Sunday, November 25, 2007

All I really need to know I learned in fifth grade

This column, State Supreme Court fails test on the "Facts of Life," appeared in Friday's edition of The Greenville (S.C.) News:
When I was in fifth grade, my teacher gave us a test on what he called "The Facts of Life." It consisted of simple questions, most of which I don't recall. They were on the order of:

"How many minutes are in an hour?"

"Who was the first president of the United States?"

One of them I do remember was, "How many nickels are in a dollar?"

I beamed with pride when Mr. Gelhar announced I was the first in the class to get a perfect score on that test as he graded them at the front of the room. I walked to his desk, fetched my graded paper and took it back to my chair where I reviewed my answers, reveling in the glory of that perfect score. Until, that is, I got to my answer to how many nickels were in a dollar: 50. In the rush of grading the papers as we turned them in, my teacher had accidentally marked that incorrect answer as being correct.

I can't remember what the consequences of my error were, or even if I admitted that the grading was wrong. But I do know this much: If the S.C. Supreme Court had been grading those papers, everyone in the class would have been given a pass on that question. . . .

So, if I read this right, because one person was inadvertently passed, 20 people who legitimately did not pass were given a free pass to become lawyers. That's no knock on the 20: The bar exam is intentionally difficult, and not passing it is nothing to be ashamed of. Test takers are allowed to try again.

But it seems almost inexcusable that the court would say that because one person's exam was recorded wrong, 20 whose exams were recorded correctly (as failures) would be allowed to pass.
This is a simple and persuasive summary of South Carolina's bar exam scandal (MoneyLaw coverage: parts 1, 2, and 3; see also Not Very Bright's superb overview). I tip my hat, once again, to Not Very Bright.



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