In 2012, I was running Brooklyn Law School’s student newspaper when the school’s New York Bar Exam pass rate dropped for the third year in a row. No…
Hi, I’m Dwayne. When I was young, I found myself growing up in a poor neighborhood but attending school in an affluent neighborhood. The school I attended was considered better than the school back home, and one question I started asking around the time I was eight years old started to stick in my head: “The kids at home are just as smart as the kids at school, so why aren’t they attending the same school?”
Some version of this question has followed me throughout my life. In high school, many of my friends from home began to face death and jail time from selling illegal drugs while many of my friends from school began to prepare for their SATs. During law school, I was dismayed to learn that the poor and minority students failed the bar exam at higher rates than all other examinees.
My first attempts at finding answers to my questions (back in high school) were pretty weak. I did a lot of asking “why” but I didn’t bother to try and research the answers to my questions. My second attempts were similarly weak – I simply parroted the explanations I heard on TV and in the movies.
However, these explanations didn’t make much sense. Statistics were presented without context. History denied its victims agency, positing that some outside force was solely responsible for the circumstances being discussed. Law revolved around one statute or one case, ignoring what might have been 20 years of small steps to come to a seminal conclusion.
The first time I really researched a topic was out of frustration. A friend had told me that it was legal to drive without a driver’s license, and that the U.S. Supreme Court said so. I looked around. Nearly everyone who was driving had a license. You could get a ticket for not having one. But I didn’t want one if I didn’t need one.
I looked on the internet and found a few websites making the same claim, but not much else. And they all seemed to be using the same language, which didn’t help either. They did provide the name of and a citation to the case my friend referred to, but didn’t provide a link (Google Scholar wasn’t a thing then). Annoyed, but determined to find out whether I needed a license, I went to a law library and asked for some help finding the book that the case was in so I could read it. I found this dusty book from the early 1900s, opened it, and proceeded to read a case about whether a horse drawn carriage could be on a highway.
Though I was a bit bummed out to learn that I did have to get my driver’s license, I took my first steps toward learning that it was possible to research any claim, and that the full story was usually more interesting than what someone else would have me believe. Over time, I learned that subjects we often consider separately can be used to answer different aspects of the same question. History and law can tell you who the players are, what happened, and sometimes why. Statistics can give you an overview of how these events affect populations. Psychology can give insight on how people in various situations are likely to act.
This variety not only allows one to figure out how we got to now, but can also provide insights on how to make positive changes in the future. The title of this blog, Equal Results, comes from an observation in School, Society, and State by Tracy L. Steffes that the United States chose education as a way to meet the challenges of the Industrial Revolution, opting for equal opportunity rather than equal results. It also comes from a project I’ve been working on the past few years to help poor and minority law students achieve equal results on the bar exam. In both the prior and future iteration of this project, I have taken tips from various fields to help achieve my goals.
This blog is an extension of this work. I won’t limit my discussion to race or law school or education. Rather, I plan to look at current issues through this wide lens. I hope you’ll enjoy what I have to offer.
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