Thursday, February 9, 2012

A valuable life lesson

Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University in Houston requires first year students to maintain a 2.0 grade point average to remain in law school. That's a C. It's average. According to the bell curve, about 70% of students should be in that range.

If you can't maintain a 2.0 it doesn't mean you're an idiot or incompetent. It just means you might not be cut out to be a lawyer. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. There are more lawyers out there right now than our society can digest and law schools keep pumping them out left and right.

No one has the right to be an attorney. We are all free to choose what we want to do to earn a living - but we aren't all free to do what we want. Sometimes our lives don't work out the way we planned. That's one of life's lessons. It's a lesson we should learn as children.

My daughters (especially my youngest) hates to be told she can't do something. She'll pout. She might go back to her room, hop on her bed and cry. But, even though she doesn't handle it well now, she's learning a valuable lesson.

A lesson that Jonathan Chan and Karla Ford either didn't learn or chose to ignore. Mr. Chan and Ms. Ford were unceremoniously dumped from Thurgood Marshall because they couldn't maintain a 2.0 GPA in their first year. Both Mr. Chan and Ms. Ford received D's in Contracts II. A D is worth one grade point. The article doesn't tell us what their grades were in any of their other classes, but a random D shouldn't have knocked them below the magical line. All it would have taken was a B in another class to offset that D. But I'm guessing there were a lot more C's and D's than A's and B's on their transcripts.

Rather than take their setback as adults and chalk it up to a learning experience, Mr. Chan and Ms. Ford filed suit in federal court arguing that the D's they received in their contracts course were arbitrary because the professor, Shelley Smith, had to fit the grade distribution into a rigid curve.
"When you believe that you are doing fairly well and you get a grade you feel you don't deserve, it's devastating," said Ford, 27, who has bachelor's and master's degrees in administration of justice from TSU. "There is a lot of embarrassment and shame. It took a toll."
According to the law school, grades in first-year courses are determined by combining a student's in-class performance with the result of a multiple choice exam. Let me digress if I may. A multiple choice exam? Whatever happened to the good ol' blue book and issue spotting? Class participation? How much of a gimme is that?
"Coming from an Asian family, failing is a tough thing to bring up," said Chan, who has a bachelor's degree in administration and marketing from the University of Houston. "The only words I can think of are shameful and disgraceful."
Okay, I understand that Mr. Chan and Ms. Ford are disappointed. They spent some good money to attend school and they probably spent a good deal of time studying (though maybe not enough). I'm sure no one in the admission office told them that there was a possibility they could wash out after their first year. I'm sure no one told them that those high paying BigLaw jobs are scarce and that they were more likely to scratch and claw to eke out a living.

No one wants to hurt anyone's feelings so nobody tells you what should be obvious. Not everyone who enrolls in school walks out the back door with a diploma. Part of the rationale of law school is to weed out folks who aren't willing to put in the hours to make it through school.

No. Life didn't work out the way either Mr. Chan or Ms. Ford planned. But they can either accept it and more on or wallow in self pity and blame someone else for their woes.

1 comment:

Jan said...

I read that they weren't allowed to see the test they supposedly failed. If your school can't show you the test, and explain the wrong answers you supposedly gave, there is something seriously wrong. Yes, we all know some people aren't cut out to be lawyers...yada, yada, yada whatever, that's not the point here.