This post covers two situations when the Curve, already the Ebola Virus of law school culture (yes, you bleed all orifices), can transform you into a contestant on “Survivor” or the “The Bachelor” (not that I would ever watch those shows, because I’m a sophisticated law student).
Complex Calculus and Metaphysical Physics:
CURVE + LAW STUDENTS = CHAOS AND MADNESS
Peer Alliances, Game Theory, and Targeting the Strongest Students
In a class of 30 students, where a large percentage of the grade is determined by peer review of presentation performance using evaluation forms, you slowly but surely realize that you are transforming into a contestant on the show Survivor.
Your first inclination is to create alliances with your peers. You gingerly approach what you see to be a mediocre student and say: “I’m going to give you a 10 on your presentation (before the presentation begins)… I just know you’re going to do a great job, and did you see Stacey working on her presentation yesterday? She’s definitely the strongest presenter. It’d be best if we formed an alliance, don’t you think?” You do this a few more times, and then boom! You’ve got your alliance.
After you and your newfound alliance pick out the strongest contestants, aka Gunners, you collaborate to decide that the strongest contestants need to be knocked out first, and you decide, as an alliance, to give them scores ranging from 3-4 to balance out any fool in the class willing to give them a a high score.
Finally, if you don’t have the luck to form an alliance, you find yourself sitting through each presentation, playing your own version of Gunner Game Theory, thinking, “That guy’s a total Gunner and probably thinks I’m a Gunner too. I bet he’ll give me a 2. If I’m smart, I will give him a 2. Then again, if he suspects or finds out that I gave him a 2, I’m at risk of getting a 1. Also, the Professor will see my name on the evaluation, and he might take it against my final grade if I give too low a score to this Gunner and no one else does.
“HOW IN THE WORLD DID I GET INTO THIS SITUATION WITH UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES AND SKEWED INCENTIVES AND WHY AM I SUDDENLY OK WITH CANNIBALISM AND FASCINATED BY TIKI TORCHES?!”
10 Students and the Final Rose
In a class with 10 or fewer law students, once you discover that the Curve is still in place, you quickly realize that you could be one of the 3 suckers to be eliminated from the start. Suddenly, you feel like a contestant on the Bachelor. You’re desperate, insecure, and starting to foam at the mouth – rabid and ready to take down your classmates. Some of us break down on day 1, cry profusely and say over and over: “I never expected it to be like this! Why are they so mean to me?”
Others approach the Professor and tell him repeatedly how much they love him and his article entitled (insert some article you forced yourself to read because you really need his validation and want the final rose, dammit). As the semester progresses, those who are left in the final 5 let the Professor know how they’ve been opening themselves up to new experiences they’d never have attempted except for the fact that he’s there to support them, and while they never thought they’d find Academic Love again, since they’ve been burned in the past, they really, truly have now, and they’ll never be the same again.
“Oh, Professor, I’ve never read Scalia’s dissents using Foucault and Kant as a theoretical framework!” (constantly glancing over at the final rose, while shooting daggers at the other 4 contenders left… Who said law school doesn’t teach multitasking?).
At times, during the Group Dates, the Professor presents you with challenges in class. As one of the 10 students, you may take different strategies. First, you could ride in with a horse and say anything outrageous in hopes that the Professor will remember you when it comes to the deliberation period (and the class participation grade). Second, you can smile and perform winningly during class, only to wait until breaks during the class when you have the other 9 contestants alone in a room, so that you can pull a Courtney Robertson and say things like: “I’d be threatened by you, if you weren’t like a little girl – a little girl trapped in a boy’s body” or “I’m confident I’m going to get the rose… Winning!” (Listen! I really haven’t watched this show. I read about it in the news, OKAY?! I’m a sophisticated law student).
At the very end, you think you’re going to get that final rose only to receive a grade on your final paper or exam that makes you realize that all along your Professor already was in love with Courtney Robertson from the start, and you break down in your car: “I (sob) never thought it would (sob, sob) hurt this bad. I thought things were (sob sob, snort) going really, really well. I don’t know what I did wrong (extreme sobbing and hyperventilating commences as you shove camera out of your face)”
Being an Ex-Reality TV Star (Post-Semester)
In the end of all of this, you feel that 3 months of your life have been wasted. You return to your loved ones and family (whom you’ve neglected and ignored for the duration of the semester), and you start to question your character, integrity, and sense of self worth.
Lying in a Pile of Live Insects
Between you and me, I’d rather be a contestant on Fear Factor.
Proposal: Eliminate the curve.