I was recently traveling to a friend’s wedding and got into conversation with some guy in the airport. I’m not sure when it started, but apparently I’ve gained confidence in this whole talking-about-law-in-an-holistic-way thing (some affectionately call this an elevator speech). I say this because after the flight when that guy and I exchanged goodbyes he handed me the Bloomberg Businessweek he’d been reading and referred me to an article, “Rethinking the World’s Best Schools.” It was a feature piece profiling the renowned principal of a public Shanghai high school.
Principal Qiu is apparently a living a legend in China. This is due to the phenomenal results he cultivates from faculty and students and the fact that he is attempting to change the very game he’s excelled at as an educator and principal.
To provide a little context, the article explains that while China’s suicide rate overall has been declining,
youth suicides have been climbing. There are roughly 250,000 suicides and 2 million attempts per year, and the second-most vulnerable age group (after elderly and rural women) is 15- to 34-year-olds.”
Research has been published pegging 90 percent of urban Chinese students as being nearsighted by the end of high school.
Principal Qiu wants to maintain the academic results his students get already, but foster a more nurturing environment for, as he puts it, the ‘spirit of the mind.’ This is a major shift to put it mildly from the traditional Chinese classroom of the twenty-first century. What we are talking about is a revolutionary thought: that creativity and individualism and diversity of learning styles and opportunities for expression are aspects of education that can bolster students’ performance on traditional types of exams, if they are given the support for these ways of approaching their learning.
The type of change that Principle Qui is advocating for is what I argue we need in legal education. It’s about thinking holistically and allowing an artist’s spirit to be channeled through even the driest of material. It’s about understanding and honoring our sense of humanity, and what makes each one of us unique.