Jeremy's Weblog

I recently graduated from Harvard Law School. This is my weblog. It tries to be funny. E-mail me if you like it. For an index of what's lurking in the archives, sorted by category, click here.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Apologies for not more words yesterday. I'll make up for it this morning, as I await my constitutional law class at 10:40. The a cappella singing group I'm in here at law school had a small (very small) concert yesterday evening, with special guest group The Alternotives from Oxford. They were quite good. We split the Oxford singers among a few of us to host them for the night, which was a lot of fun. One thing they wanted to know about America:

*Is American high school really like "Saved By The Bell?"

My high school wasn't; I don't know about other people's.

Yesterday, in the aforementioned constitutional law class, the professor told us that after talking to some of his colleagues, he thinks it might be a good idea to put a ten-minute break somewhere in the middle of our 100-minute class. Many people clapped. Then he said that to do so, he'd like to start class ten minutes earlier, at 10:30 instead of 10:40. People began to murmur. He told anyone who had a class conflict to raise his or her hand. No one did. But then someone asked if we could vote on it. Starting class ten minutes earlier: very few votes; no break: a lot of votes. How could something that provoked spontaneous applause just seconds earlier be voted down by an overwhelming percentage? It's not like 10:30 is particularly early in the morning, or substantially earlier than 10:40... but people like their sleep. It's kind of silly.

Speaking of classroom votes, in another class, the professor had us vote on how we'd better like our extra-credit (she provides the possibility of "extra-credit" if you miss no more than 3 classes and show up each time having done the problem set to be discussed in that class -- it's a legal problem-based class, which is actually a really cool approach and makes the class sessions really interested, because we're discussing actual situations and not just hearing a professor lecture on what we just read -- because the problem sets make this class more work than most classes, with just reading) -- the choices were:

Choice A: Of the people eligible for extra credit,

Anyone who falls in the top 1/2 of the distribution of the B-minus grades gets bumped to a B, top 1/2 of the B gets bumped up to a B-plus, top 1/2 of the B-plus gets bumped up to an A-minus, and top 1/2 of the A-minus gets bumped up to an A.

Choice B: Of the people eligible for extra credit,

All of the B-minus grades get bumped up to a B, all of the B grades get bumped up to a B-plus, top 1/2 of the distribution of B-plus grades get bumped up to an A-minus, and top 1/4 of the A-minus grades get bumped up to an A.

So basically you trade, in Choice B, a greater chance to go from A-minus to A for a guarantee that if you're eligible for the extra credit, you won't get a B-minus, and if you would've gotten a B you're sure to get a B-plus.

I liked that trade-off (the "risk averse" choice) and went with choice B. Choice B won, in a very narrow 54-48 vote. To me, the jump from A-minus to A provides quite a bit less utility than the B-minus to B or B to B-plus jumps, so I didn't think it was much of a dilemma. But apparently 48 people are more confident than I am.