To some extent good teachers help students understand difficult concepts. This makes a great deal of sense in math or physics but less sense in law where there are fewer really difficult concepts (putting aside the Erie Doctrine). I do have the feeling that one way to be viewed as a good teacher is to seem to be making a difficulty concept understandable but sometimes that means first convincing the students that it is difficult. The parole evidence rule comes to mind here.
Thinking about the teaching “thing” made me realize two things. First, if I were a student I would want the smartest, best informed, and articulate person possible to be my teacher. If I have the casebook and access to a library, I think I would be able to figure out on my own what most teachers actually "teach" these days. The organization of the course (or outline) is usually the book. The back letter law is there too. I’d like class to start with the understanding that I know the case and I know the black letter rules. Then I’d like to be able to ask the teacher every question that occurs to me. Then I’d like the teacher to ask me the hardest possible questions, if I have not asked them already. Frankly, I’d prefer not to be treated like law school were a form of remedial education.
The second thing that occurred to me is that I am not sure why students do not want that to be what goes on. Why are students so passive? They do not “use” the teacher aggressively as an instrument. Instead, too many sit there and seem to say “tell me what I need to know (and only what I need to know) and make it funny. And for goodness sake, do not challenge me.” The aggressiveness that might be found in bargaining over a new car or seeing a physician about a persistent fever or headache, is just not there. The idea of being an advocate for oneself in the classroom in an effort to get every drop of help the teacher can provide is simple not part of the consciousness. It’s like saying to a doctor approaching with a giant syringe filled with a bubbling green liquid of unknown qualities,“In my arm or in my butt?”
I am just flirting with this idea for now but this passivity makes me wonder if all of the things I associate with half-baked teaching are really ultimately traced to low expectations by students.