Sunday, March 22, 2015

Greed will come back to haunt you

Not even I could have predicted this outcome.  

Between the day that I was first enrolled in law school and today, the price of tuition has jumped about $400.00 per semester hour.  It already started climbing quite a bit when I was there, and the attitude of certain individuals was that the market could bear that price.  This person viewed it the same as if you wanted to buy an autographed football or an original Warhol.  After all, a law degree works in exactly the same way.  You shell out $100,000.00 and voila!  You are an attorney.

However, I have recently discovered something interesting.

The bar passage rate went down in the ensuing years.

That was the first clue that something was going wrong, and so I looked at the admission stats and found out that the median LSAT scores for the current class are also lower than when I attended.

Some people might have theories about why this has occurred, but let me tell you speak the truth on this matter and say that if you aren't Harvard or Yale law, there is a point where a so-so candidate (which is what my school was already attracting) is going to look at the price tag versus the employment prospects and run like the wind and just not attend law school all together.  The majority of people left are the ones that are too dumb to do the math, people whose post-undergrad job prospects are already crap, people who don't want to go into the real world, dreamers, and people that view law school as some sort of finishing school where they can kill another 3+ years (usually more than the standard three because they usually end up flunking quite a bit) before they go work at the family business.

Naturally, this doesn't mean that if a person falls into one of the above categories that they must necessarily have worse GPAs and LSAT scores, but consider this:

If, the overall experience of going to law school was--oh, let's say--about $30,000.00 cheaper than what it is now, and the employment prospects afterwards were better, the school would have a larger pool of competitive candidates.  This doesn't necessarily mean that they are competitive to the point that they would have been accepted at better schools.  Instead, their profiles mean that they would be better candidates for keeping up with the coursework and passing the bar afterward.  However, the slightly more competitive candidates have better employment prospects and better graduate school options.  Plus, they are apparently smarter at crunching the numbers and keeping up with current events to where they realize that even if they do graduate with a law degree that the worst of it is still yet to come.  

Unlike medical school that has residency programs, you are on your own unless you are connected or find a job afterward.  If you cannot find a generous individual to mentor you, then you have flushed thousands down the tube.  A few years ago, these people would have been absorbed into the public sector or legal aid, but those prospects are GONE.

Therefore, while there are still going to be a few dreamers and people who think they can do this if someone gave them a shot, one cannot help but think that if the school is attracting people who are not worried about their debt load and employment prospects at the end of the day that this is also playing out in the end result because they probably are not going to study that hard when it comes time to take the bar.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Dear Law School....

You have found my new land line number somehow and have started calling and asking for donations.  I seriously don't know how you did it and frankly it is a bit creepy because I get creditor phone calls for people that used to have this number before I did and the creditors have no clue that their quarry has moved on.  If you can, please call the collection agencies and tell them that David Cruz no longer has this number, thanks.

I've had a chance to compare my legal skills to laypeople and other lawyers recently, and I recall how things were when I was a 1L.  It takes me back to those heady days where even I racked my brain and likely spit out wrong answers 4/5ths of the time.  That was a blast!  Oh, if only the public knew how the most basic and common sense beliefs are turned on their heads for the sake of making us study an ungodly amount of hours.  Oh gee, what happens when a person buys blue widgets and receives pink widgets?  I can stand in line at the return counter or keep them.  In the course materials, these scenarios are sometimes depicted with drawings or with fact patterns.  Again, I am sure that the public that pays lots of money for these services would feel better knowing that their attorney received training via cartoon drawings and flash cards.

I didn't learn anything in that environment except for the basics on how to pass the bar.  Thanks to the real life work experience I've had, I can now "think like a lawyer."  If only I could point to something and proudly say, "Professor Such'n'such told me how to solve it this way!"  But no.  I think of the practicing attorneys, judges, my job, and the non-attorney coworkers who taught me how to approach problems and solve them.

Thank you, again.  I realize that it isn't your fault because law school was created to be a barrier to keep people from practicing law, not for getting people ready to do their jobs.  I should commend you for fulfilling your niche in this assembly line through the lack of useful information to the point that I could not even file a lawsuit in JP court without receiving assistance from the clerks if I wanted to, as well as the sheer expense of attending.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Bill Cosby

We interrupt the carnage in Ferguson for my two pence on Bill Cosby just because I feel compelled after reading that an actress involved with "Picture Pages" (which was a child's program interspersed in some of the programming that used to show on Nickelodeon back in the day) was also attacked.

Even when The Cosby Show was the top show in the nation, I rarely watched it, but Cosby was still everywhere in the 1980s.  He was also held up as the archetype of African-American success and praised for having a television show that portrayed them as being doctors, lawyers, and college-bound students with futures.  Now, these allegations have gone beyond sad to being "icky," and if true, it is sad that since he is now 77 years old and has lived off of a vast fortune for the past several decades that he might spend a year or two in prison by the time anybody gets around to indicting and trying him for the cases in which the statute of limitations has not expired before he goes into the great beyond.  True, he might live to be 90 or 100, but he would probably get a compassionate release it he becomes decrepit well before then.

However, most of my knowledge of him as a comedian was from the special "Bill Cosby: Himself."

I had seen that special multiple times because it was on the premium channels and I was bored, and still remember some of the bits.  Years later, I started looking at that special in a different light and I realized that taking stories about your family (particularly your children) and turning them into comedic bits in the way that he did was actually a bit mean.  I can better understand someone like Jeff Foxworthy when he references his wife or children because the information is minimal and he ends up sharing in being the butt of the joke, but Cosby came off as being a bit angry and he even referred to them as being stupid or having "brain damage."  I couldn't imagine if my dad decided to use stories that I did as fodder.  It's sad, because we all laughed at it, but we are so desensitized to that sort of thing that we don't stop and think about what it means for the family members that aren't in a position to really say anything since they don't have the stage.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Why at the Age of 35 That You Might be too Old to go Back to School--Thanks to the Current Student Loan Structure

Using the allegory of Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore:

It sounds cool at first.  She's still hot and has got it going on to attract a young man.  A few years pass and then she starts having concerns that he cannot relate to just yet such as menopause, gray hairs, and routine examinations like mammograms and colonoscopies.    If this woman was able to freeze who she was at age 40, then things would be going swimmingly, but she cannot.

Taking this same example, imagine if someone that is in their early 20s takes out tens of thousands in student loan debt and they pay as they should.  They may well be paying it into their 40s or 50s depending upon how much they took out and all of the other factors that one considers such as not being able to find a job that pays enough to pay it off quickly.  Around this age, health concerns start creeping in, but the chances that this person is going to be struck down by something catastrophic are present but not as great, and they have to contend with the possibility that they might be laid off and have problems finding a new job because of ageism.  Still, there is a better possibility than not that the majority of whatever amount on the loans they have left are not going to balloon into the tens of thousands from a default.  By that point, they will (more than likely) be relatively paid off even though they have been haunting that person's dreams for a couple of decades.  Your children will also start going to college around that time, and you are in a better position to help them since your loans are either paid off or nearly paid off.

Imagine now what happens if that same person takes out that amount of debt at age 35, 40, 45, etc.  It sounds cool at the moment because they are young and can keep up with the 24 year olds when they go out and drink after class.  However, that person will more than likely encounter ageism, so their job opportunities won't be as great.  Even if you land a job and stay in it for a few years, there is an increased risk of being laid off and having an unusually hard time finding a new job. This new job would likely pay a lot less than the old job.

Even if you manage to overcome that and do reasonably well, your chances of developing a chronic medical condition that requires expensive management may occur.  Now, instead of funneling the money to student loan debts, you're having to split it with your diabetes and high blood pressure medications as well as the doctor's visits that come with that.

Furthermore, if you had children, this also means that you are still paying on your loans while trying to pay your children's loans if they go to college.

Unlike Demi and Ashton, you can't run off to the court house and have the arrangement voided.  These are yours forever...and ever...and ever...and ever.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

In Support of No Child Left Behind

Building upon my last post, I began to discover that the concept of Individualized Education Programs had been around for years, but it is only within the last few years that the schools have really done anything for students besides the children who are usually thrown in the self contained class and the gifted and talented group.  Normally, you find a theme where the school becomes concerned if the child didn't pass the tests that the school is complaining that they have to teach towards in order for the school to receive its funding.

On the surface, it looks like they are dumbing down the curriculum by forcing everyone to learn "what is 2+2", but then you notice that there is an increase in number of children who get extra time on tests and "mainstreaming" where the child is considered smart enough to stay in the regular classroom, but is taken out so that they are given additional one-on-one assistance.  This is not altruistically done and certainly there are still many parents out there that are having to fight with the school to give them help, such as if they are autistic but can learn in a regular classroom as long as they have an assistant with them instead of shuffling them off to the self-contained class like they would have done in the past.  Now, the schools have a prod up the backside that forces them to help other children since their performance on those tests is directly tied with their funding.

So, while the system isn't perfect, I think a lot of the complaints from schools are posturing because they ultimately hate having to hire the extra people needed to pull this off.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Just Because you are "Average", it Does Not Mean That You are Not Disabled.

I would like to raise awareness for the concept that yes, you can have a disability and still perform OK in school.

Now, let me be clear on this.  I'm not saying that you can outthink your problems and be cured.  What I am putting out there (for the less enlightened) is that there are bright individuals that could have been in the gifted and talented program, gone to a better university, obtained a better job than what they received but for the fact that they were lumped in with the "average" kids.

Normally, when schools decide to test children to see if they have a learning disability, it is usually because of poor grade or failing the state benchmark test.  That is it.  If that same student eeked out somewhat good IQ test scores or appeared to be on grade level, nobody gives a rat's turd because, in their mind, this means that a problem doesn't exist.  

Many things affect IQ test scores, and ADHD interferes with that child's ability to sustain the mental effort to take the test.  Therefore, the scores on that test tend to be lower than what they could have been. 

So, let's say, for example, the child's real IQ is 135.  However, because of untreated ADHD, the scores turned out to be a 110 because the kid could not sustain mental effort long enough to do well on the test?

Hey, that is still pretty good, right?  110 is a nice, somewhat above average IQ that you can write home about.  Everyone breathes a sigh of relief and goes on about their day.

Maybe if you attend a school that has a diagnostician that can read the tests, they might notice that there are discrepancies that might warrant further investigation, such as when reviewing their grades, but how often does that happen?

I think about this stuff because I have a friend that teaches special education, and while they didn't discuss much of this with me, it became apparent that nearly everyone that receives help is below their grade level.  Ok, they should be helped, but where is the help for the bright individuals that could have been going to a good university to eventually become an engineer or a doctor were it not for a learning disability or ADD?  

Despite what we purportedly know about disabilities, one can't help but notice that the people working in the front line on the matter including the teachers and counselors don't tend to apply reality to practice.  Maybe it is from the pressure of having a limited budget and fearing that a child will be stigmatized, but let me point out that ADHD is a treatable condition and has been so for many years.  ADHD has the rap of simply being a means of medicating children so that they become zombies in the classroom.  However, people should ask themselves if they felt that same way if they looked into the future and realized that taking a pill every day means the difference between a scholarship and being another also-ran in a regional school.  

I started reflecting upon this when I thought back to my high school.  I had never heard of "Indvidual Education Program" or diagnostician testing until I met my friend who teaches special education.  Here I was, for the longest time, thinking that this was a newfangled thing until I started doing some digging around and discovered that no, the concept had been around since the 1970s.  Yet, here my school was, well over 20 years after the idea was birthed, and they basically had classes in three speeds: slow, medium, and fast.  I don't ever remember anyone being pulled out of class or anything of the sort.  I recall there being a couple of obviously "slow" individuals in my class, but where were the people that had dyslexia?  ADD?  learning disabilities?  Didn't exist.  Not a single student that I can recall was given additional time on tests or any of these other measures that they use for ADHD.

Instead, even now, learning disabilities tend to be readily diagnosed in people attending schools that are on the shitlist because the school is underperforming.  In the end, the truth is that learning disabilities are seen as something those "poor" people have, and because the upper crust tends to be filled with knee-jerk individuals that think that people that need twice as long on tests are cheaters that don't need help, as well as the cost of having to hire someone other than a babysitter for the self-contained class, one can see where they would studiously avoid such things.

Monday, May 12, 2014

For when you are feeling broke

Yahoo News, you are funny sometimes.

Here in this story, you can learn to make a leek soup for when you are feeling broke (not if you are actually broke).

Leek soup for only $10? Lands sakes!

So, is this what 25 year old hipsters who are slumming it eat after making a Whole Foods run?

"Man, today, I ate like a poor person!  I totally get it now.  I sprinkled it with some Plumpy Nut and felt its sustainability coursing through me as I bicycled 25 miles to REI."