Tuesday, February 28, 2012

LSAT and Cerebral Palsy: Standardized testing and disabilities

Raf_s7973I sat down and rewrote this piece a number of times, because the subject matter feels very personal and delicate to me. My friends and supporters remember my struggles from when I was applying back to lawschool trying to get proper accommodations for my disability all too well. I still remain a great critic of the exam that all programs that train future attorneys use in their admission process- public or private alike- the LSAT. You would think that with a profession as crucial to carrying out  justice as law, essential for shaping future as Florida defines them "officers of the court" the federal government, the state courts, the department of education, anyone from the public administration would be the one to create and give a test like that. The first thing I found strange when I heard of the LSAT is that it's carried out by an external, private organization. The second- that they have been sued a number of times for failing to accommodate individuals by disabilities a number of times in class actions that were later settled. That they were investigated by the department of justice and put on a five year probation. So much money, it is not a free test, with many people taking it over and over to get a better score. So much power over the academic programs, so much power over the law profession.. I have been through it, I have been through law school and I passed the bar exam. Still, I'm not impressed with the LSAT, I don't agree with how it's structured and administered  and how and what it tests on. My biggest concern, as always: disability accommodations. What you need to understand: we're talking about changes to the form of the exam, not the nature of what is tested. The goal is never to make it easier on a person, but a fairer setting so the physical limitations have less of an influence and we can focus on extracting what we should be interested in getting out all along. Knowledge. Disability accommodations are granted on individual basis, whenever reasonable in that particular condition, supported by medical documentation and prior testing history. They are pretty standard on every level of educational experience as is what you need to show to obtain them. Undergrad and graduate students get them, the bar examiners do so as well, as do entry exams for grad schools and professional schools. Because they are not really given based on that institution's free will as optional. They are fairly rooted in ADA. From my personal, however limited educational experience I can say that: law schools never created any problems granting my accommodation requests for all exams, neither do the Bar examiners in both Florida and New York, or body conducting the professional responsibility test which is that other component for admission to law practice. For my disability they found it was reasonable to: provide me with extra time, a typist with a computer (during Florida Bar exam it was the court reporter), wheelchair accessible sitting in a separate room and unlimited bathroom breaks. The only test administrations I know of that resisted providing a lot of those accommodations were the  MCAT used for med school admissions and the LSAT used as a standard by law schools.

Now, I don't know what the current practice with the MCAT is so I don't really want to comment too much about it, but I remember reading essays defending the practice of both saying that a surgeon needs to function in a highly time constrained setting of an operating room and a lawyer has to think on his feet in a highly stressful court room setting. The main flaw of this thought process is of course that not every med student becomes a surgeon and not every law student dreams of a career as a trial attorney. Also, I think it's very naive to think that a test can predict fitness for any particular profession. I understand that we have to figure out a way to let some applicants go through and eliminate the others, but let's not make them into something they are not- a crystal ball. The truth is we don't know how good somebody is until we actually see them perform and some people do get better with time and practice. But most importantly, let's allow professions to regulate themselves. The LSAT doesn't decide who gets to be an attorney- the Bars do. Some law graduates never go on to practice law, many older accomplished people with actual careers I met in recent years decide to pursue the field out of self enrichment. They want to learn something new. Because a law school is first and foremost a school. Many attorneys who are my friends never see the inside of a court room. I for instance do a lot of drafting, some teach, others do taxes, form corporations, file patents, advise, teach or decide to take on an entirely different career. Besides, being accepted into law school doesn't guarantee you will one day will even be able to practice as an attorney and not because you need to pass the bar exam. They don't do the same type of extensive background checks the bar associations do, nor should they- because they are schools, not training centers.

I  did fairly well in my program. I have been named to the Dean's list a few times, I had a couple of book awards (which are given to the top student in a class). I graduated, I passed the bar and I now practice law. I didn't do amazingly well on the LSAT, because I wasn't given the right conditions to perform on it. And I still oppose the idea of that test with great passion. It seems to me it doesn't test on anything practical or useful. People train for it for months like the Olympics, take it, forget and move on. It seems to only exist to push you to your limits, have you work in an extremely time constrained highly stressful setting. It doesn't involve knowing anything about any particular thing: nature, science, history, the world, language and just seems to exist for itself within its own closed universe. The time dedicated to it, that you need to take to submerge myself in that universe I feel is wasted forever, when you could be reading a book, traveling, learning, doing something that enriches you as a person.
The most upsetting part is how LSAT administration treated people with disabilities. I remember reading that it was part of their practice to ask applicants with Cerebral Palsy requesting accommodations to undergo a psychiatric evaluation. CP is a condition of the brain, but it's not a form of mental retardation, it only affects body control. Not only was that wrong it was offensive. Then, if they happened to grant accommodation requests they would flag the scores, meaning they would tell the school a person with a disability was applying to that there was something wrong with their test, that it wasn't good enough, essentially useless. There was a bunch of law suits brought against the LSAT administration, some of them class action that ended  being settled. There was a Department of Justice investigation and a probation.  But then some other offending event would happen. Claudia Adrien in her 2006 "Gainesville Sun"article does a good job  examining then current situation, please look it up for further reading, but it has to make you wonder: if law schools, if bar associations don't  have any problems granting medically supported accommodations why would a test that is only a step before them not only create so many issues, but defend and continue its practice for so long? What is the LSAT and why is the LSAT exactly?

Friday, February 24, 2012

It's about the kids

My dad was convinced that I should spend every free waking moment exercising, pushing stretching. In his mind, there was no difference between my condition and a story of his friend who ended up bed ridden with some severe injury affecting his legs. The man would focus on his limbs every day, just stare at them even as he couldn't move them as slowly but surely he got control over his body back. At first he could only wiggle his toes, weeks and weeks later he was walking. I don't even know if that was a true story or not, but now we know that learning skills you never had, which is essentially what my disability was and regaining your skills to full functionality are essentially two different things. It would have been very nice, very easy if I could dedicate three, six months to therapy, give it my all and just put my Cerebral Palsy behind me. But the approaches we know, are not short term solutions. Conductive Education, the Hungarian method we started in the late 80's was a commitment for many years if not life-long. The key is to adapt the routines into a way of life that goes hand in hand with other aspects of your childhood. I think the worst thing you could to to me is drive me so hard to make me hate it. Because you can't hate your life. The routines are repetitive, time consuming, often boring, sometimes painful. It was not something that would be over soon if you hang in there. No, I didn't feel like doing it every day, some days I didn't feel like doing it at all. I knew it was important, so there weren't any days I'd just sit around idly, because if I didn't work up a sweat I'd feel guilty. But, luckly, I never ended up loathing my leg braces. It'd be easy to do, with my spastic knees they got more and more painful to put on over the years. But it's life.

 Sometimes you do more, sometimes you do less. Sometimes you're into it, sometimes you don't feel it at all. I think it's not the end of the world. My parents put a lot of work into the physical side of my upbringing. The funny thing about childhood is you emerge as an adult somehow out of the process. And sometimes you want to develop social skills, sometimes you want to have friends over,  sometimes you want to go to the movies or to the zoo  or read a book. It doesn't feel quite fair to burden a child with all this knowledge about how important your exercises are and what will happen if you neglect it, but life isn't fair. It's easier when you grow up with it and it's all you know. And you can take it, as long as you don't hate it. Kids are resilient. But what I wanted parents to remember is that  while pushing, reaching further is very important, but you can't neglect  other areas of life. Because through it all your children are becoming people they are meant to be. Kids are not robots going through routines. Being positive, having a good outlook on life I think is crucial. And as you grow older, as you hit puberty and then your teens and adult years, you focus on other areas more, and it's only natural. School, friends, dating, finding yourself, rebellion, all those things so vital at different stages of life. And with Cerebral Palsy and having to rely on others it's easy to feel that you're not in control of your life and you don't belong.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The 100th post

For the last 99 blog entries I've been trying  to get you to peek into my world. To make you understand what it's like to grow up with an extensive disability. What had to have happened for me to get education. To choose a career. To be functional and independent as much as I can. How much work and dedication Cerebral Palsy required, and still requires from me and mt parents and how despite it all I get the pity looks, the frank, impolite questions. How I sometimes feel like a being from another planet. I came here having little to no experience living and getting around every day. But I had to learn and adapt. How nobody really understands what it must be like to be me. If I get somewhere they don't think much about it, if I'm late, they take it against me. For me every day is small victory over my body, my physicality and how accomplished I can feel when I make it, when I do what I've set out to do.  People don't understand how limiting CP can be, but then you learn to live with it. Or get around it.When I lived in Warsaw I was driven around, I had no muscle strength rolling myself around because I only did so at the malls, movie theaters and university halls. Within weeks I was navigating a bus system across town.How I never really met anyone like me. I  only saw people with advanced, extremely spastic CP unable to function independently presented in some sensational tone, or people with the mild variety, who walk and function every day.  Where is everybody else, why aren't they making headlines accomplishing great things in specialized fields?  Isn't this the land of opportunity? I wanted to stress the importance of education, rehabilitation and upbringing. How there is hope if you work hard. How parents, routines, environments, movement are all crucial. How the right choice can make all the difference.  How you can raise to the occasion. And it's not about this one method or this approach. How I'm just like you,  but I'm also different. And not only because of my chair- I'm a foreigner, I'm an attorney, I'm all those things that give you a different perspective. I wanted to give parents hope. Mine did, they never gave up, and I'm hear today. If  you are in Florida consider Jordan Klausner Foundation. I benefited from the methods we use, that's why I stand behind it. But my point, my mission if you will is broader. And I want to hear from you. rstrzalkowski@jordanklausner.org

Sunday, February 19, 2012

A special education

After publishing my latest text it became obvious to me that I should explain in more detail what "special schooling" was like in then communist Poland and what life my parents have spared me from. Their decisions was after all linked to the education choices, or lack of them in reality we were living in. I have no idea how this term is received in other countries, I can only speak from my own experiences and those of my family. The communist governments had a very dismissive attitude towards people with disabilities. They were never seen in public, I guess they didn't fit the image of a society where everybody was healthy and happy that the government was trying to project. It was best that they, that we, were put away in a number of special institutions. Out of sight. Besides, if people with disabilities were to roam to the streets, where would have they gone? There were stairs everywhere, oh so many stairs, nobody even thought of sidewalk ramps back then. Accessible buses didn't show up on the streets of Warsaw until the mid 1990's and even then they'd be 40 minutes apart in a city that has passengers picked up every 3-4 minutes. Nobody saw the need to include the disability population in anything, and that's the feeling you can get even today when you see how there never seems  to be a priority in Poland to solve that kind of problems. How it's always about the money that there is never enough of, how people with disabilities should be patient and grateful for every little thing that does happen.  You could see some of that attitude when I was applying to law school in Warsaw in 1998. The Dean's disability office was trying to discourage me from picking that field. Classrooms were crowded and inaccessible. They suggested I pursue more popular studies among my disabled peers like English, linguistics or history. It would be easier, they said.

A special school in Poland 25 years ago was more like a holding institution. Everybody was required to attend school, you rarely had choice in the matter because they were assigned based on geography. A special school would throw a lot of types of disabilities together, physical and mental, just to give those kids some basic skills and something to do. It wasn't designed to be challenging, because the children were not expected to accomplish anything. What would the have done, join the workforce? Have a career? In Poland people with disabilities did manual labor, like gluing dolls and putting pens together. They were not intended to go to college. How would they function if they did. Most people would just collect money from the government, having no way to be productive, to be educated, to be included. 'Till this day my employment status in Poland is "permanently unable to work" as if employment only meant hammering away all day at the factory. I'm attorney in Florida. The kids with various types of disabilities would pick up bad habits from each other and often be neglected.  That's something I saw in a number of Polish rehabilitation centers- unless the parent was there to watch things the kids would sometimes be left to themselves and not even taken to therapy. But such attitudes were common across the board- when I was six or seven and I had surgeries on my legs my mother asked the nurse to look out for my spastic right hand to make sure that it's stretched out. She bandaged my hand to the railing. I was also told to pee on myself because she didn't feel like assisting me. When my  parents decided to keep me out of the special school system they weren't making some deep ideological statements. They wanted to save me from the lifetime of institutional contempt. They wanted to make me the best I could've been,  they wanted me to be the most normal. We were pioneers, but not for the glory and not by choice.

A lot has changed in the approach to people with disabilities today. More and more things are accessible to people with various disabilities. But something has never budged. The hardest  thing to change is the mentality. It feels like things are still geared towards paying people a monthly sum or keeping them home. Or paying employers to create jobs for disabled or give them preferential treatments and tax cuts. A lot of talk about inclusion, a lot of debating, a lot of money  thrown around on special programs. Big heads uttering big words and yet, you always have to wait for the change. Americans took a different route. They said, Let's just remove the barriers so we can get rid of what prevents a lot of people from fully participating in society. Education, mass transit, culture, work, government: let's create a network of requirements. Still, parents have a number of issues negotiating with schoolboards and placing their children. But that's a tale for another day.

An to be honest, there are some negative connotations to the term special education even here in America. JKF runs a school for kids with Cerebral Palsy. People I spoke to often assume it involves children with mental retardation that are not able to mentally succeed in a regular school setting. That our paste is slower, that we don't push pupils to work hard. That it's separate from regular education or alternative in some unfamiliar way, like a Waldorf school. We've made a point in telling people that our goal is not to keep kids separate but to give them abilities to succeed in a "normal" school or any other setting. Because no parent wants their child to be different.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

It's about the parents...

There's no therapist, no doctor that knows more about what to do about my disability than my mother. When I was a child she almost found the perfect mix of exercises, movement, massage study and fun to turn into a daily routine. We went through a number of methods and approaches when I was little, there was nothing we wouldn't try to make me better (or more functional, which essentially was the same goal) and she was able to combine and take from them things she felt would keep me moving, keep me sweating, keep me challenged. She quit her job when I was diagnosed to oversee my development while my dad took extra shift. There was an exercise mat in our living room and a gym stall and grab bars in the hall. Everything thought of so I would exercise, stretch even when I was by myself.

My mom was 27 when she had me, much younger than I am today. It's hard for me to understand what they've been through, what they had to give up. How you raise to the occasion  when you find you have a child with disability,  a more than likely lifetime commitment. Can you imagine the shock, when your child is born prematurely, when you're told it might not make it and when it does, when you think everything will be fine you're told  it's just the beginning?

 And then you learn. You learn what to do to be a normal family despite everything and you learn and you dedicate your time, you sacrifice your career to help your child thrive. I always talk about my parents when I'm asked to give a speech about my struggles with Cerebral Palsy. I am where I am today because they decided to go against the system. And they stayed strong for as long as they did. You didn't see people in wheelchairs attending regular schools, going to museums, galleries, they we're present in the public scene. The communist government preferred to  have them put away. My parents refused to have individually schooled or sent to a special institution. That wasn't easy. Nothing really was wheelchair accessible and for years and years they would carry me up the stairs to class every day. At first unofficially as an agreement with the teachers to avoid problems. But I grew bigger and heavier and they got weaker and weaker. Their backs suffered, their health declined, but there was one goal- for me to get an education. A lot of other parents with CP kids followed suit by pulling their kids out of special schools. Many didn't last in that decision. They got weaker, older  and discouraged as the kids loose enthusiasm for both learning and exercising. Not a day goes by without my thinking how I'm a product of favorable circumstances. How easily it could've gone the other way. I don't think it makes me unique, that I am who I am. It's my parents' strength and determination. There's no reason I should be special. For that reason if I can inspire kids and parents to reach further and try harder, I will.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Music of my life

Isn't it strange how a song, a book, a movie can take you back in time and be a part of your past, connect to your experiences in a way you've never known? Whitney Houston was one of the first singers I ever "picked" for myself to listen to. I liked her not because my mother did or because my brother was a fan. This was my music. I remember playing "The Bodyguard" soundtrack CD  borrowed from my brother's girlfriend on a loop and then making a tape copy I took to my class' school trip. I recall how singles from that album dominated the MTV charts with multiple entries at a time. And it got me to think how prominent music has always been in my life. How when my mom would massage me, stretch me out or have me do exercises for hours, the music always played. I find it strange now that I think about it, that I never complained. The routines were repetitive, took forever everyday, would sometimes get painful and take me away from other things I wanted to be doing. Yet, oddly I don't remember ever thinking: my able-bodied friends don't have to do it and I never asked myself: Why me? And - although I knew I can't chase and run like my friends do in their spare time I don't think I ever felt excluded.  I remember walking around our apartment in leg braces and with sticks listening to Pet Shop Boys and Sandra. I would have to do 10 rounds around the house daily. The braces had metal rods in them and were quite heavy, so it would  take a while. Yet, the music made the time flow faster. I used to read a lot as a child. Whenever I had to be in a 24/7 rehabilitation facility I would swallow books whole in the spare time.  I guess perhaps it was my mind's way to detach from the boredom of reality but the things that I read and the music I listened to made me  dream of great adventures I would have when I grow up. I've had a vivid imagination, I could turn anything into a game and when I was really small my favorite toy was a tape recorder. I liked my childhood, although a lot of time was spent away from home. Years in Hungary were probably the better part- I've also had a few painful surgeries at a very early age. But the sounds, the words have always made it better.

And I guess we never realize how the art and pop culture infuse our lives. It's been quite a while since I listened to anything by Whitney Houston and she's just one of many people who made the soundtrack of my life. Still, at one point she touched me.It's one of those things you don't notice until they're ripped away from you, part of your past. And then I got to think about my own quest for inspiration and how I always believed you should help others and make the best out of the time we have. It takes some thick skin to be famous and it feels like a lot of talented people recently turned out to be too fragile and tormented for their own lives. We've lost some inspiring people of culture recently. And I just couldn't stop thinking when I was reading on Whitney Houston's death, how different it was from the passing of Wislawa Szymborka, literary Nobel prize winner who died at 89.  Szymborska died peacefully, in her sleep after  having a long life full of accomplishment, yet quiet and respectful.  She even indulged in some of her addictions until her her death. Houston peaked too soon, burnt out too soon and now gossip press is after every detail about her final hours they can their hands on. There's not much respect in that.  

Friday, February 10, 2012

Why should I donate to my lawschool?

Not long ago I've received a plea from the Dean to donate to my old law school. The letter brought out a lot of mixed emotions in me.  First of all, I think there is something wrong in turning for money to people who have graduated not more than five years ago as they're most likely not situated well enough and secure  within the job market to be in the position to give back. I'd like to stress that this is not a criticism of the Dean. I understand that he only wants to have his school running smoothly, maintain existing and launch new programs, to get the top talent. If I were in his shoes I bet I would do the same. And yet, I'm confused. Recently I read an article in a legal journal, I forgot which publication it was - and the story made the cover- that the law schools are a bubble that is about to burst. And I see that point. I see a lot of my former colleagues struggling- either trying to establish their own practice or finding odd jobs. Still, the schools produce new graduates every year, open new classrooms, even erect new buildings. And I ask myself- what is the point of donating to your law school and what it does to the job market and even my own perspectives.
Secondly, I feel like asking me for a donation suggests that I'm indebted to my school. That it gave me something I need to make up for. The law school is not a charity, it's a business. I have paid a lot of money to get my two American law degrees, much of it at the out of state rate.  I came here as an international student. A lot of my similarly situated friends were never able to establish residency, meaning that they were paying nearly 1,300 dollars per credit throughout their entire programs. That's over 38,000 for the first year alone. Legal degree was of course my decision, my choice, an investment if you will in my own future. Did we all leave  with perspectives on careers in the legal industry reassured about the future? No. My graduation ceremony speaker lamented that the job market is in crisis, but it's not irrational to have hope. That is all we were left with. Yes, you can say that my school is cheaper than many other schools, but that begs another question: why is legal education so expensive to go into. Since the times have long passed that this was the industry to go into, what is the justification for asking that much money?
I hold three law degrees and a couple of certificates so I can compare the experience. In America the law school is a professional school. It's more of a skill giving institution, while in Europe it's a scholar experience with a lot if research, a lot of theory, plenty of cultural and historical context. It felt more like studying, more like education. In America it's very rare to require a comparative law  course or type of international or historical approach so the perspective is very limited. But it's mostly feels like an intentional decision of what law is and how it is taught in this  country.
I understand that it takes a lot of money to bring accomplished lawyers to a small college town to teach. But that's, I think, were the problem lies- do you really need big names to teach a general course that is based  on a text book, limited to what the assigned reading contained and based on a Socratic method, meaning, the class is driven by the the teacher soliciting answers from students. It takes a particular set of abilities to be an educator, not only have the knowledge but convey it. You need to know how to convey the content of the class schedule, other than that the material is pretty straight forward. I even had a professor who used the same course "script", said the same jokes, brought the discussion to the same points for at least three years! When I attended the Cambridge English Law program in Warsaw at first we were taken aback with how young the main instructors were. But soon it became obvious that they were better at their job than some of the visiting lecturers from England, because they have been doing it all they did. The problem is that  law school in America is a business- they compete for the best students, they pay attention to ranks.

Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of giving- to people, animals, even to education.  If I went to an undergraduate school here I'd probably give to that. But universities do a lot research, are a hub of new ideas. They allow students to explore their talents, develop and thrive in science, culture and art. It's a process, for their benefit but also for the benefit of all of us  It feels less like a "Give us money so we can charge our students more money". Perhaps I'd feel different if the law school gave plenty of students scholarsips or if there was a prominent Civil Rights or ADA clinic directing students to socially relevant causes. I know that one of my professors, Winston Nagan sits in an office in a plaque that says Center for International Human Rights, but I don't think that's an actual school mandated program. We also know, because statistics show us that very view students end up working for NGO's  while most-  for corporations or themselves.

I work for a non profit, that sometimes could but mostly cannot afford to pay me. And it's fine for now, as I don't get discouraged. This is what I believe in- helping children with disabilities, although I think we should all give to what they feel passionate about. I congratulate my Dean, but I have no doubt- if he chooses to build another wing his support base will make it happen. And good for him. At the same time I'm trying to convince The Florida Bar Foundation that there is a strong need to create a workshop that will educate the disability population about their rights, an idea that I wanted to put together considering my own experiences in a wheelchair. And I'm losing hope I ever will.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Cultural differences

At UF most of my friends seemed to have wanted to get through our classes unnoticed. Never bringing attention to themselves, sitting in the back row as if they could only be remembered for something bad. Our exams were always coded and graded anonymously and in a curve as we were told- for our protection and fairness as if the teacher had nothing better to do than reminisce all the negatives, seek out the slackers and mark the papers down. Every exam was written of course and subject to a lot of safety procedures. It seemed to me that people here found comfort in anonymity. My experiences in Poland were exactly opposite. We wanted to stick out, we wanted to be noticed. Most exams were oral anyway, but even for those that were planned as written, people did whatever they could to change that. Health notes, permits from the Dean, participation in the student Senate that required a more flexible schedule or approaching a lecturer directly. As soon as he made an entry in your grade book you were set! Oral exam were your chance to shine, your one shot to impress and to explain yourself or correct something if you see from the examiner's face that you made a mistake. And the often unfounded belief that they will not flunk you if they see your droopy eyes and how you shake before them. Nothing stains more than ink, once you write it, it's done. What is fairness anyway? Is it fairer to take a test out of context, grade it, artificially setting a common denominator from here to here, without understanding their perspective, what made them give that answer, without picking their brain to see how they think? Is it fairer to not consider your work and involvement, your passion for the topic? It's a different mentality. And a different approach to professor- student relations and the curriculum.

At UF the teacher always calls the student by his first name, even if he happens to be 30 years younger. At Warsaw University we were always addressed Mr/Ms, or by any title we happened to have, and we offered the same. We are after all, all adults. I was shocked when I saw people wearing flip flops, sunglasses, gym shirts and hats to class. I've even seen people kicking their flip flops off in the middle of a lecture and stretching their legs from under the desk. Not that we would always wear suits in Warsaw but we dressed respectably if not conservatively. And we would always check our coats at the door. Out of respect for the institution that has been here for hundreds of years and the lecturer. When you want to go to a theatre or  an opera or church, you want to look nice, right? I guess for me dressing appropriately dates back to high school in Poland, when I wasn't even aware of any particular dress code but you knew certain colors, hair ideas, items of clothing or types of make up  for girls just felt wrong. Here I've seen people drink, have a snack, open a can while lecturer was talking. That's what breaks are for. It always felt to me that it's more, "I'm paying and I expect service" rather than having an educational experience that is designed to broaden your horizons.

  Back home curriculum was geared towards individual study. There was no time to cover most material anyway, but you needed to know everything from that area come exam time, even if the law changed the night before. As a trade off, for most classes we were not required to be present (they were mostly there to help us) and the main lectures were entirely optional. In America we were given daily assignments, read from here to here and if we didn't get there it wouldn't be on the exam. In Poland people got jobs at law firms as soon as they could find one, while in Florida we were prohibited from working that first year. I always found it strange how you can be admitted to law practice in Florida without taking a single practical course [except for one semester of Appellate Advocacy your first year] . How can they evaluate your abilities, your fitness for being an attorney if they never see you, they never see you speak, present, think on your feet, argue. Yes, there is some practical element in the essay form, but you  never really get to show how your individual traits and predispositions tie into the process. In Poland law school is just a first step to years of practical training. Yes, ths part could be more open to applicants, but I think the idea is valid. Americans love their tests. You take a two day test and boom, you're an attorney. I just find it odd, how you can take the person out of a very person driven profession. All our skills, all our experiences, how we think and what we do influence how fit we are for this. Does it matter how you're trained for the profession? I do believe that in Warsaw we were made to be resourceful and independent. And by virtue of being accepted to the program we knew quite a bit about history, politics and culture. I think it makes you a well round person and teaches humility, something many American lawyers could use.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Political poker

This isn't a political blog so I don't want to ride too much about it, but the American Republican party is about to select a candidate that will face Barrack Obama in the presidential election. It is amazing to me how much energy the contenders are wasting trying to fight each other for the coveted spot. This year it's the right, but last time the war on the left side of the political isle  looked exactly the same. Everybody does what they can to destroy their rivals and appeal to their core base, then they try to broaden the support within their own party, finally they try to do what they can to appear as moderate as centric as they can in hopes to attract voters from the other side. As a foreigner- a person that cannot vote and therefore has no vested interest in the outcome of the process, I find fascinating how there always is so much talk about their respective parties and platforms, their future, their good, but a presidency is a very ego-driven individual ambition. It's not about the country, it's not about unity, it's not about issues and agenda, it's about me, me, me. It costs tens of millions of dollars to repair not only the damage done to a candidate in the primaries season, but also to make him appear even so slightly likable to the other side. And everybody has to have the perfect nuclear family. While your private life: divorces, mistresses, illegitimate kids shouldn't really be of any concern to they public, they become relevant when you make it part of your politics. Republicans talk about family value openly, but Democrats also subscribe do it. You see it it newsclips, in the ictures, perfect smiling wife and dressed up kids. Politicians have moved away from the political core a long time ago.

If it really was about the party, if it really was about stands on issues and values, shouldn't the Republicans now, as well as Democrats last time, pick the least polarizing and alienating candidate? It's probably not going to be Rick Santorum. How much time and money would he have to spend to convince not only some of Obama's former voters but also many of the conservatives that he is not a huge gamble with his ultra religious homophobic views? What are his chances of attracting anyone beyond his core support and not getting steam rolled by Obama come election day? All of the top candidates are somewhat flawed, millions of dollars donated to their campaign, shouldn't their party just spend the years leading up to an election looking for a more electable person that you can build up, than can bring their message down to basics? The Republican platform can be very attractive to conservatives and democrats alike if we strip away the religious build up, the marriage and abortion issues we have lower taxes, government staying away from our lives and limiting presence overseas. It makes sense in its simplicity. Which one of them  talks like that? Simply put- the Republicans should put their individual goals on hold, go back and figure out who has the fighting chance to beat Obama come election day then concentrate on and support that person. You will not get elected on appealing to Conservatives and the religious right. I feel that a person closest to that is Ron Paul if you phrase a question like that, but has virtually no chance of surviving the primary season. Yes, some of his stands are a bit extreme, but at least he says the same things he has been saying 20 years ago, he doesn't have a damaging past, seems very personable and doesn't speak from a religious point of view.