mcgillianaire: (Scale of Justice)
I've just handed in the following essay as part of my Academic Writing course at Harvard's Extension School. It culminates a six week process of cumulative work, that began with three assigned readings on aspects of education. We had to pick one of the three readings and build our exercises around it. The essay below is my final product. I hope you enjoy it. I think it can form the basis of a longer essay in the future, and there is certainly room for improvement, but I am fairly pleased with the way my writing has developed, particularly in regards to structure and transitions that have been a longstanding weakness of mine. I would love to receive feedback from you guys too! Thanks for taking the time to read it. The essays in the footnotes are worth a read too!



Intelligence does not have to be schooled and education takes multiple forms. What we need as a society is a recalibration of the assumptions we make about knowledge acquisition. In "Blue-Collar Brilliance", Mike Rose, a research professor at the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at UCLA, challenges the widely-held notion that intelligence can only be measured by the amount of formal education a person has acquired, while offering an alternative viewpoint that emphasizes the extent to which blue and pink-collared workers harness their intellect.1 He is right to challenge the status-quo, but even his well-reasoned argument falls short of extending the thesis to society at large, regardless of whether someone is employed or not. And that is crucial, because for many people intelligence is still a synonym for formal education, and the more letters you have after your name, the more likely you are perceived to be of superior intelligence. By simply extending the cognitive-franchise to blue and pink-collared workers, we ignore and deny the cerebral contributions of millions of stay-at-home parents and other less academically qualified thinkers around the world.

The assumptions we make about knowledge and intelligence acquisition have a direct impact on the way our entire economy is structured. Just look at the salary and wage differentials between those generally classified as white and blue-collared workers. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data from May 2014, the mean annual wage for lawyers, airline pilots and financial managers was roughly $130,000. But for electricians and plumbers it was $54,000, and $42,000 for truck drivers. While for other blue and pink-collared workers such as janitors, grounds maintenance workers, auto mechanics and waitresses, they earned median hourly wages ranging from just $9.01 per hour to $17.84 per hour.2 Under the present system, wages do not reflect the amount of a worker’s thought and effort. The perfect example at the other extreme is that of a stay-at-home parent who does not earn any wage at all, but you would be hard-pressed to find one who does not stop thinking about their work (i.e. their children/partner) all day long. And despite the wide gap in mean wages between white and blue-collared workers, both groups of people toil a similar number of hours at their respective workplaces. If anything, blue and pink-collared employees work longer hours than their more formally educated counterparts, sometimes fitting in two or more jobs in order to make ends meet. And no doubt their experiences are as taxing on the mind as it is on the body.

But are the best and the brightest truly more intelligent? And have they acquired more knowledge? I do not believe so. Take for instance my octogenarian paternal grandmother. Denied formal schooling beyond fourth grade, she has remained a stay-at-home mom her entire life. Married before sixteen, five kids by her mid-twenties (including losing two in infancy), forced to accommodate six orphaned children from her in-law’s family soon after, and widowed at fifty, she has been compelled by circumstance to constantly adapt to a changing environment. Without a degree in home economics, she learnt how to ration a fixed supply of meager financial and food resources for the enlarged household. Religion helped provide direction in her life and she imparted the wisdom gained from its parables to her children. Even today when I visit her in my father’s hometown in southern India, it never ceases to amaze me how everybody who knows her, irrespective of age, solicits her advice to deal with life. Indeed she is the epitome of someone schooled in life. Despite lacking a formal education, she has cultivated her intelligence by acquiring knowledge through daily experience and put it to use without ever receiving a penny. And yet the society we live in would dismiss her rich contribution to it.

Our assumptions about intelligence, work and social class affect the way we treat even our fellow workers. Consider the example of a nurse in my father’s hospital who assists with surgeries. Various surgeons, including my father work with him, and through many years of experience and observation, the nurse has gained sufficient knowledge to offer useful suggestions to my father during a surgery, particularly in the middle of a tricky procedure or sticky situation. More often than not, the nurse’s insight has proven significant. But when my father recommended the nurse’s input to a fellow surgeon friend, the latter was not immediately convinced. It took several further surgeries before he acknowledged the nurse’s potential and contribution. Had the nurse completed the academic qualification to perform surgeries himself and offer suggestions, there would not have been any hesitation on the other surgeon’s part to accept my father’s advice. Rose posits that “generalizations about intelligence, work, and social class deeply affect our assumptions about ourselves and each other, guiding the ways we use our minds to learn, build knowledge, solve problems, and make our way through the world” and he is absolutely right.

Rose offers several compelling reasons as to why we need to redress the imbalance in the assumptions we make about intelligence and knowledge acquisition, by outlining how blue-collar workers’ “use of tools requires the studied refinement of stance, grip, balance, and fine-motor skills” while specifying how “carpenters have an eye for length, line, and angle; mechanics troubleshoot by listening, [and] hair stylists are attuned to shape, texture, and motion”. It is high time we added to this list the millions of lifelong homemakers who also tap into their intellect on a daily basis by rearing children and keeping families together.

With all this in mind, you may wonder how we might recalibrate the assumptions we make about intelligence and knowledge acquisition? For that we need to identify why it is calibrated wrong in the first place. Rose argues that “our culture – in Cartesian fashion – separates the body from the mind, so that, for example, we assume that the use of a tool does not involve abstraction. We reinforce this notion by defining intelligence solely on grades in school and numbers on IQ tests”. William Deresiewicz, an award-winning essayist and literary critic, builds on this by describing how “being at an elite college, and going on from an elite college – all involve numerical rankings. You learn to think of yourself in terms of those numbers”, while adding that “one of the great errors of an elite education, then, is that it teaches you to think that measures of intelligence and academic achievement are measures of value in some moral or metaphysical sense. But they’re not”.3 And they are both right.

Even so, Deresiewicz concedes that “the advantages of an elite education are indeed undeniable”. Yet, however incredible these elite institutions are, and however substantial the contribution they make to society, they also own a share of the responsibility for reinforcing divisions of people by class, occupation and intelligence. Deresiewicz hits the nail on the head when he says that “the problem begins when students are encouraged to forget this truth, when academic excellence becomes excellence in some absolute sense, when ‘better at X’ becomes simply ‘better’”. And that is the entrenched reality we need to overcome in order to redress the imbalance perpetuated by the prevailing system. One possible solution is to acknowledge, honor or even compensate those forms of intelligence that are not directly linked to formal education.

Yet attempting to change the way most people think is potentially a fool’s errand. But if we do not make any effort at all to change even slightly the way people make assumptions about intelligence, class and occupation, then life will carry on as it is and we will continue devaluing and degrading the contributions of millions – perhaps even billions – around the world. The onus is on us to make a difference, however small it may be. After all, as the sixth century B.C. Chinese philosopher Laozi pointed out, even “a journey of a thousand [miles] begins with a single step”.4 We already know that there are different ways to acquire knowledge and intelligence. So the journey we need to embark on does not involve uncharted territory. It simply requires a reorientation and retracing of steps to a fairer and more balanced society. Is that too much to ask?

1. https://theamericanscholar.org/blue-collar-brilliance/
2. http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm
3. https://theamericanscholar.org/the-disadvantages-of-an-elite-education/
4. https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Laozi#Tao_Te_Ching
  • You should also read this thought-provoking essay on education by Louis Menand - another of the three assigned to us.
  • mcgillianaire: (South Park Me)
    I'm in America. I've been here 3 weeks, and I'll be here for 9 more. The weather in Providence, RI is a lot warmer (and sunnier) than London - so far. I'm thoroughly enjoying it. I'm staying with my sister and future bro-in-law. I'm taking a couple of online courses from Harvard's continuing education school and a course to prepare for the GRE. The GRE is a standardized test for postgrad studies in 'Murica. I've decided to turn my back on the legal profession and return to university next year. I'll be applying for public policy degrees in the neighborhood. Boston is commuting distance so there are quite a few options to pick from. I definitely don't have the grades or accomplishments to even consider the likes of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, but hopefully I will get admitted to the next rung of alternatives below it.

    My family would like me to remain in America after my postgrad degree, preferably close to my sister, but I am pretty clear in my mind that this is just a short adventure across the pond. That said, I am really looking forward to the opportunity of studying in America, and I am open to the idea of staying here for a year or two afterwards if I can secure a job in DC (or anywhere else, as long as it's in public policy). But I would like to return to London eventually.

    I haven't quite left permanently either. Once my three months on the visa waiver program ends, I'll be flying back to London for the Christmas period. As amazing as the weather is right now and as cool as it is to be in America, I miss Blighty. Thank fuck, if you'll pardon my French, for smartphones and tablets. And thank fuck for the BBC. The radio app has been a godsend. It's like I've never left. Although waking up to You & Yours has been an interesting experience; sort of like the opposite of waking up to Up All Night when I'm in Oman or India. And with free VPN apps, I've even been able to tune into Sky Sports to watch live events, while catching-up on the latest comedies via the iPlayer app!

    It was also interesting to vote in the Labour leadership election while sat on my computer here in America. I didn't give Jeremy Corbyn any of my nominations and instead plumped for Kendall, Cooper and Burnham in that order. None of my choices did well in the deputy leadership and London mayoral candidate election either. But nothing was as amusing as the media and shadow cabinet meltdown that greeted Corbyn's victory declaration. The Tories and right-wing media predictably labelled him a threat to humanity. And Blairites clearly didn't know what to do; cross the floor, jump ship or piss from inside the tent. Basically a raft of similar options that will not change the result in 2020.

    And poor Corbyn, the chap clearly wants politics to change, but I don't think he feels comfortable leading the circus. Leadership necessitates compromise, and if there is something that sets Corbyn apart, it is his principled consistency. Love or loathe him, he has made a career out of it. The leadership will be a test of his political ambition and nous, neither of which he has displayed until now. Yet there are many attributes that I admire in Corbyn (the backbencher), and it is refreshing that someone of his disposition has risen to the top of British politics.

    Alas, one wonders whether Labour should reduce itself to simply a party of protest, or seek to position itself as a government-in-waiting, ready to take over from the Tories at a general election. It's one thing to secure a thumping mandate from the cheerleading squad, quite another appealing to a wider electorate.

    I wasn't even bothered about his appearance at PMQs, at St Paul's cathedral, his insistence to remain silent during the national anthem, or the chaotic manner in which the shadow cabinet was formed. It reflected a person for whom substance matters over spin. But I can understand why the electorate may have viewed it differently. You know, the same people whose votes he needs in 2020. Corbyn faces an uphill battle. The Tories plan to reduce the number of MPs and re-draw constituency boundaries - largely to their benefit. And there's still no sign that Scotland will abandon the SNP. Which leaves about 50-75 marginals to gain from the Tories in order to form a government.

    Corbynistas are banking on three things: the 35% that didn't vote in May, old Labour UKIP voters and old Labour Green/Lib Dem voters. It's true, a lot of people didn't vote in May and Corbyn's election may inspire some people to vote for the first time/again. On the contrary, Labour voters who really don't like Corbyn's policies, but voted for Labour earlier this year, may jump ship too. It also remains to be seen whether young voters stick with Corbyn, if he continues to compromise on his principles (eg: accepting a role as a privy counsellor etc). As for old Labour UKIP voters, UKIP finished second in many Labour-held seats. There wouldn't be much point if those voters returned to Labour. Labour needs UKIP voters in Tory-held seats to 'return to the fold'. It's a big ask. One suspects such UKIP voters would not have been impressed with Corbyn's refusal to sing the national anthem at an event commemorating the Battle of Britain. And as for old Labour Green/Lib Dem voters, well they may gain a dozen seats or so that way, but what use will that be? They need at least 50. I just cannot see Corbyn winning a general election.

    It may all be be a moot point. Several pundits have chipped in with their predictions of how long they think Corbyn will last, ranging from a few days to three years. Even members of his shadow cabinet refuse to say with any conviction that he will fight the next general election. For what it's worth, my guess is between six months to a year. Once the novelty wears off, once conference season ends, once there are a few more media "gaffes", and once the opinion polls tank, we'll see whether he roughs it out. Unlike power-hungry careerists who would refuse to fall on their sword until the last possible moment, I think Mr Corbyn would recognise his role in a sinking ship and jump.

    One of Corbyn's illustrious predecessor's is often quoted (though perhaps incorrectly) as saying that a week is a long time in politics. Well, what a week it has been. To those who complained that politics had become a sterile affair, you've got your comeuppance. Now then, are you prepared for the consequences? I'll be watching from afar with interest.
    mcgillianaire: (McGill)
    And what's more, after doing his undergrad at Alberta he studied law at McGill. Now he teaches human rights law in London. Sound.
    mcgillianaire: (India Flag)

    l-to-r: Lord Desai, Lord Patten, Mukesh Ambani, Nand Kishore Singh, Montek Ahluwahlia, N/A and Barkha Dutt.

    One of the perks of London is the free access you get to events at universities such as the LSE. On Tuesday evening (Jan 26th) and fittingly on India's 60th Republic Day, the LSE in conjunction with India's NDTV channel organised a panel discussion. The Old Theatre was packed with India's future leaders (at least I presume so) and a rich crop of politicians, bureaucrats, businessmen and journalists that read like an Indian Who's Who. The purpose of the discussion was to launch a book titled Not By Reason Alone: The Politics of Change in India by Nand Kishore Singh, a former Indian Administrative Service officer (ie, bureaucrat) and current Member of Parliament in India's Upper House (the Rajya Sabha). Joining him on the panel were Dr Montek Singh Ahluwalia (India's foremost economic policymaker), Mukesh Ambani (India's richest person), Lord Patten (the last British governor of Hong Kong) and Professor Lord Desai (of the LSE). Introducing the panel were Shobhana Bhartia of the Hindustan Times newspaper and Shekhar Gupta of the Indian Express newspaper. Moderating the discussion was Barkha Dutt of NDTV, the channel broadcasting the event.


    Praful Patel, India's Aviation Minister, asking the panel a question. Seated to his left, Naresh Goyal, Chairman of Jet Airways.

    I wasn't really bothered about the book or its launch. I was just excited to be in a room full of famous Indians (plus Patten). The discussion lasted just over an hour. The usual sound bites about India's growth potential and its hurdles were bandied about. Lord Patten seemed out of his depth about India and frequently made comparisons with China. They all made at least one interesting point, most of which I had already either heard or known, but it was still nice to pool these individual sound bites into a single forum (esp for further reference). The discussion is available for download as a podcast and the video will be available next week. Worth a listen!


    The book launch. l-to-r: Shekhar Gupta, Ruth Kattumuri, Shobhana Bharti, Lord Desai, Lord Patten, Mukesh Ambani, Nand Kishore Singh, Montek Ahluwahlia, N/A, Prof Stern and Barkha Dutt.

    More importantly, I was one of the few members of the audience who asked a question so I hope my five seconds of fame made it to Indian TV. I asked a question about the role the 20 million strong Indian diaspora could play in India's growth, to which Lord Desai promptly retorted: "STAY ABROAD!" Laughter ensued. Barkha Dutt got Mukesh Ambani and Lord Patten to answer my question. I felt good about that. :) Another who asked a question was Praful Patel, the Indian Civil Aviation Minister. Seated next to him was Naresh Goyal, the CEO of Jet Airways, India's best and biggest private airline company. Then there was a good question about the adverse selection of Indian lawmakers with a criminal record. It is a massive problem and I don't think it was answered properly. Le sigh.


    Token photo with the author (Nand Kishore Singh) to prove I was there.

    After the discussion I bought the book and got it signed by the author. And took a photo with him. I got the book signed for my dad and it's his next birthday gift. Overall an evening well spent, just a pity the iPhone doesn't take better quality pictures under artificial light.
    mcgillianaire: (Scale of Justice)
    I HAVE PASSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSEEEEEEEEEDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    mcgillianaire: (Default)


    I voted for the Lib Dems yesterday in the EU elections. I hope they do well. I'm also enjoying every ministerial resignation. Earlier in the same day I attended an event at the London School of Economics (see photo). It featured a conversation between the LSE Director (Sir Howard Davies) and Bill Gates Sr, the father of this guy. Unlike many other such events organised by the LSE I found it a disappointment but others seemed to find it inspirational. He did share a couple interesting anecdotes, one about how Warren Buffett and his son became friends (back in the early 90s) and another about when Junior dropped out of Harvard. On a personal level I was hoping to learn more about the forty years he spent as a successful lawyer. Since ending his legal practice Senior jets around the world as Co-Chair of the world's largest transparently operated private foundation. He's written a few books including co-authoring one on estate tax, an issue on which he is extremely passionate. He also shares strong views on philanthropy and reforming America's public sector education system. Apparently 50% of the Gates Foundation money is spent on global health projects, 25% on global development projects and the rest on public education in the USA. They also sponsor some project at the University of Cambridge and was the main reason he had made the trip across the Atlantic. I suppose the event was the type which may not have meant much at the time but somewhere along the way I'll look back and realise that it was not meant to inspire immediately but contained valuable insights into life in general. Or maybe not. Either way, the fact it was free and easily accessible to the general public, was a pleasant reminder of the joys of living in this city. So many things to experience and simply not enough time or ways to make use of it. By night I was drunk.
    mcgillianaire: (Union Jack)

    Punting on the River Cam, Clare College and King's College Chapel from The Backs

    Founded by disgruntled Oxford scholars, home to more than 18000 students and an alumnus that includes Oliver Cromwell, Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and Stephen Hawking. Not a bad effort for the country's second-oldest university. Cambridge is also one of the prettiest and most historically preserved places I have ever visited. May they have at least another 800 years of greatness!
    mcgillianaire: (Baasha in Japanese!)
    I don't but my sister does. Or at least she's learning it this semester at university. She sent me a video of her mini-autobiography in ASL and I'm not surprised she got 96% for it. It's bloody amazing. It took me a few reruns to make the connection between the text and her actions, but after a while I got the hang of it. It's really fascinating. I'll ask her permission to YouTube it for all of you to enjoy. You can tell she's enjoyed the course, both through her crisp confident actions and her body language. All she needs now is another semester's worth of classes after Christmas, and then she can go to India next summer and impart her teachings to our impoverished mute and/or deaf relatives.
    mcgillianaire: (Ari G)
    Results are out and I got 96% (48/50). They've published the results for all 1500+ Full-Time BPP GDL students in the country (there are three branches: ours in London Waterloo, one in Manchester and another in Leeds). 4 students got 100%, 15 got 98% and 28 others got 96%. That places me somewhere in the top 4%, a wholly satisfying performance. Unfortunately, the results in this exam don't count towards our final mark and the content was a lot easier to comprehend than the stuff we're doing now. It's crazy to think that at the end of next week we'll be a quarter way through our syllabus for the year!!! But for now, it's TGIF and a three-day weekend! Bhooyakasha!

    Countdown

    Oct. 16th, 2008 02:45 pm
    mcgillianaire: (Scale of Justice)
    Exactly 200 days to my first final exam (and it's going to be Contract Law). I'm already nervous!
    mcgillianaire: (Scale of Justice)
    Part of our Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) assessment includes a 4000 word essay in an area not covered in the seven core modules. It's worth 10% of the overall mark and is not an original thesis. The point of the essay is to prepare us for the situation that commonly arises in practice wherein you have to quickly get to grips with an unfamiliar area of the law. We have fifteen essay title choices:

    01) Corporate Law: Directors' Duties
    02) Corporate Law: Minority Shareholders
    03) Corporate Manslaughter
    04) Employment Law: Unfair Dismissal
    05) Environmental Law: Waste Management
    06) EU Law: Public Undertakings & The Internal Market
    07) Family Law: Financial Distribution of Assets On Divorce
    08) Intellectual Property Law: Copyright
    09) Intellectual Property Law: Trade Marks
    10) Intellectual Property Law: Patents
    11) Planning & Land Law: Regulation of Land Use - Town & Village Greens
    12) Medical Law: Assisted Suicide
    13) Tax Law: Fairness of the Taxation of Non-Domiciles
    14) Public International Law: Legal Basis of State Recognition
    15) The Law of Succession: Intestacy

    As you can probably guess, I chose the Corporate Manslaughter title and this is my Essay Question:

    "Despite a gestation period extending over thirteen years, the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 is a disappointment. It is limited in its scope, restricted in its range of potential defendants and regressive to the extent that, like the discredited identification doctrine before it, it allows its focus to be deflected from systemic fault to
    individual fault."
    -James Gobert (2008) 71(3) MLR 413-463

    To what extent is the above quotation a true reflection of the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007? Does the Act reinforce the justifications for corporate liability; or should it be accepted that in reality corporations cannot be convicted of crimes which were intended to address individual liability?

    It should be an interesting five months working on this paper. I had also shortlisted two other titles, the Employment Law one about Unfair Dismissal and the Medical Law title about Assisted Suicide but I think I've settled on the Criminal Law title. Ideally, I would've liked to have written a paper on domestic Human Rights issues but I guess we'll be covering that in our Constitutional Law module so that wasn't an option. None of the other titles seemed interesting enough although not surprisingly, the most popular title in my school is the first one on Corporate Law and Directors' Duties (88 students) followed by Public International Law (56 students), then Medical Law (54 students) and Corporate Manslaughter (52 students). The least popular title is The Law of Succession with no student choosing it yet. Other unpopular titles include Planning & Land Law (9 students), Intellectual Property Law: Patents, EU Law and Environmental Law (11 students each).
    mcgillianaire: (Scale of Justice)
    Three weeks into Law School and I am finding the whole experience really overwhelming. Our first two weeks were really easy going compared to the way things have picked up pace in the last week. I feel like I am already playing catchup and this is the way it's going to be till the end of the course in May. I feel overwhelmed by the number of cases we are being exposed to in each module. I wish judges would use simple English in their judgments and not write such long judgments either. I feel like I will never be able to remember all of this information. And even though this post may seem like a list of complaints, I am so happy to be learning all of this stuff. It is fascinating how English case law works, how one judge distinguishes his case from the existing precedent, only to be superseded by a subsequent judge who in erudite eloquence explains why both precedents were simply stupid and wrong (but obviously not in as many words). I look forward to the day when everything we're learning right now falls into place, as I feel like everything is just floating aimlessly in a pool of grey matter. I also hope we don't have to remember every single case we're exposed to in class because even with my capacity to memorize vast tracts of information, this might be beyond me. Even if I studied everyday till the end of the course. Or perhaps I underestimate my ability to accumulate all this wonderful knowledge. Time will tell... for now I will pretend like I can remember and understand everything.

    Answer to Subject Question )
    mcgillianaire: (Union Jack)
    "The Bank of England has cut interest rates by half a percentage point in an effort to steady the faltering global economy. No decision on UK rates had been expected until Thursday - and the move puts the interest rate at 4.5% from 5%. The unprecedented step failed to cheer world stock markets. The last time the Bank of England cut rates in a special meeting was on 18 September 2001 - when rates came down from 5% to 4.75%. In the UK, some mortgage lenders also immediately passed on the rate cut to borrowers - trimming their variable rates." [BBC ARTICLE]

    Woohoo! I was so happy when I saw this headline. A couple months ago I took out a loan to finance my law-conversion course and asked for a variable rate. I had no clue if and when rates would be cut, but my dad told me to go for it. Then two nights ago, after seeing how much interest was added into my loan at the end of last month, I was praying for a rates cut sooner rather than later. My prayers have been answered. Maybe God exists...
    mcgillianaire: (Scale of Justice)
    I attended my first British court hearing this afternoon. It was part of our Criminal Law Tutorial homework. We were instructed to attend a criminal hearing at a Crown Court or Magistrates' Court and answer some questions about it. I went with a group of friends to Southwark Crown Court near London Bridge. We sat in court for about an hour, observing a prosecutor questioning one of the defendants accused of controlling prostitution for gain, three counts of unlawful wounding, ABH (actual bodily harm) and possession of a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence. During the prosecution, the defendant denied all the charges. Unfortunately, I couldn't stay to watch the rest of the afternoon's proceedings but from what I did see, I'm sold! If you thought the theory was good, wait till you see it in practice!

    Southwark Crown Court was opened in 1983 with fifteen courtrooms, making it the fourth largest court centre in the country. It is a desginated serious fraud centre and from what I'm told, it is second in stature to the Old Bailey (officially called the Central Criminal Court) when it comes to hearing criminal proceedings of the nature we observed this afternoon. If that's the case, I will most certainly be paying it a visit in the not-too-distant future. And given the proximity of the Old Bailey, I will also be paying it a visit soon.

    There were quite a few little interesting things that I saw today. Firstly, the defendant had access to a translator who stood next to him the whole time. At one point the judge interrupted the translator and reminded him that he could only offer translation services. I'm not surprised the judge interfered because it looked distinctly like the translator was telling the defendant in Albanian: "deny it while you can, deny, deny, deny!" :P I was also surprised at how 'modern' the court was, with flat screen TVs (both were turned off) on either side of the side walls and laptops with MS Word open on the counsel's table. But it wasn't all like that. Despite a recent decision to allow counsel to get rid of their silk gowns and wigs in civil cases, the counsel in our case were in traditional attire, including the judge.

    The case itself was quite fascinating. The prosecutor tried his best to poke holes in the defendant's original statement and even though the accused denied everything, he did let slip the following bits: he refused to refer to the girls in the brothel as prostitutes, instead insisted on using the term 'working girls', he refused to name the owner of the flat in which the brothel operated because it would compromise his own safety (an assertion he repeated several times despite the prosecutor flinging a name in his direction), and he claimed that he didn't run the brothel but worked there merely as a doorman or security guard. At one point he started throwing back questions at the prosecutor to which the prosecutor got annoyed and said we might as well all go home if he didn't stop. The defendant stopped asking questions, but not before he found himself in a sticky situation trying to explain why he had hid some prostitute timetable papers from the brothel under his kitchen sink, which he described as a safe place, while storing his passport in a drawer in his dresser. As the defendant put it, the passport was worthless because his visa had expired and therefore he was living illegally in the UK anyway. I really wish I'd heard the rest of the prosecution. You can read more about the background to the case and the charges laid upon the other defendants here.

    Funnily enough, though my friends and I generally agreed about how interesting the case was, most of the jury looked bored. Only two ladies seemed engrossed in the case; one was dutifully taking notes, while the other perused the prosecution's folder of evidence. Thanks to my group attending the hearing the court was almost full. A few people thought we were journalists. I was tempted to play along...



    Meanwhile, I have been unanimously acclaimed as my tutorial group's Class Rep. Nobody really stood against me and I suppose the initiative to create a Facebook Group for our class of 15 kids might've had something to do with it. You'd think in a group of budding-lawyers there'd be at least one other interested lad or lass. Nevertheless, I will have the distinct pleasure of communicating the praises and concerns of our group with the powers that be, but more importantly, I will be able to attend the bi-annual Class Rep Wine & Cheese.
    mcgillianaire: (Scale of Justice)
    My course is made up of 7 core modules. Even though the first two weeks focus on the induction to the English Legal System, the modules are so intense that my school believes in getting started early. Last Friday and today, we were subjected to a brutal assault of seven hour-long lectures with only a break for lunch in between. I hadn't put myself through such an ordeal since at least April 2002. Interestingly, I didn't have too many problems staying awake (except for the last lecture) last Friday. Today however was a completely different story. I struggled to stay awake during the first four lectures (Contract, Tort, Criminal and Land), but after lunch I had absolutely no difficulty paying attention to Equity & Trusts, Constitutional and EU Law. By the end of the day I felt so refreshed, I was prepared to sit through another two lectures. Go figure! In any case, this post is a brief summary of thoughts about each module so far.

    CONSTITUTIONAL & ADMINISTRATIVE LAW:
    This is going to be my favourite module. It encompasses history and politics. 'Nuff said. Though I will say this, the most fascinating thing we're learning right now is the extent to which convention (which is not legally enforceable) permeates British constitutional law.

    CONTRACT LAW:
    We're learning some fascinating stuff about what constitutes a contract, especially through advertisements. There are a couple of famous cases that every law student knows about: one is Carlill v. Carbolic Smoke Ball Company, the other Leonard v. Pepsico, Inc..

    TORT LAW:
    We're spending the next 7 weeks on negligence. Today we learnt its history. Read Donoghue v Stevenson, if you haven't already.

    CRIMINAL LAW:
    We're still trying to establish reasons for mens rea and actus reus in various cases. Haven't worked out if I'm guilty of murdering my pregnant girlfriend's fetus when I stabbed her and killed the fetus inside. Sorry, our lecturer's stone-cold straight-faced words, not mine. I know!

    LAND LAW:
    Only the Crown (ie, Queen) can own land in the UK. Her subjects can merely possess land as freeholders. We the subjects can lease that land to others (ie, leasehold). They can sub-lease the land to others and so on. If a landowner dies intestate, it reverts to the Crown. These principles were introduced by the Normans in the 11th century and have changed little since. You gotta admit, that's fascinating!

    EQUITY & TRUST LAW:
    Some say Equity is the greatest development of English law, and to think it happened somewhat by accident! I can't be bothered to provide an explanation of what it is, but I will say this: the concept of a Trust (eg, modern-day Charitable Trust) goes back to the Middle Ages when husbands went off to the Holy Land on the Crusades. In those days the only kind of land owner/lease relationship that was recognized by the courts was a contract, which was only between two people. The concept of equity and trusts grew when warrior husbands gave the legal title to their land to what we now call a trustee for the benefit of his family (ie, the beneficiaries), till either the warrior's return or death, in which case the land would then be transferred both in title and equity to the beneficiaries. From that humble beginning, a whole module of law has developed. And to think I used to believe trusts only emerged in 19th century America.

    EU LAW:
    We've only had one lecture so far but already the lecturer has made an impassioned plea to the Eurosceptics among us to put up with the module, regardless of their personal beliefs. Apparently, one student last year refused to answer a question in their EU exam and instead wrote a few sentences proclaiming their staunch support for British sovereignty. As a pro-EUpean, I am looking forward to this module. I have never fully understood the whole constitutional shebang and particularly, Britain's legal association. Europe is obviously a hugely emotive issue here but I think the most interesting thing I learnt today was the fact that by convention, Westminster does not debate/vote on implementing European treaties, unless specific statutes are passed such as the 1972 European Communities Act. And for all the brouhaha about Britain's role in Europe, our lecturer said that only 23% of the electorate voted in the last European elections. That explains why the far-right parties gained MEP representation, a sad indictment of the attitudes that prevail here over the EU.

    And with that ends your first two weeks in Law School.



    --It is worth noting that when you read the title of a case, the "v" is not short for 'versus'. It is short for 'and'.
    mcgillianaire: (Scale of Justice)
    I have officially finished two weeks of lectures and tutorials. Next stop, the English Legal System Test on Friday. Fifty multiple-choice questions testing our fundamentals, including the basics of Statutory Interpretation and the Doctrine of Precedent.

    What has really impressed me these first two weeks is the way in which English law is interpreted by lawyers and judges. I used to think it was quite easy to find relevant laws thanks to e-governance and modern database systems. I've come to realize just how difficult it can be just to find a relevant law. Assuming one were skilled enough to do that, the next task would be to find the relevant provisions in the law or case and interpret it in a way that convinces the judge/jury. I never realized just how many different ways the law could be interpreted. It is precisely this ambiguity and choice of interpretation that makes the law so interesting, yet challenging.

    The other thing about the law that I am really looking forward to is its applicability to everything in life. English law has become so pervasive that it can be applied to anything. Even if no statutes or local cases exist to guide the courts on a particular issue, there are still other ways for judges to reach a decision. For example, it is becoming increasingly popular for English judges to look abroad (particularly at other common law jurisdictions) for persuasive judgments to influence local cases. Such foreign judgments are not legally-binding, but through their persuasive influence in a local case, could contribute to the creation of a domestic binding precedent.

    I am also excited at the prospect of being paid to accumulate general knowledge. Perhaps the coolest aspect of reading a given case is the opportunity to learn all kinds of new things about the way the world works, without resorting to an encyclopedia or venturing beyond one's own field of work/study. For example, say there's a case about some chemical leakage between two separately owned properties. The law report about that case contains incredibly precise information about the scientific principles involved in chemical leakage, as well as carrying a story-like section written by the judges explaining their legal reasoning for the decision and other persuasive details that one day may contribute to the establishment of a new binding precedent. Or they maybe a case about a potential clinically negligent doctor who was not the cause of a patient's death, because the patient had just arrived from the scene of a horrific accident. Again, the law report would begin with all sorts of fascinating scientific explanation, followed by the binding legal reasoning and persuasive comments. In other words, no two cases will ever be the same even if they invoke the same statutory provisions and case-law.

    English law is in a constant state of flux. That is a great thing because it means I will hopefully never ever become bored of it, and through its umbilical relationship with society, I will forever be forced to keep up with all the changes - scientific, legal and/or otherwise!
    mcgillianaire: (Liverpool FC)
    "In one point I fully agree with the gentlemen to whose general views I am opposed. I feel with them that it is impossible for us, with our limited means, to attempt to educate the body of the people. We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern; a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, opinions, in morals and intellect." -Thomas Macaulay, Minute on Indian Education (1835)

    Last night was Dave Pearce's last Dance Anthems show on BBC Radio 1. It's the end of an era. Since 2005, rarely have I gone a week without listening to the two hours of cheesy electronic dance anthem music goodness. As everybody expected, Dave whacked on some of his (and our) all-time favourite rhythms including: Minimalistix's Close Cover, Delerium's Silence, Faithless' Insomnia (the anthem that got me hooked into electronic music in the first place), Paul Van Dyk's For An Angel, Paul Oakenfold's Southern Sun and possibly the greatest dance anthem of all-time, Ferry Corsten's remix of William Barber's Adagio for Strings. He now moves on (or was he demoted?) to Radio 6.



    Meanwhile, I've finished my first week at Law School. It's beyond awesome. I can't believe how much I'm enjoying learning everything dished out so far. I've got a hectic schedule but it's like I don't care because when you love your work, it becomes work no more but sheer enjoyment. That's exactly how I feel about the law. English law is so vast, so unrefined, archaic and generally very messy, carrying with it several centuries of excess baggage. Despite all its rough edges, the most important thing is the incredible manner in which it has evolved and continues to evolve. Even in a society that is developing at such an unbelievable rate, English law has done well to try and keep pace with it. Finally, I've discovered a field of study which values the ability to amass vast tracts of information and then combine it with craftily constructed arguments. The law is neither an art nor a science. It's exactly the sort of career I have been looking for all my life. It encompasses everything I've ever wanted out of life. I cannot wait to learn anything and everything about it. This is my calling...



    And finally, the footie. After last weekend's disappointing draw against new boys Stoke City, order in the footballing universe was restored by the world's greatest striker, Fernando Torres, as the lads from Anfield painted the city of Liverpool red by defeating fellow Scousers Everton two-nil. Both goals were scored by the Spanish international, ending a six-game drought in some style. The result gives us our best start in the Premier League after six games and takes us back to the top of the table, albeit temporarily depending on other results.


    To the tune of 'The Animals go in Two by Two'):
    His armband proved he was a red - Torres, Torres
    You'll never walk alone it said - Torres, Torres
    We bought the lad from sunny Spain
    He gets the ball he scores again
    Fer-nan-do Torres Liverpool's number 9
    (bounce, bounce)
    mcgillianaire: (Scale of Justice)
    Yesterday was my first day of Law School. All we had was registration and a couple of induction lectures. We met our personal tutors, which is a welcome change from the impersonal (read: shit) system at McGill, and I also met my fellow tutorial classmates whom I will see a lot over the next nine months. Lectures begin Monday, our first (informal) tutorial quiz is on Tuesday and our first proper test assessment is two weeks from Monday on October 3rd. Altogether there are seven modules that will be covered during the nine months and they are as follows: Constitutional & Administrative Law, Contract Law, Tort Law, Criminal Law, Land Law, Equity Law and EU Law (which is only a half-module). Each module has a one hour lecture every week, except for EU law which as a half-module is taught fortnightly. The lectures comprise several tutorial groups. The tutorial groups (roughly 15-20 people) also meet for each module for an hour each week, except for EU law which meets fortnightly. Our personal tutor is also going to teach us the Land Law module. At the end of October the school will release the Independent Research Essay topics which will then be due at the beginning of April. There are a total of eighteen substantive teaching weeks that begin after the first assessment on October 3rd. Leading into the substantive teaching are two weeks of induction lectures to the English legal system, statutory interpretation, the doctrine of precedent and case analysis. The first assessment does not contribute to the final course grade but it will test us on our understanding of the induction topics.

    During the first week of November we will have our first informal assessment of the substantive topics covered until then and we will also have the option of participating in some informal, ungraded classes covering Company Law, Evidence and Forensics and Corporate Law. We then have another week of informal assessments a week into our Christmas break, and just when you think you can put your feet up for a quick break, the school will release our Case & Statute Analysis tests which will be due in the first day back from the "break". They're calling it a break because there will be no substantive teaching! In the new year we start off slow with only substantive lectures in January, but the pace picks up with the school releasing the Coursework in the middle of February, quickly followed by another informal assessment. The course work will be due less than a week after it is handed out and then we have formal lectures till the first week of March. We then have a couple weeks of live revision lectures followed by a few weeks of optional online tutorials which we can participate in from the comfort of our own homes. As mentioned earlier, the Independent Research Paper is due the first week of April and our final exams are throughout the month of May. There will be a total of seven papers (one for each module), all except EU law lasting three hours, with EU law lasting only two hours (and it's the last one - some respite!). My first final examination is on May 2nd and my final exam is on May 26th. Many students will then probably spend the summer working, but I intend to convert my Diploma into an LLB degree at the same school by completing two more intensive modules before mid-August. In short, I'm signing my life away to the law for precisely 11 months!

    Read More )
    mcgillianaire: (McGill)
    The Queen's eldest grandchild, Peter Phillips, got married today. His wife, Autumn Phillips née Kelly is a Montrealer who graduated from McGill University the year I joined it (2002). Though born & brought-up a Roman Catholic, she was forced to renounce her faith and join the Church of England to ensure Peter maintained his place in the succession to the throne. Their wedding took place in Windsor Castle.

    McMun 2005

    Jan. 28th, 2005 02:16 am
    mcgillianaire: (McGill Text)
    In a few hours I will be consumed with McMUN 2005 on the 2007 Kurdistan Crisis Committee. This follows close on the heels of the last Model UN Conference organized by IRSAM, SSUNS 2004 in November. About 1300+ delegates from 100+ universities and colleges in North America and Europe are expected so it's bound to be a lot of fun. I'm definitely looking forward to taking part in this brilliant annual event. SSUNS is only for Highschool kids, and while the last one was a riot thanks to the charismatic leadership of the K-Dawg, this one promises to be a similarly enjoyable one.

    But perhaps why I am in such a bouyant mood shall be explained through a self-explanatory post soon after the completion of the conference. I like surprises; don't you? :)

    Oh yah, and one of McGill's top PoliSci profs, David Romano, will be giving a 1hr keynote lecture @ the beginning of our committee's session! Boo yeh!

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