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September 07, 2011 - Image 4

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4A - Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

4A - Thursday, September 8, 2011 The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom

eiiigan 4alhj
Edited and managed by students at
the University of Michigan since 1890.
420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109



GOPison the wrong track




Unsigned editorials reflect the official positionoftthe Daily's editorialboard.
All other signed articles and illustrations represent solely the views of their authors.
Enforcement one awry
Unjust rulings call for clearer drug policy
Though Michigan voters approved medicinal marijuana as
a legal prescription for prescribed individuals nearly three
years ago, patients and caregivers have faced an ongoing
battle in trying to obtain and provide the substance. The issue
became even more severe in late August when Lansing dispensa-
ries - at least 20 of them - were ruled to be a violation of the 2008
ballot initiative and were forced to close their doors.

Patients who use marijuana for symptom
relief were also ruled against last week when an
appeals court determined that they must wait at
least 30 days after registering for a state mari-
juana card before beginning to grow plants.
This means that Lansing residents who have a
prescription for medical marijuana will poten-
tially have to wait a month before beginning the
process of providing their own prescription.
It seems that Michigan law makers and law
enforcement are refusing to accept the legal-
ity of medical marijuana - regardless of voter
approval - and are treating patients as crimi-
nals. And the troubles facing Lansing dispen-
sary owners are far from being outside the
norm. Since the laws passage, dispensaries
and compassion clinics have been raided, and
lawmakers and law enforcement officials have
been interpreting the laws in a way that makes
obtaining the legal prescription as difficult as
Lansing dispensary owners and their sup-
porters justifiably fought back yesterday at a
rally seeking to raise money to support their
cause. They plan to either appeal the court deci-
sion right away or ask for an emergency staying
of the ruling. Either way, they will fightefortheir
legal right to continue to provide a service that
many Lansing residents urgently need.
While many government officials think of
marijuana strictly in terms of itsgeneral illegal-
ity, medical marijuana is an important drugthat
helps many people who suffer from painful dis-
eases. Many residents throughout the state rely

on it for relief from symptoms like chronic pain
or nausea associated with chemotherapy. Peo-
ple enduring such treatments - some of which
are induced by prescribed, legal medicines -
should be able to usea substance that will help
ease their discomfort.
Ann Arbor City Council members recently
discussed the Michigan Court of Appeals rul-
ing and expressed uncertainty about how to
proceed with the city's new medical marijua-
na dispensary licensing board.
Without an immediate change in Lan-
sing, these people will either be forced to go
without the medicinal marijuana they need,
or obtain it through illegal means. If the dis-
pensaries are not operating in the proper way,
then that needs to be addressed. But forcing
all of them to close their doors addresses the
issue at the expense of patients. The court
system needs to realize the suffering that this
shut down can cause and grant the stay until
the dispensary owners are able to take legal
action on their own behalf.
There is no doubt that the current law
pertaining to medical marijuana is unclear.
However, that doesn't mean that state offi-
cials have the right to enforce it as they see fit.
Michigan lawmakers need to come together
and create a unified, statewide solution to the
conflicts over medical marijuana. They need
to form policy that is clear and comprehensive
to make it simple for caregivers and patients to
provide and obtain medical marijuana within
the bounds of the law.

f you are a liberal and you
debate politics with your coun-
terparts from the political right,
you have prob-
ably taken a beat-
ing these past
few months. You
have heard all,
the anti-Obama
talking points
already as your
friends try to DAR-WEI
convinceyouthat CHEN
the president and
his party are
undermining the country with liber-
They might cite President Barack
Obama's latest disapproval rating of
55 percent, according to the Sept. 5
Rasmussen Reports (even though a
significant number of those people
disapprove probably because they
think Obama is not liberal enough).
Another item they could bring up
is Obama's re-election prospects
against a generic Republican presi-
dential candidate, which show the
president down 39 to 47 percent,
according to a Gallup poll conduct-
ed this summer (of course, "generic
Republican presidential candidate"
does not have Texas Gov. Rick Per-
ry's anti-evolution problem or former
Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's
"corporations are people" problem).
They might even try to indict the
whole Democratic Party by pointing
out the disapproval ratings of Con-
gressional Democrats, which sat at
68 percent in mid-August according
to the Associated Press (Republican
Congressmen polled even worse,
however, at 75 percent disapproval).
Perhaps the most damning statis-
tic, the old "right direction or wrong
track" question as posed by Reuters,
shows that a whopping 73 percent of
Americans think the country is on the
wrong track. The overarching point,

your conservative friends may say, is
that Obama and the Democrats are
making things worse in this country
by pursuing extreme left-wing policy.
Therefore, the Dems will eventually
get hammered for it because the pub-
lic agrees with Republicans.
But let's dive deeper into the
"wrong track" statistic because a)
conservative pundits and politicians
love to use it to attack the president's
liberal views and b) I poked holes in
the other talking points already. The
implication of the statistic is that if
the country ison the wrong track, the
president (and by extension, liberal
policy) must be at fault because he
is the highest-ranking official in the
land - or as former President George
W. Bush puts it, the "decider." Of
course, that inference makes sense
- if you try not to think too much.
The leap that conservatives like to
make is from "the country is on the
wrong track, and Obama is leading
the country" to "conservative policy
is therefore the right way to go, and
Obama's agenda is not popular." And
what a leap it is.
Presumably, when the "right
direction or wrong track" question
is asked by pollsters, people have in
mind a"right direction" for thecoun-
try. Therefore, figuring out what
that direction is would be informa-
tive when trying to determine who
to blame for America being on the
wrong track. Let's use the economy
as an example because it seems to
be the most important issue heading
into the 2012 elections.
What do Americans think is a
good way forward for the economy?
According to a CNN poll in August,
63 percent of Americans want high-
er-income earners and corporations
to pay higher taxes, a decidedly lib-
eral view preached by Obama that
pours cold water on Republicans
trying to create an economically
populist message. Currently, taxes

on the wealthy and businesses are at
the lowest levels in decades, and big
business profits are at historic highs
(a conservative utopia, right?). How
about solving the nation's long-term I
debt problem? An average of 23 polls
over the past eight months show
that 65 percent of Americans want
a balanced approach consisting of
spending cuts and revenue increases.
Again, this approach is something
that Obama has advocated for repeat-
edly, while the GOP has stubbornly
insisted on reducingthe deficitsolely
through spending cuts. By the way,
the GOP plan is whatthe countrygot
in the recent debt deal.
What do citizens
think is the best
way forward? I
After taking a look at these poll
numbers, what Americans want is
clear: liberal economic policy. Even
if we don't talk about what econo-
mists say - the stimulus should
have been larger, for example -
the Republicans cannot claim that
the public is on their side. Perhaps
Obama has been ineffective in leg-
islating his ideas in the face of his-
torically intransigent opposition,
leading to disappointment in the
country's direction. However, con-
flating that disappointment with
the notion that people are turning
away from liberal policies would be
a mistake. People are still buying
Obama's hope and change. When
people say the country is on the
wrong track, many believe Republi-
cans are the drivers.
-Dar-Wei Chen can be reached
at chendw@umich.edu.

Aida Ali, Michelle DeWitt, Ashley Griesshammer, Patrick Maillet, Erika Mayer, Harsha Nahata;
Emily Orley, Teddy Papes, Timothy Rabb, Seth Soderborg, Andrew Weiner

Law school's broken system


Itspartially about us

In the last year, The Michigan Daily pub-
lished two columns about the economics of law
school, one on its opinion page and one in its
weekly magazine, The Statement. Both pieces
alert prospective law students to the challenge
caused by the combination of the high cost of
law school tuition and the fierce competitive-
ness of the legal job market. The Daily's cover-
age of this issue is part of a larger trend: After
years of silence on the issue, The New York
Times published three articles on the cost of
law school between January and July of this
year, all in either its Sunday Business or Busi-
ness Day section. Among other things, these
articles comment on the fact that many law
schools are not forthright about their students'
job prospects.
There are about 100 active members of the
University's chapter of the pre-law fraternity
Kappa Alpha Pi, according to LSA senior The-
resa Munaco, the chapter's president. Munaco
said the number typically rises to about 140
students by the winter semester, but then
decreases when students graduate in May. This
group, probably, encompasses just a fraction
of all the students at the Uiversity who are
interested in going to law school. Hopefully,
the journalistic attention paid to the economic
challenges faced by law school students will
provide interested University students more of
the information they deserve and allow them
to take into account the true advantages, disad-
vantages and costs of law school.
While the cost of law school (relative to
the economic opportunities a legal educatidn
is likely to provide) is a worthwhile concern,
prospective students should also be aware of
another, related pathology affecting the law
school system. The educational methods used
by law schools to teach students are broken.
Law schools inadequately evaluate students
and emphasize grades and other competitive
distinctions more than real learning. Intheory,
a legal education is an intellectual experience
that enriches a person's whole life, regardless
of career. But law schools don't provide stu-
dents the full intellectual opportunities they
Law schools as institutions fail to focus on
teaching. This problem manifests itself in very
la'ge class sizes. According to data collected
by the American Bar Association, the typical
first-year class at the University's Law School
has 93 students. Almost all law school courses
are taught using the Socratic method, in which

a professor teaches by questioning students
instead of lecturing. The Socratic method
works by engaging students, but in classes of
80 to 100 students, sustained participation by
an individual student is impossible.
It might seem logical to think that the style
of student evaluation used in undergraduate
courses - multiple written assignments or
exams in every course - would be used again
in law school. While this system would work
well in law school, it is not used. Most law
school courses are graded on the basis of single,
comprehensive final examinations.
A deficiency in this method of evaluation
is that students are given no feedback while a
course is ongoing. For most lawschool courses,
faculty members only look at students' work
when grading their exams after the course is
over. In consequence, students waste their
time by using study methods that don't work,
or by misunderstanding concepts without real-
izing it. The lack of evaluation is especially
harmful because beginning law students, who
are learning to do legal analysis for the first
time, badly need feedback in order to learn and
Finally, the competitive legal job market has
intensified both students' and employers' focus
on grades. Students also compete for other
credentials like law review membership. This
focus on competitive distinctions has perverse
effects. A student might sign up for a course
she's not interested in because the prospects of
a good grade are higher than for other courses,
or a student might pursue law review member-
ship for credentialing purposes even though
he doesn't have a natural interest in editorial
work and would learn more by concentrating
on coursework.
The teaching and learning that goes on in
law school is hobbled by large course sizes,
the practice of providing students no feedback
other than final exam grades and a focus on
competitive distinctions. In particular, large
class sizes and the lack of evaluation serve no
educational purpose, harm students and usu-
ally go unquestioned by law school adminis-
trators, faculty and even students. The only
advantage of these practices is their low cost.
Law school could be done better, and should
be, for the sake of current and prospective
Ben Brown is a third-year student at the
University of Michigan School of Law.

arlier this summer, New
'York Times columnist David
Brooks sent an unfamiliar
message to col-

lege graduates:
"It's not about
you." This is in
great contrast
with commence-
ment speakers
who often urge
students to never
settle, display
individuality and
"march to the
beat of your own


As graduation looms for the class
of 2012, my graduation class, I've
been thinking: Brooks's message is
only partially true.
In a past column titled "The Sum-
moned Self," Brooks wrote about a
successful businessman who, during
his college years, spent an hour every
night contemplating his future plans
and solidifying his life purpose. This
approach is rare, Brooks notes: "Most
successful young people don't look
inside and then plan a life. They look
outside and find a problem, which
summons their life."
Yet, Brooks claims college students
are still being told to focus inward -
to figure out what they want and then
to live their life - exactly at a time
when they need to start thinking
about things bigger than themselves.
"The successfulyoung adult is begin-
ning to make sacred commitments
- to a spouse, a community and call-
ing - yet mostly hears about freedom
and autonomy," he wrote.
However, such commitments are a
lot to ask for. How can we choose a
definite career path when we've only
held two part-time jobs? And where
to live, if we've onlylived at home and
at college? Or to even contemplate
marriage, when we've had one major
relationship, and our parents have
been divorced twice?
Universities don't require students

to choose their majors immediately,
since they obviously haven't taken
enough courses yet to know what
they like and what they don't. How
can we be expected to make deci-
sions that will affect the rest of our
lives when we haven't had enough
experience to know what we want
and what we don't?
We can't. It's more likely that
Brooks is suggesting that we start
to think about these important deci-
sions, not that we rush them. It's
more likely he believes the terms
"finding yourself" and "gaining
experience" should refer to experi-
menting and tinkering with relation-
ships, jobs and lifestyle niches with
the intent to learn what's out there
and what we want, instead of merely
checking items off our eyer-growing
bucket lists.
I don't want my commencement
speaker to tell me that it's all about
me. or that it has nothing to do with
I'd prefer she speaks about not
only how we can help others, but
also, how we can help ourselves. I'd
prefer she acknowledges that it's at
least partially about us.
She would recognize Brooks's
main point: We should construct our
identity through interacting with the
real world, realizing and acting upon
where we can make the most positive
impact and not stay isolated in our
rooms, or in the desert of a foreign
She would call the businessman's
actions mentioned in the beginning
of this column potentially imprudent
because the time he spent planning
his life in advance may have cost him
other opportunities he couldn't have
planned for that could have altered
his life plans for the better.
She would add: Think about most
of the important decisions you've
ever made. Most likely, they weren't
planned years in advance. It's more
likely they came about through a
combination of diligent preparation

and taking advantage of unexpected
On the other hand, she'd also
emphasize how imprudent it would
be to avoid internal reflection. She'd
criticize the person who reacts to
his every whim, never examines if
he feels fulfilled by his activities and
never corrects patterns in his mis-
She'd say it's best to do both. Look
inside: Think about what you want,
what you can do and plan according-
ly. But also know that life will prob-
ably force those plans to change. Be
open to opportunities, to experienc-
ing things you didn't plan for. Then
go back to the drawing board: reflect,
Students should
look at the
big picture.
She'd make the following anal-
ogy: Let things hit you like a bruise.
Embrace a person, an experience,
an ideology, live it, and reflect after-
wards. Did you like the bruise? Nid it
identify with everything you wantto
represent? If it didn't, don't let it hit
you again.
I'd like my commencement speak-
er to close with the following: Today's
commencement speakers often tell
you students to help yourselves, and
Brooks tells us that by helping others,
you'llhelp yourself. I agree with him.
But I also believe that by helping
yourself - through pursuing your
passions, maximizing-your talents
and achieving self-contentment -
you will be helping others too.
-Erik Torenberg can be
reached at erikto@umich.edu.



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