I’m not talking about the classes that are supposed to be useful but ultimately fail, I’m talking about the ones that don’t even purport to be useful. BitterLawyer.com ran a bit on this a while ago, highlighting 11 worthless classes, and I thought I’d revisit the topic, but see just how much crap I could churn up by limiting myself to only the Spring 2010 classes at the Top 5 schools.
Book of Job and Injustice. Not a class about injustice in the job market, but a class on how to use the Biblical Book of Job to understand injustice in the world. The class is basically “Why does God allow bad things to happen?” This was one of the many topics we covered in my philosophy of religion class in undergrad, which is precisely where it belongs.
Ethics in Literature. I understand the importance of having classes in legal ethics, and why some students are interested in Law and Literature (because they’re book nerds and it looks like an easy class), but Ethics in Literature? This class would be a thousand times more effective if you just cut out the books and discussed some of the more complex or intriguing ethical dilemmas (legal or otherwise) thought have been thought up during centuries of philosophical circle jerks.
Democracy Of, By, and For the People: Reading Group. This is a class on “(1) community life, (2) self governance, and (3) accountability to the common good,” which requires students to “prepare periodic ‘one-pagers’ on mutually agreed upon topics.” Flimsy topic? Bullshit assignments? Sign me up!
Great Books: Reading Group. “This reading group is meant to be an antidote. Nowadays, law students arrive at law school having read less and less history and literature.” So what’s Harvard’s solution to this? Reading and discussing one “great book,” Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain, a book so great you’ve probably never heard of it. At least the class is only worth one credit. In my English Honors Seminar we read The Iliad, The Aeneid, Paradise Lost, Tom Jones, and Moby Dick. That’s how you make up for a lack of exposure to literature and history. Not with a class where “Soft drinks, wine, cheese and so forth will be provided.”
Jewish Law’s Response to Gentile Law: Internal Views of External Influences: Advanced Reading Group. Holy Moses, what a freaking waste of time. The class will “explore the language Jewish law uses to describe its own perception of its relation to Gentile law.” It’s not even a class on Jewish law, it’s a class on the linguistics of Jewish law. And what makes this an “advanced” reading group? You must be able to read Hebrew to attend. In other words: Only God’s chosen people are allowed.
The Past and Future of the Left. We all know universities tend to lean liberal, and law schools are no exception. But this class is quite literally about how students can get the party of “greater equality and empowerment” to overcome its current internal conflicts.
Law and Creativity: Fiction and Nonfiction. I almost didn’t read this one, thinking it would be a class on intellectual property. But, I’m sure glad I did. This class is broken down into two components; in the first students “examine and discuss creative treatments of legal and professional issues in a variety of media (including film, fiction, and nonfiction),” and in the second they “submit their own fiction and creative nonfiction pieces for group discussion.” Basically, it’s watching A Few Good Men followed by a creative writing workshop where you’re critiqued by people with little or no creative writing background.
Tocqueville’s Democracy in America. Another wonderful reading group brought to you by America’s higher education system. This is pure discussion group, no lecture. And to make sure it is extra useless to lawyers, enrollment is capped at 16 students, and only half of those may be from the law school.
Biblical Jurisprudence. Every school seems to have these worthless Bible classes. This noe is sure to prepare you for legal practice by exploring topics such as “the meaning of wars of extermination in the biblical narrative” and “the binding of Isaac as it relates to other practices of sacrifice.” In other words, it’s a class that explores the bad stuff Jews did in the old testament. Or, as Profs. Fletcher and D-Kal call it, “the OT.”
Leadership for Lawyers: “This course examines the responsibilities and challenges of lawyers who occupy leadership roles in the public, private, and non-profit sectors.” Hint: It’s exactly the same as the responsibilities and challenges of non-lawyers who occupy leadership roles in the public, private, and non-profit sectors.
New York University
Retribution in Criminal Law Theory & Practice. The class basically centers around one question, should we use criminal sanctions for retribution, rehabilitation, or deterrence? Doesn’t sound too terribly useless until the end of the course description: “The seminar includes in its pedagogy experiments in freeing creative voice through weekly writing and theatre exercises and includes a close study of philosophy, history, psychoanalysis, novels, and plays.”
What. The. Fuck?
The Passion of the Christ: The Trial of Jesus. “For serious learners. Tons to read and plenty of hard work. Do not enroll just for curiosity.” I think that’s code for “This is a bullshit class, but I’m trying desperately to make people think I’m a serious academic.”