(1) In the New York Times, Stanley Fish has a curiously diffident review of Brian Tamanaha's forthcoming book on the crisis in legal education. I'm reading the book now, and it's a somewhat understated but therefore all the more devastating critique of legal academia. I've mentioned before that I'm a big fan of Fish the academic, in part because he's usually not afraid to praise and criticize, in the most straightforward and unvarnished way, ideas, institutions, and people he believes deserve such praise and criticism. This review reads like something that might have been written by someone who had never set foot inside a law school, and indeed had no particular interest in the subject matter of the book he had been assigned to review: it merely describes (some aspects of) Tamanaha's argument, while studiously avoiding any hint of what the critic's own views, if any, might be regarding what the book has to say.
Given that Fish was a long-time member of an elite law school's faculty, recently joined the faculty of a new law school which graduated its first class in 2005, and in between spent several years as a high-ranking university administrator, it would be difficult to imagine anyone better positioned to comment on the substance of Tamanaha's claims. That he wrote a thousand-word book review without doing so is as I said both very uncharacteristic and notable in itself. After all, Tamanaha's argument is among other things an indictment of the enterprise within which Fish has spent a good part of his professional life. This is not the kind of thing someone like Fish would normally treat as if he were reporting on the total amount of iron ore mined in Canada last year.
That he does may suggest that Fish basically agrees with what Tamanaha has to say, but, for obvious reasons, would prefer not to acknowledge this. Fish after all has been one of the leading beneficiaries, both in academia generally and within legal academia in particular, of the superstar system (i..e, the practice of spending big bucks to get high-profile academics in order to try to pump up an institution's ranking) which has played a part in generating the out of control cost structure of higher education in America. I certainly don't blame him for getting while the getting was good (and unlike a lot of academic "superstars" he's actually written a great deal of stuff worth reading), but this has put him in what could fairly be called a delicate position in regard to the structural pathologies Tamanaha's book describes and condemns.
(2) Someone who has investigated the matter tells me that Florida State's longstanding practice of admitting a relatively small entering class and then taking an enormous number of transfer students (at any one time over the last few years, nearly a quarter of the school's non-1L JD students have been transfers) upset students admitted there as 1Ls enough that, in order to appease them, the school created separate class ranks for original admits and transfers. It would be interesting to compare the entrance qualifications of FSU's 1Ls with those of the transfers whose tuition dollars are clearly so crucial to the school's budget.
(3) Long-time scam blogger JD Painterguy was interviewed recently by a New York-area television station, for a segment on educational debt. Even for people who are already familiar with the basic subject matter, the segment is well worth watching. For those in legal academia who continue to float in an ocean of complacency, it ought to be required viewing.