Paging the Bogeyman
It’s Halloween, and I wanted to write a related post to celebrate the day. I thought about resuscitating the “sale of a haunted house case,” Stambovsky v. Ackely, 572 N.Y.S.2d 672 (NY App. Div. 1991), fast becoming a casebook darling among property and contracts professors (great post on it here). Maybe some gruesome details from a crim law or torts case? But then I realized I needed a *really* scary topic. And, no, not the credit crunch, frightening as that may be.
As far as scary, I started thinking about my favorite Halloween movie, The Nightmare Before Christmas. So, how about… the Bogeyman? Now, I previously wrote a post, asking about the “elephant” lurking in your law school. By “elephant,” I meant a problem that is immense and yet “so common that no one talks about or discusses it.”
The Bogeyman, on the other hand, is different than the lumbering elephant. The Bogeyman is a symbol or a rhetorical strategy that is an exaggeration of a perceived threat or possible risk, usually raised in response to proposed change. For an example, take curriculum reform. If change is proposed, one rhetorical strategy to scotch it is to exaggerate the threat of a potential drop in the bar passage rate. Sometimes the Bogeyman quietly hides in corners, dormant, seemingly disappeared. Other times he jumps out, becoming more vocal, rattling his chains to great effect.
I wonder if some of this propensity to be-risk averse is part of profession – as lawyers we perhaps overcompensate for certain types of risk. Despite all the talk this election cycle about how much we either love “change” or “mavericks,” (depending on your ideological views), it’s safe to say that many (most?) law schools are, as institutions, fairly conservative (as far as changing things, anyway).
So perhaps change and an exaggerated tendency to be risk averse is in itself the Bogeyman. Its enemy? Logic. Empiricism. Bogeymen, I think, hate statistics, because it is in their nature to be irrational and play upon one’s fears.
What/Who is the Bogeyman in your law school? (or Bogeyperson, more politically correct).