Okay, Mr./Ms. Onomous. Thanks for outing yourself. I so appreciated your commentary on my Adrian Peterson post that I was moved to write an entirely separate post on sports analogies. And now you've posted some fantastic new stuff, which I'll address in just a second. It's very clear that you have a nose for blogging on matters within MoneyLaw's mandate, even if you disagree with some / much / all of our analysis. Please write me. At a minimum, a guest pass to MoneyLaw will compensate you for your trouble.
For the benefit of our readership, I'll reproduce your most recent comments here on MoneyLaw's front page. First, you take issue with the entire Moneyball analogy:
I think you all have a deeper commitment to sports analogies than this suggests -- it's right there at the top -- and one I'm not sure is successful. . . . Moneyball . . . supposedly cured a problem on which you don't focus, and pursued a normative objective of a different kind. What was "unfair" was that some teams had much higher payrolls, and the A's and other smaller clubs were forced to compete against them. Moneyball techniques allowed them to do so (in the short term, one imagines). Beane did not actually care about this unfairness, nor do you (or we'd be hearing more about endowments); instead you care about fairness to mis-evaluated faculty members and, more important, to under-served students. That's as it should be, but qualifies the ability to extract lessons from Moneyball. I don't think Beane cared about total or average fan experiences, and can't see how his method would have succeeded on that score, save incidentally. . . .And it is also worth reproducing your critique of Jeff Harrison's inventory of MoneyLaw techniques:
Moneyball's normative objective was winning by compiling, well, wins (falling a little short on the World Series, but exceeding expectations, anyway). I'm not so sure about what your shared objective is, or if there is one, but I would guess that it's better serving students. This poses two comparative problems. First, your objective is not so zero-sum as Beane's, which is the good part (though it is zero-sum to a degree). The bad part is that you are trying to establish the normative objective at the same time you're seeking to maximize it. What would Moneyball be like if Beane were to say, for example, "I want to create a team that brings real value for the fans, as I understand it?" Would he create the Cubs or the Yankees? Would he even stay in the majors? My point (if I have one) is that you need to identify clearly your objective here; once you do so, my guess is that it'll become plainer (assuming you secure agreement on it) that the analogy is misplaced. But I could be dead wrong!
[I]t's all well and good to aid in the purging of bogus factors, but it looks like your targets here are some of the most objective and measurable indicia we have. Is the world you envision one in which wise, unbiased, and truth-dispensing faculty members (i.e., not those writing letters of recommendation) engage in close critical readings of scholarship, rather than relying on letters, elite credentials, interest from other schools, and review placement? If so, aren't you closer to the scouting world Billy Beane rebelled against than the system he developed? On the student front, I'm more confident that data superior to the USNWR can be developed.Okay. In the interest of time, and in the belief that you will soon be posting your contrarian but provocative critique of this forum right on the front page, I'll respond with a series of short declarations:
- The purpose of MoneyLaw is indeed superior legal education, for the benefit of its real stakeholders. In declining order of importance, those stakeholders are students, graduates, the legal profession, businesses served or at least informed by legally trained professionals, and the abstract notion of law as an applied social science.
- Law school administrators and faculty are emphatically not stakeholders. They are employees. At best, they are trustees of the last and most abstract interest at stake: legal science. Even in that role, law professors owe their primary duty not to abstract knowledge, but to the people they serve through teaching and research. No thought in law is valuable unless it advances the system of justice in some material way.
- Our normative objective is one that has existed ever since more learned and experienced individuals undertook, for reasons transcending personal profit, to educate others. If it seems as though we spend enormous effort reasserting this objective -- and we do -- we do so only because this goal has disappeared within an academic culture that has come to prize many things besides the higher training and useful education of aspiring youth.
- The "objective and measurable indicia" you defend are precise in the scientific sense that they stand up to repeated inquiry and yield consistent, predictable data. But they are hardly accurate in the scientific sense of that word. Pedigree is a surrogate for performance. It can be traced, documented, and even quantified in ways that performance itself cannot. Yet it remains just that, a surrogate.
- We share your thirst for superior gauges of performance. Join us. Together, we may yet unlock the secrets of the academy and reveal them for the good of the academy's true beneficiaries.