Wednesday, July 30, 2008

More On Obama

It is difficult to decide whether this is a great example of investigative journalism, or one giant waste of time. The NYT has managed to get the syllabi, final exams, reading lists, and answer memos (all in PDF format) for a number of classes Obama taught at the University of Chicago Law School, ostensibly to learn more about him.

As some of you may well know, the Law School at U of C is one the more conservative in the U.S.; it is particularly one of the more conservative elite law schools. Having read a number of articles (like this one, among others) that deal with Obama's decade-plus as a lecturer and senior lecturer at the school (he was offered a tenured position but did not take it because he was busy with his other job, being a state senator in Illinois), it is always striking to me to hear conservative law professors talk about how willing Obama was to go beyond established ways of thinking, and engage critically with his students and the material. From my understanding, his seminars were very popular with law students, despite their odd timings (he would have class either ridiculously early Monday mornings or late in the workday on Friday because of his State Senate career).

The NYT piece linked here is a little less glowing, mainly because they seem to have used a number of Richard Epstein's quotes in the article, and the latter just seems cranky (especially about Obama not attending workshops, which was only because of his political career in Springfield). In any event, it is really interesting to go through this stuff, and perhaps it would be even more so for the law students/lawyers in our readership. It's also clear that he has a sense of humor; he asks his students in one final exam to hypothesize that they have just passed the bar in a state called Nirvana (so he gets to write sentences like "the state of Nirvana just last year passed a number of laws") or to imagine that they work in the general counsel's office for the Governor of Utopia, Arnold Whatzanager.

UPDATE: Check out this diary at DailyKos for a debunking of some of the criticisms and quasi-criticisms directed at Obama in the NYT piece.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

umm... am i the only one who doesnt really care about obama? to me he seems like the masses' black sedative... anyone after bush will seem a step up but this whole 'wow, its obama' is a bit like painting a white man black and then pretending as if the united states will be any different under his leadership... the changes will be minor, particularly for the long-abused black people of america. irony.
anon 1037