I have wanted to say Happy New Year for a few weeks now but felt I really had to work this out first. Sooooo, I’m sitting here in post-fact America trying to decide what courses to select for the new term. There are a lot of excellent options to choose from. This required a good think. I came close to pushing the registration button a few times then paused to consider how my choice will help me interpret and contribute to the world around me. For me, those opportunities are the point of education generally and of post-graduate legal education particularly. I’m going to invest a lot of time in this as a student and as a professional. It’s important to get it right.
Currently, I work in nonprofit management with an organization that delivers health care services in Central America. In the past, I worked at a university teaching hospital and in governance positions with health related organizations. I can only describe them as some of the most rewarding experiences of my life. That makes Medicine and Ethics a very attractive speciality. It feels as if I am missing something big if I do not study Human Rights. On the other hand, I have been privileged to work in conservation as a nonprofit executive and as a volunteer. An Environmental Law speciality in this program would be very satisfying and rewarding.
Am I starting to sound like a psychology student who self-diagnoses every condition they study? For a while, choosing courses felt like an exercise in existential debate if not exactly a full-blown crisis. Please bear with me a moment. This is an important anecdote. For those of you who don’t know me, I completed an English degree with the University of London International Programmes before entering the PG Laws course of study. Studying English at degree level came about because of my interest in writing: creative writing, nonfiction texts, copy writing, play writing, industrial scripts, you name it. My interest in writing also inspired me to study law. So here I am, obsessed with words and working out what courses to register for this term.
One thing law and writing have in common is the use of words to contend and to persuade. To paraphrase Plato, ‘bewitching with words’ is a provocative idea that has clearly been around for a very long time. Persuasion is at the heart of discourse and debate. Every day we decide what argument we will present in any given circumstance. We also have to evaluate arguments we are confronted with and choose if we will accept or reject them. There’s a lot on the line here. Figuring out how to make an effective argument and how to analyze an argument are the keys to the kingdom for me. It’s the thing that I just cannot put down.
With that in mind, in my free time I write fiction like so many other authors with a legal education. It is one way I choose to present my arguments. Right now my first novel is under revision for publication. My protagonist is a journalist who happens to have a law degree. Several beta-readers found it hard to believe that someone would be a journalist with a law degree. Huh? It caught me by surprise too.
Besides the dozen or so journalist-lawyers I can think of off the top of my head, why would one not expect or want a journalist to also be a lawyer? Post-fact America is a scary place to be without knowledge of the law and the ability to effectively make and analyze an argument, no matter how many words or characters it contains. Words are important. So is the law. So is how we report on it and understand it as the bedrock of society.
When I was born the United States was a segregated country. Even so, post-fact America comes as a shock to me. My words to describe it have dwindled to expletives. That’s not acceptable. I need a better vocabulary, an advocates’ vocabulary. In other words, a legal one. I selected the images for this blog with that in mind. Lawyers like Nelson Mandela, who studied in this program but was unable to complete his degree as a result of the conditions imposed by the South African authorities. Abraham Lincoln, another lawyer who pursued self-directed study and made quite an impact on the world. Then there is Standing Rock, the Edmund Pettus Bridge, the Little Rock Nine, and what they represent in a post-fact world. Now I’m ready to register. I’m sticking with Jurisprudence, Legal History, and laws that affect free speech and its dissemination. Now that I’ve worked through that, I can say Happy New Year. I’m ready to study.