experiments. That's the way to teach science.

Ann Althouse said...

Peter: I except science labs from my remarks.

SippicanCottage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
k said...

And, Peter... I am totally in favor of actually giving speeches in speech class, and acting in drama class. That's why you sign up for them. But acting (or dancing) in a law class? No.

Troy said...

The collage assignment will totally pay off down the road -- when -- as a hotshot tort lawyer said (now ex) student can whip out a collage laying out how the big airline was at fault in the crash or reconstruct the auto accident scene or a collage showing how Scott Peterson is not a sociopath or Michael Jackson is not a pedophile by giving us a pictorial history.

Law school should have more visuals -- that's how juries are swayed. Who cares about laches, comparative negligence, or preponderance of the evidence?

Also, jury instructions should also resemble those instructions for cheap-ass "do-it-yourself" furniture. Very little words -- all pictures -- made in China or Laos.

Search warrants could be a picture of drugs + picture of house with the room to be searched circled = handcuffs or some other symbol for "seized".

I digress...

Robert said...

There's nothing wrong with exploring new ways for students to learn things; it is definitely true that some kids will respond better to some modalities than others.

That said, if a kid CAN'T learn from books, you might as well start teaching them how to do manual labor now. They're not going to have any kind of professional future. A genuine inability to learn from the written word is a crippling disability.

Charlie (Colorado) said...

An assignment for students who "can't learn from books" in a law school?

I mean, I'm all for other sensory modalities and all that, but ... what in God's name are these kids gonna do in the Law Library?

Jenny D. said...

Ahhh, welcome to my world. There is movement among some professors of education to consider that there are "multiple representations" of ideas that could be considered "literacy." Thus, in a class about literacy in content areas, students who will soon be teachers draw pictures, write poems, watch films, make posters--all to offer multiple representations of say, Shakespeare, or something.

Some of it good. Most of it is not. This law school thing though is idiotic.

Freeman Hunt said...

I just called my brother to ask him about his interpretive dance assignment. I laughed out loud when he told me that he actually had TWO interpretive dance assignments last year: the one I already mentioned and a later group interpretive dance about war. He was supposed to pretend to shoot all the people with "finger guns" in the war one, but he didn't show up for it.

Keep in mind, he is in college to study *computers*, and he has never signed up for any dance classes. I suppose as a network administrator he'll be able to come up with interpretive dances to illustrate packet routing and QOS.

miklos rosza said...

This is all very educational for me. I had no idea things were this bizarre.

XWL said...

With examples like this combined with the grade inflation scandal of a few years back, Exactly why are Ivy league educations still so highly valued?

(I suspect the answer is a combination of conspicuous consumption and supply and demand, it is valuable because it costs a lot of money, rather than being costly because it is valuable, sort of like diamonds)

Simon Kenton said...

It was in a Friday afternoon clase when we were assigned a problem as a group and told, with easy condescension, to take the weekend and and be back on Monday with our "attempt to solve it." I raised my hand and stated the answer. Ah, of course, but the reasoning behind the answer. I gave the reasoning behind the answer. With considerable irritation, the teacher changed the assignment: the group had to come to agreement, to build consensus, about the answer.

Most of the time people like engineers, who actually have to know something and get something done, view the world around them with quiet incredulity. Sometimes, though, it irritates them.

Off to yoga. Ta-ta.

katiebakes said...

Reading of this assignment my first thought was sheer terror.

I can write a paper the night before it's due and get a good grade with not a great deal of effort; assign me some sort of drawing, collage, sculpture, or painting and I will be working feverishly through the night, only to produce a trainwreck of a product.

So, Ann, I enjoyed reading that you would go the poetry route. I learned long ago that anytime creativity is needed, I need to remain in the realm of words. Therefore, my expression of choice? Limericks.

They double as great birthday presents!