Category Archives: Liberal arts

Guilford College President uniquely prepared to prepare students uniquely — intelligence that is not artificial

Jane Fernandes’ Blog

Gradually, articles written about her, her own writing, and her speeches and oral presentations are showing us more of Jane Fernandes’ personal story.

The President of Guilford College has been deaf from birth. So was her mother. Over time, we have learned that

  • When Jane was a small child, her mother would give her a few coins or a small bill and send her to the store, charging her to buy some item, pay for it, and return with the correct change — without the store keeper realizing that Jane could not hear.
  • Jane attended public schools and after school, her mother would ask “What questions did you ask at school today?” (“My mother knew that if I asked my own questions and found the answers to them, I would have powerful preparation for life.”)
  • Throughout her school days, Jane’s mother caused her to take piano lessons. When Jane complained, her mother sent her to a concert. (“I sat very close to the stage and watched Van Cliburn. As he played, I saw his soul. I saw what chords meant.”)
  • In college, Jane majored in French and spent a year in France.
  • At Guilford College, Jane celebrates the Eastern Music Festival, which is held on Guilford’s campus.

There’s more to tell, but you tell me:

  • Is that a practical liberal arts education or what?
  • Can you imagine a better preparation for a 21st Century educator?
  • Can you imagine a better orientation for a leader in a learning community at this moment?
  • What core capabilities do you want today’s emerging adults to have for what’s coming?

And how about that mother?

A second comment on The Bright Hour

While Nina Riggs’ The Bright Hour is “a memoir of living and dying” which recounts Nina Riggs’ experience of cancer and approaching death, it is profoundly and meaningfully humorous.

I find the writing and the insights to have particular relevance for professionals. Although the book is not explicitly didactic, it is so for a moment. Nina writes:

We contain things and give shape to things in order to be less afraid of them. … The crafted idea does this. It’s why I write. The metaphor does this. … I can hear Montaigne hollering: break it open, look inside, feel it, write it down.

Much to find in this book.

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.

Greensboro’s greatest citizen of the 20th Century?

randall-jGot to be Randall Jarrell, right?

Here’s proof. There’s this podcast from London, “Backlisted, a podcast giving new life to old books.” It’s these two Brits with a guest talking (fortnightly) about books. (Awfully good talkers. Listening to them talk is like watching real athletes play pick-up basketball. You might get in the game but you could never keep up.)

Anyway, in September the sixth show was about The Animal Family by Randall Jarrell,  author, poet, critic, UNC-G professor and collaborator with illustrator Maurice Sendak. The extravagance of their appreciation for Jarrell made me wonder why we hear his name so little in Greensboro. Maybe we should have a statue of him to go with the O’Henry one. (O’Henry born here, left; Jarrell came here, stayed.) The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner.

Name somebody else from Greensboro (from NC) they’re talking about in London.

If not him, who?

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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.

 

Semicentennial visit to Spain — Visigoths seen dancing on the beach

spJUMPIMG_0474Upon departing Spain recently, it occurred to me that I first visited there 50 years ago. Semicentennial.

The contrasts are easy to name.  Spain now is bright, colorful, spirited. It is notably prosperous compared with a half-century ago, although at this moment it is still in some stage of a bad recession.

It’s not any longer about old ladies wearing black. I saw 75 women dancing (not particularly well) on a shore, and 20 more vaulting on boots fitted with bouncing soles.

On the beaches, there are libraries. Lending libraries on the beaches.

Like 50 years ago and before, every mountain town still seems to offer some unique dish, or drink, or method of preparing pork. Every seaside village has some unique species of sea creature that they eat (or, at least, serve).

Spaniards are Iberians, Greeks, Romans, Celts, Jews, Moors, Visigoths, thoroughly mixed. You can’t say that America invented immigration, or that immigration is some new thing.

I saw a sign on a public building on Spain’s East Coast that says, “Refugees Welcome.”

 

torreIMG_0489

The discipline of listening

Three baby scops owls

“To see the way forward you have to listen deeply. You have to listen to people you don’t want to hear from, and you have to hear what you don’t want to know.”

Jane Fernandes, President of Guilford College.

“The discipline of listening deeply — which is central to the disciplines of self-awareness, reflection, trustworthiness, expanded consciousness, fearless engagement and leadership — is so crucial to transformation.”

Charlotte Roberts & Martha Summerville, Guilford College trustees and authors of the recent article at strategy + business, “The Mindful Board” as well as a forthcoming book of the same name.

The people who know how to listen are the ones most worth listening to.

Berkshire Hathaway’s Munger speaking to lawyers, law firms

munger-modal-ebookgraphic-210x210Charlie Munger, the celebrated vice-chairman at Berkshire Hathaway, has gotten the status of guru, especially among writers about investing.

Many do not recall that he is a lawyer and founded one of the most admirable American law firms, Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP; or that he was persuaded to quit practicing law by Warren Buffet. Munger says quitting was one of the best things he did. Aspects of law practice such as measuring out your life in time sheets, did not suit him. Munger has thought and spoken well about the profession —from both perspectivews – as lawyer and as quit-lawyer .

Shane Parrish at Farnum Street, an exceptionally good blog, is a leader among Munger admirers. He recently called attention to the commencement address Munger gave at USC Law School in 2007. Parrish says the speech contains so many of Munger’s core ideas that it represents “Munger’s Operating System” for life.

Maybe so. That address is a string of jewels about career development for lawyers and regarding law firm management.

Here are four nuggets lifted from there. There are more at Parrish’s piece; and more yet in the address itself. But, start with these.

Lifelong learning

[Y]ou’re hooked for lifetime learning, and without lifetime learning you people are not going to do very well. You are not going to get very far in life based on what you already know. You’re going to advance in life by what you’re going to learn after you leave here…if civilization can progress only when it invents the method of invention, you can progress only when you learn the method of learning

Reliability

If you’re unreliable it doesn’t matter what your virtues are, you’re going to crater immediately. So doing what you have faithfully engaged to do should be an automatic part of your conduct. You want to avoid sloth and unreliability.

Work that excites you

Another thing that I found is an intense interest of the subject is indispensable if you are really going to excel. I could force myself to be fairly good in a lot of things, but I couldn’t be really good in anything where I didn’t have an intense interest. So to some extent, you’re going to have to follow me. If at all feasible you want to drift into doing something in which you really have a natural interest

Trust

The last idea that I want to give you as you go out into a profession that frequently puts a lot of procedure and a lot of precautions and a lot of mumbo jumbo into what it does, this is not the highest form which civilization can reach. The highest form which civilization can reach is a seamless web of deserved trust. Not much procedure, just totally reliable people correctly trusting one another. That’s the way an operating room works at the Mayo Clinic.

If a bunch of lawyers were to introduce a lot of process, the patients would all die. So never forget when you’re a lawyer that you may be rewarded for selling this stuff but you don’t have to buy it. In your own life what you want is a seamless web of deserved trust. And if your proposed marriage contract has 47 pages, my suggestion is do not enter.

That last one is the key to operating a law firm. True law firms are professional associations whose members share professional values out of which grow a kind of trust that cannot be achieved by policies, rules or procedures.

Trust among law partners creates real law firms. The rest are “legal services organizations”.

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