Category Archives: Education

Go get this book – Nina Riggs, The Bright Hour – from Greensboro but far beyond

Nina Riggs’ The Bright Hour, justly, has gathered national appreciation (acclaim, really).  Reviewers say her “memoir of living and dying” is a “stunning” expression of the human spirit. Across the country, readers are recognizing and celebrating it, and rightly.

Nina was a Greensboro poet and the wife of former Brooks Pierce lawyer, our friend John Duberstein. Her story and stunning book have created a quiet sense of wonder and more than a little pride here.

I see The Bright Hour as a liberal education – in itself – and, at the same time, a vibrant affirmation of the value of a liberal education. To make of cancer and a final illness what Nina has done and how …

Nina Riggs, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Michel de Montaigne. How she walked with them, in her Greensboro life and how the three of them made meaning together (and with others) as Nina’s life came to an end are a profound validation of a liberal education and a compelling, ennobling demonstration of what it is, and how, to be human.

Go buy and read this book.

Immigration restrictions said to cause recent declines in US technology, innovation, entrepreneurship

Brooks Pierce friend Vivek Wadhwa believes that US immigration restrictions are creating a reverse brain drain. He says skilled innovators come to the US for education, then get frustrated with US treatment of immigrants, and go home.

Vivek has tracked US restrictions on immigrants to the surge of start-ups in China and India — and he links that surge to recent declines in the US. So, he’s got the cure:

We need to make it easy for entrepreneurs
abroad to bring start-up firms to the United
States. One solution is to provide a ‘start-up
visa’ as a path to permanent residency. This
would perhaps be valid for five years, with
an upgrade to permanent residency dependent
on the firm’s employment of US workers.
The Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City,
Missouri has estimated that such a visa
would create 1.6 million jobs within 10 years
and boost the US economy by $224 billion
a year.

This sounds like a robust response to the challenges of globalism. Vivek says:

By becoming the best place in the world for entrepreneurs to study and work in, the United States could again be in the driving seat of technology innovation. Then we can share the resulting prosperity in a more equitable way to mitigate the anger of the electorate.

MidLaw is for that.

More on the rise of robots, lawyers advised to get some emotions

robot2Here’s another article predicting that robots and artificial intelligence are getting ready to replace lawyers. Japanese scholar Hiroshi Ishiguro is the principal source.

Two highlights from this piece:

  • Robots are 5 to 10 years away from being able to do what lawyers do. “It’s easy to write a computer program for a lawyer.”
  • People trust robots more than lawyers. They are more comfortable talking to robots.

People simply like robots better than they do lawyers. And the clear implication is that robots have better ethics than lawyers do. It’s not only lawyers. Ishiguro says that in the future “about half of comedians are going to be robots.” (About half?)

Lawyers are advised to develop capacities for creativity, human connections, and emotion. Emotion, connection, creativity.

Or, get a hammer.

And, see Martin Ford, Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future, and of course, Richard and Daniel Susskind, The Future of the Professions, How Technology Will Transform the Work of Experts.

I hope law schools and bar associations are looking at the implications of these issues for those just entering the profession.Ten years from now is when it will really start to matter.

Hard Scrabble

SCRABBLEL4AS0Y1OT2The champion of French-language Scrabble can’t speak French.

My gut is screaming at me that this says something important about the future of traditional law firms.

 

The most liberal art

Masada Israel-2013-Aerial_21-Masada

Masada overlooking Dead Sea

Lifelong learning is the ultimate liberal art. It is the single skill or attribute that is most important for a school or college to impart to its students.

The truth never changes. But our understanding of it must change continually. If not, we are dead or dying.

Where lifelong learning can’t be imparted, it should be thrust upon.

And, that is what happened to MidLaw on that recent trip with 18 members of the senior class at Westtown School to Israel and Palestine.

It was not a trip. It was a master class in “You aren’t 18 years old anymore.”

Hike the Snake Path to Masada before dawn to see sunrise over the Dead Sea? At age 70?

Is that lifelong learning, or the lack of it?

öéìåí àåéø ùì îöãä, ìéã éí äîìç.

Snake Path visible at left

 

 

What the horse-and-mule business shows to lawyers, robots and others preparing for an uncertain future

ECWinslow

Last week, John Markoff at the New York Times published a note calling attention to recent studies which conclude that technology will not replace lawyers so much as create new kinds of the work for them to do. “The End of Lawyers? Not So Fast” He points to a paper written by UNC Law professor Dana Remus and Frank Levy at MIT, “Can Robots Be Lawyers?“.

Well, let me tell you: my great-grandfather, my grandfather and my father were in the horse-and-mule business from the 19th Century forward. It was a good business and they did well. Then tractors came.

By the Mid-Twentieth Century, the horse-and-mule business was done. My family has been on the run from technology ever since. So my crowd knows a thing or two about competing with machines.

Now, here I am in the 21st Century weighing the possibility that robots may take most of the jobs that were left after the tractors came. I am being told not to worry. And, I have an attitude about that.

A rush of recent books and article has proclaimed a coming era of technology-provided abundance. Maybe, nobody will need to work. But that initial rush quickly subsided into a flow of worry — about whether there will be jobs for people to do. This will be with us, we are told – in twenty years’ time or less, they say.

Things are in flux. In the future, either the work we do will be gone, or it will will be changed. Either way, it will be different. How do we prepare for that?

Here is what the horse-and-mule bid’ness showed me.

First, the less work there is for people to do in an abundant future, the more need there will be for real educations. It will take a real education to know how to thrive in a time when jobs are not needed any more. That will require: “men and women with well-trained minds and good hearts; people who can think for themselves and not be blown about by every wind of doctrine.”

And, second, the same also looks true if jobs are still around, but the work is different from what it is now. We must be able to cope with that change. And the best way (maybe the only way) to prepare for change , is to have a real education.

A “real education” is what Jane Fernandes at Guilford College calls a “practical liberal arts” education.

 

Sir Thomas More and the mid size law firm

HThomas-Moree was the great lawyer of the English common law. He stood at the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of what came next. A lawyer who was canonized.

Thomas More’s 1998 biographer, Peter Ackroyd, says that

For most of his life, More was a lawyer and a public administrator; he was not a visionary or a scholarly humanist. … [H]e believed that experience in the practical business of the world led to prudent deliberation and good judgement [sic].

“Experience in the practical business of the world leads to prudent deliberation and good judgment.”

Experience, deliberation, judgment. That is the core franchise of the mid size law firm. It is the promise that mid size firms make to beginning lawyers; and the product they deliver to clients.

The same thing is at the core of “the practical liberal arts,” which President Jane Fernandes is defining at Guilford College. Practical experience married with structured study of tradition and learning.

Jon Meacham apothegm @ Guilford College Bryan Series

Guilford sealJon Meacham at the Guilford College Bryan Series last night:

I believe deeply in the power of the liberal arts to enable us not only to see the dots, but to connect them.

3 hard-guy comments on real education, not a commodity

Taleb 360_mugNassim Nicholas Taleb wrote The Black Swan and Antifragile. He tweets aphorisms, one after another.

Recently, he emitted more about education. Tweeted he:

“Good students” usually a category of pple [sic] with the ability to focus on details of boring things not relevant to them, pre-bureaucrats.

Never hire an A-student unless the job is to take exams.

Trial and error means you can learn by and only by failing exams.

The beginning of the end. Education, because it became commoditized/gamed/nerdified, converges to useless.

menckenTaleb reminds me of H. L. Mencken, who said

“Education in the truest sense – education directed toward awakening a capacity to differentiate between fact and appearance – always will be a more or less furtive and illicit thing, for its chief purpose is the controversion and destruction of the very ideas that the majority of men – and particularly the majority of official and powerful men – regard as incontrovertibly true.”

Tough.

Taleb and Mencken put me in mind of Nereus Mendenhall, who said the same things in milder terms but much tougher straits than either Taleb or Mencken. Mendenhall was the legendary Quaker president who kept Guilford College open, with its pacifist and abolitionist values, in the middle of North Carolina throughout the Civil War.

mendenhlllGuilford College, Mendenhall said, should:

produce men and women with well-trained minds and good hearts; people who can think for themselves and not be blown about by every wind of doctrine.

The promise of liberal arts colleges is precisely that.

A good college is anything but a commodity. Every independent college should be a unique, values-based learning community – that prepares its students – to think – for themselves.

That is what Guilford College does to this day.

Best education for what is coming – “practical liberal arts”

experiential learningPoliticians are recasting education and putting their chips on preparing students for jobs.

This has prompted lots of commentary by thinkers and writers who disagree. They say:

  • If students study what they have a passion for, they will be better prepared for both work and life than if they merely seek to create credentials for specific jobs.
  • Over the next twenty years machines will take away most of the compensated work people are doing now. Jobs in the future will be different from most of the jobs now.
  • In the future, if not now, the most compelling need will be to know how to manage change, to learn new jobs, and to reinvent yourself, over and over. The greatest need: know how to learn.
  • Compensated work in the future will focus on what machines can’t do. That means kinds of work that are not routine or repeating. For most, it probably means that our work will require understanding and interacting with people. This will include:
    • How to interact & work with others
    • How to compromise
    • How to deal with rejection, failure, change
    • How to know what you don’t know and where and how to find new knowledge and skills
    • Understanding how people & societies work
  • Self-aware people with enthusiasm for learning will be more valuable in the kinds of work that’s coming than the ones who were trained for specific functions in the current workplace.

The best way to get what’s needed looks to me like immersion in a residential learning community. The Internet seems a good way to acquire knowledge and some skills, but guided participation in a community of learners is the best way to awaken and practice a passion for learning and an understanding of people.

The president of Guilford College calls this “the practical liberal arts.” Her vision aligns with Nereus Mendenhall, Guilford’s legendary Civil War president’s vision: “To produce men and women with well-trained minds and good hearts; people who can think for themselves and not be blown about by every wind of doctrine.”

You can’t legislate that. But you can bet on it.