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Sunday, February 27, 2011

One More Story From Law School

Thinking about the last post ("The Exploding Alarm Clock," February 19, 2011) led me to another memory from that same year. Before I relate that, however, I have a request for those of my readers who are former students of mine. I invite you all to send me your memories of things that happened in my classroom that are worthy recording on this blog. Email your favourites to me at, using a "Subject" heading that mentions the word "Blog" so I don't have a "senior moment" and accidentally delete it as spam.

The new post:

In the Spring Semester of the 1966-67 school year, I was a second year student at the University of Texas School of Law. That semester one of the more interesting courses was Criminal Law taught by Albert Alschuler (now an Emeritus Professor on the University of Chicago faculty, but then in his first year of teaching).
Albert Alschuler in 1967
Texas, of course, had huge classes (my class consisted of 500 people) and classrooms, and this particular course had about 150 people in the room. I had recklessly raised my hand and gotten involved with a Socratic dialogue about some point of Criminal Law (okay, I admit it---I was never the shy, diffident type). Professor Alschuler was a master at this sort of thing, and as he subtly changed the hypothetical I became more and more uneasy about my position. Finally, trapped and desperate, I said, "Why don't we just pretend you never called on me?" To this, Alschuler replied, "But, Mr. Whaley, you appeared to be prepared. I mean, you weren't wearing sunglasses or anything to indicate you had a hangover and were trying to hide, so I naturally assumed you were fair game." Then he mercifully moved the discussion on to some other topic.

My Yearbook Picture from 1967

Not one to pass up some fun (and egged on by evil friends), for the next day's class I attached some clip-on sunglasses to my usual glasses and went to class, expecting Professor Alschuler to make something good out of this. Disappointingly, Alschuler took not the slightest notice of my appearance and conducted class as usual. However, all over the classroom I could see people nudging each other and pointing in my direction. I took care to seem Joe Cool about this, as if I sat in class so bespectacled all the time.

At first this was amusing, but as the class went on I began to feel silly. The sunglasses made it hard to see my book and notes and felt awkward on my face (I never wear sunglasses and do not own any---I have no independent memory of this, but I probably had to buy the clip-ons for the purpose of the joke). About two-thirds of the way through the class, and with Professor Alschuler busy with his lecture, I decided to remove the sunglasses and be done with it all. Very slowly so as to not attract attention, I lowered my head and unclipped the sunglasses.

Alschuler called on me instantly.
Related Posts:
“How I Became a Law Professor,” January 27, 2010
“The Socratic Dialogue in Law School,” January 31, 2010
“Clickers,” March 17, 2010
“The Summer Bar Review Tours,” June 15, 2010
"The Exploding Alarm Clock," February 19, 2011
"Adventures in the Law School Classroom," September 10, 2011

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