Christopher Johnson, a non-Catholic who has taken up the cudgels so frequently on behalf of the Church that I have named him Defender of the Faith, at Midwest Conservative Journal brings us up to speed on a novel excuse to get out of taking finals dreamt up by some Harvard Law students:
The following essay by one William Desmond, a third-year student at Harvard Law School as well as an editor of the Harvard Law Review, is either the most infuriating thing I’ve ever read or the most unintentionally hilarious. I can’t figure out which. Seems Des would like Harvard Law to delay whatever exams he’s scheduled to take. Why? Ferguson, natch:
Over the last week, much has been said about law students’ petitioning for exam extensions in light of the circumstances surrounding the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner at the hands of police officers. Students at Harvard Law School, Columbia Law School, Georgetown University Law Center and several other schools requested that their administrations allow extensions on final exams for students who have been confronting the aftermath of the recent failed grand jury indictments of the officers who killed the unarmed black men.
Des already knows how people are going to react.
In response, opponents of exam extensions have declared that to grant these requests would be a disservice to the students. Law students, they argue, must learn how to engage critically with the law in the face of intense adversity. Drawing comparisons to events surrounding the Civil Rights Movement and other times of intense turmoil, these opponents portray today’s law students as coddled millennials using traumatic events as an excuse for their inability to focus on a three-hour exam. In essence, law students are being told to grow up and learn how to focus amidst stress and anxiety—like “real” lawyers must do.
They’re all wrong, of course.
Speaking as one of those law students, I can say that this response is misguided: Our request for exam extensions is not being made from a position of weakness, but rather from one of strength and critical awareness.
How’s that, Des? Because in the last couple of months, the single most traumatic events in the entire recorded history of humanity have occurred.
Although over the last few weeks many law students have experienced moments of total despair, minutes of inconsolable tears and hours of utter confusion, many of these same students have also spent days in action—days of protesting, of organizing meetings, of drafting emails and letters, and of starting conversations long overdue. We have been synthesizing decades of police interactions, dissecting problems centuries old, and exposing the hypocrisy of silence.
Yeah, sure you were. And doing lots and lots of high-grade ganja from the sound of it. Out: the dog ate my homework. In: I was so upset by this country’s refusal to frankly face the effects of slavery that I couldn’t possibly study, never mind do any homework.
I have seen the psychological trauma brought on by disillusionment with our justice system send some law students into a period of depression. After all, every death of an unarmed youth at the hands of law enforcement is a tragedy. The hesitancy to recognize the validity of these psychic effects demonstrates that, in addition to conversations on race, gender and class, our nation is starving for a genuine discussion about mental health. But to reduce our calls for exam extensions to mere cries for help exhibits a failure to understand the powerful images of die-ins and the booming chants of protestors disrupting the continuation of business as usual in cities across the country.
You’re just embarrassing yourself, kid. Hey shut up, we’re not spoiled children. We’re…you know…prophetic and crap.
Where some commentators see weakness or sensitivity, perhaps they should instead see strength—the strength to know when our cups of endurance have run over and when the time for patience has ended. Perhaps they should instead see courage—the courage to look our peers in the eyes and uncomfortably ask them to bear these burdens of racism and classism that we have together inherited from generations past. We have taken many exams before, but never have we done this. We are scared, but no longer will we be spectators to injustice.
Des? I’ve got a real life rule. When you have to tell others to perceive you as strong and courageous, you’re nothing more than a particularly sniveling, gutless little douchebag. Oh, and attention furniture companies and stores. Want to make a boatload of money? Stock up on fainting couches because guys (?) like Des are going to need one once he starts his law practice.
Our focus and critical thinking are at an all-time peak while the importance of our textbooks is at a low. It is not that law students are incapable of handling their exams. It is that we are unwilling to remove ourselves, even for a few days, from this national conversation.
As future practitioners, professors, judges and policymakers, we have all been trained not only in the faithful application of the law but also in the critical examination of its effectiveness. And by our analysis, responsible members of the legal community can no longer defend our criminal justice system as exemplifying fair process when that system so frequently produces the same unjust result—life drained from an unarmed black body by a barrage of government-issued bullets.
If I ever had to do a nickel for some crime and Des was my lawyer, I guarantee that this snowflake will be waiting at the prison gate when I get out. To inform me that he was suing my ass into the ground for causing him emotional distress because I was guilty.