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Archive for August 10th, 2006

Examinations…marking of…

I have just seen my brother’s reference to marking examination scripts. Yes, it is true. He did this for some time. In my view he should be tried as a war criminal. He was far too lenient.

In but a few days or weeks, the hapless (or should that be hopeless?) and lazy will be appealing to the examinations board, producing spurious medical certificates or, taking it on the chin, and settling down for a bit of work before the September re-sits. Bar the odd genius who gets a First class answer on the first two questions out of four and then fails to submit answers to the remaining two (Fail usually) and genuine illness – there are usually two reaons why students fail examinations. They either do not know enough law – through laziness or lack of ability or, secondly, they fail to address the questions set. In the latter case, the student rarely fails – but the mark gained does not reflect his or her ability. Examinations are not the best way of testing ability, but what is the alternative? Coursework, in the age of the internet where students can plagiarise or, worse, pay a cheat site to do the coursework for them, is no longer viable.

So… the misery of the exam hall continues. I was always a bit baffled by some of my colleagues in academe who did not seem to be prepared to help students by showing them how to approach essay or problem questions. They regarded my efforts with flow diagrams and specimen answers with disdain. How can one bowl like Monty Panesar without knowledge and practice? I have seen some truly horrific exam scripts – garbage is easy to identify and despatch (dispatch may be used in the alternative). So too, the B52 bomber who spatters law all over the page in the vain hope that some of it will be relevant to the question posed. Others just give up and doodle for a while before leaving. I can’t quite see how a law student, who does a reasonable amount of work, who is not actually ill or distracted by personal problems, who has been shown how to approach exam questions, can actually ‘fail to satisfy the examiners’.You have to be reasonably bright to get into law school these days. Getting a First or a decent 2.1 does require hard work and ability – but that is the way of the world and there are plenty of good lawyers out there with not particularly brilliant degrees. (The difficulty is – these days, they would probably find it difficult to even get into the firms in which they are now partners! or secure even a pupillage in chambers)
What, however, really irritates me is the tendency in some law schools to teach law to a formula. I shall be returning to this theme another time. I have been talking to two students recently who have been taught in this way. They did not find it a satisfying experience. Anyway..enough… I have to read Atiyah, Sale of Goods and see if I still agree with some of the more interesting ideas still contained in the book!

i was asked to review a book once.  It was not a particularly good book on law…in fact, it was terrible.  I borrowed the aphorism of Sir Maurice Bowra (Oxford) and wrote back to the Publisher – “Thank you for sending me this book – “I shall lose no time at all in reviewing it”   I was not asked to review any further books – thankfully.
R D Charon

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The human condition re-visited…

I start work early, usually around 4.30 am. By this time in the afternoon, I need a break. Imagine getting pissed, stealing a white goat from a field and breaking into a Volvo, bundling the goat into the back of the Volvo and then ramming the farmer in the Volvo which you have just stolen from him while he tries to block your way in his 4×4. Well, you probably don’t even want to think about bundling goats into the back of your car if you watched Gordon Ramsay’s pigs being slaughtered on Channel 4 last night (I wrote about this yesterday) – but it did happen. The Sun
District Judge Richard Williams said: “It seems to me you did this purely out of immense stupidity.”

Thieves in Malaysia get it badly wrong. Cnews reports that three men in Kuala Lumpur broke into a bank and stole what they believed was a cash dispenser. It was not. It was a cheque deposit machine. It was not clear whether they made off with any cheques after being surprised by a security guard.

Maybe it is a recessive cruel streak in me.? Maybe I have spent too many years marking law degree examination scripts? – some of which were so bad, I lost my sanity. I don’t know. But I do enjoy reading about crass stupidity.

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Charon goes “Goth” ?…

And there I was, wandering through Portobello market looking for a stud (metal, lest you should be thinking of other things) and some new Goth eyeliner (It is going to be a hot look this Autumn) when…. who should I bump into? Victoria Beckham – Posh Spice as was. She was moaning about WAGS, whatever they are, and saying that she was sick and tired of everyone copying her. It was then she noticed that my appearance was slightly different.

“Cha Cha”, as she alone, calls me ( a play on my name and my audition for Strictly Come dancing – where I bombed) “Why are you wearing a hideous red lipstick, eye shadow and a stud…been dressin’ in the dark again, have we, love?”

“Victoria.. I have decided on a new look over the long vacation. I see no need to trouble my clerk during August. In any event, he will probably be in Barbados or Jamaica looking for hurricanes and smoking the garden … hasn’t quite clicked with him that Winter is the best time for Barbados. I am returning to the ‘Eighties’… the days of Siouxsie and The Banshees, Robert Smith…Goth revival. You like?”

“No, not particularly” Victoria replied, pouting and looking to her left to look as if she wasn’t looking at the seedy photographer who had been following me around for half an hour.

“You don’t think it works?” I asked, a thin smile beginning to form in my mind.
“No..not for you.” Victoria replied, pouting again and arching backwards to adopt a rather curious model like stance for the photographer, who was now scurrying around frantically.

I was able to tell Ms Beckham that I was, in fact, on my way to a late lunch and felt like irritating a rather tedious barrister (hence the Goth) who I was lunching with and who, I knew, would pontificate about the Bar and drone on about lack of work, the fact that you know you are getting old when high court judges start looking like policemen..or some other such nonsense. Ms Beckham and I parted.

I am delighted that she has now come out with the Goth look as pictured in the Press in recent days (Couldn’t find a link to a pic for you). It pleases me that I may just have influenced this decision. Of course – I could have imagined the whole thing. It was a good bottle of Rioja. I will not, of course, be adopting this Goth look in future.

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Terror threat raised to critical…

There are two reports in The Independent this morning on the terror threat.  Both are worth reading:

Reid attacks judges who hamper ‘life and death’ terrorism battle and A major terrorist plot to blow up aircraft in mid-flight has been thwarted by the Metropolitan Police’s anti-terrorist branch and the security service, the force said today. MI5 has raised the threat level to ‘critical’.

John Reid made the point that we are using legislation dating back half a century to combat a 21st-century breed of “unconstrained” terrorists driven by a perverse morality. Perhaps his most forceful point was this: “Yet, in spite of these successes (A reference to four major terrorists plots being foiled since July 7 2005), we remain unable to adapt our institutions and legal orthodoxy as fast as I believe we need to. This is the area that puts us at risk in national security terms.”

What is the solution?  Carefully framed legislation, consistent with The Human Rights Act?  Reid stated “Sometimes we may have to modify some of our freedoms in the short term in order to prevent their use and abuse by those who oppose our fundamental values and would destroy all of our freedoms in the long term.” 

Have the security and police services got sufficient power – legal and personnel to deal with the threat?  This is not my field of expertise.  Any readers care to comment?

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