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Sapere aude - dare to be wise
Monday, February 16, 2004
Posted 12:01 AM by Joshua Claybourn
Gunning for the Gunners
Going into law school, I knew the Socratic method would play a fairly large roll in the learning process, but I've been surprised by just how controversial the whole thing has been. Jason Hannagan, in his first foray in the blogosphere, addresses this topic. On one extreme, there are the "gunners," who really need no definition. They're those that speak often and rarely hesitate to raise their hand, either to ask a question or answer one the professor posed. On the other extreme, there are students who I literally can't ever remember hearing speak once in class since school began.

So what would drive an individual to turn to one of these extremes? There are a number of possibilities. The most frequent to come from gunner critics is that they're out to show off, either for professors, fellow students, or both.

But gunners and their defendants will argue that the professor doesn't have to call on them if they don't want to. If the professor thinks it stalls class discussion, he or she can choose not to call on the gunner. Indeed, that often happens. Some gunners feel they need to ask questions to fully grasp the material, but their detractors counter they should ask them after class. It's a strong counter, and one that I happen to agree with, but that still leaves the seemingly valid act of answering questions posed by professors. This doesn't stall class and it actually furthers what the professor believes to be an educational exercise.

In the end, the professor has complete discretion on who to call on, for both questions and answers. If the professor thinks it delays class or is unnecessary, he or she can simply ignore it.

Yet there's one remaining question - is this "sucking up" or "brown nosing?" Anytime I hear someone complaining of this I genuinely feel sorry for the one complaining. I don't think they comprehend that they're spending thousands of dollars a year to learn the law under some of the brightest legal minds in the world. Those who don't take advantage of it are missing out in a big way. Too many students seem stuck in a grade school mentality of being scared to participate because a few students will "make fun" of them.

Nevertheless, there's a strong argument to be made that too much participation, even that which has the professor's blessing, can have a negative impact. Garrett Moritz makes these and other arguments in his case against gunners. But I prefer to leave that discretion with the professor. I'm positive that, as a general rule, they know the fine line of class participation much better than any complaining 1L.

As seen in the
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