Counting guns in early American
dcruz at LAW.USC.EDU
Mon Jan 1 14:30:38 PST 2001
I respectfully take exception to the following (perhaps throwaway) remark.
On Sun, 31 Dec 2000, Richards, Edward P. wrote:
> As with Alan Sokal's send up of Social Text (see
> http://www.dartreview.com/issues/2.3.99/stflop.html) the real tragedy
> is that material was and not caught by reviewers. We know this is a
> problem with law reviews because they generally have no adult
> supervision. [snip]
Professor Richards may well have meant to use the phrase "adult
supervision" loosely, perhaps to inject a note of levity into what has
become a rather serious exchange about Professor Bellesiles's integrity
and/or competence. I have no doubt that Richards could articulate a
definition of "adult" tied to scholarly professional development that
would even be a reasonable interpretation of his comment above.
Moreover, despite having been a student law review editor myself, I do not
necessarily disagree with what I take to be the general thrust of
Richards's claim (i.e., that problems are to be expected when scholarly
professional journals are run by rather new students of a discipline).
All that said, I would urge those of us who teach in law schools not to
conceive of or refer -- even in jest -- to our students as children, to
which I take "no[t] adult" to be equivalent. Professors' referring to
students as "children" or "kids" has long been a pet peeve of mine, so the
strength of my response is not necessarily warranted solely by Professor
Richards's one comment above.
Nevertheless, "not adult" is, in my view, an inappropriate way to describe
undergraduates, a group of young men and women most of whom are of age to
be sent to fight and die for the United States. And it is in my view
arrogant, condescending, dismissive, or at the very least insensitive to
refer to college graduates in that fashion. Their relative youth is an
inadequate guarantee of sufficient immaturity to warrant characterizing
them as "no[t] adult," and, conversely, advanced years are an all too
fallible guarantee of maturity. Indeed, as the work product of such
"adult" supervised journals as Psychological Reports demonstrates, "adult
supervision" is hardly a guarantee of minimally good scholarship.
I would hope that those of us who are committed to training young adult
minds to think responsibly about the Constitution under which we in the
United States live could see fit both to conceive of and to describe our
pupils as the adults they are. And, lest it be said that I too little
appreciate the human lifecycle, I would hope that I too manage not to slip
into characterizing my students as "kids," "children," or "not adult" as
I, with however little or much grace, grow older and watch the age gap
between my students and me grow ever larger. I think the task of training
the next generations of attorneys and legal scholars imposes on us the
obligation to extend this minimal courtesy to our students.
Happy New Millenium to those who count it that way, and Happy New Year to
those who believe that happened last year. And to those who use an
entirely different calendar, may you be enjoying your break from teaching.
-David B. Cruz, USC Law (Cal.)
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