So today was the first day of class. Nothing special.
I had meant to write about this earlier, but I never had time to.
During exams, everyone sits in the same room and types their exams on their laptops. The only ones missing are those crazy few who decide to handwrite their exams and are in a separate room, lest listening to others type distract them. And then, there are a few more who are missing, those special few who have secured special accommodations.
I have no issue with people who need special accommodations for real disabilities. People who have cystic fibrosis (there's one in law school), people who are blind, people who are missing an arm and can't type as fast as the rest of us, etc. Giving them extra time and/or special accommodation equipment to take their exams is the right thing to do.
And then there are the people who claim ADD. And many of these people who claim ADD I have seen in class pay perfect attention to what the professor says. They are part of the generation where parents shop around for a mental health professional willing to diagnose little Johnny or Mary with ADD (a very subjective diagnosis to a very subjective condition, as I recall from Psych 1) so as to earn their little princess or prince an added advantage in class. A school will accommodate their "disability" and give them more time on the exam, since a school will not want to appear to discriminate against the disabled. They get extra time in high school. They get extra time on the SAT. They get extra time in college. They get extra time on the LSAT. And the accommodation continues into law school. And in an environment where everyone is graded on a curve and the extra time can only help them spot more issues than others, such unneeded accommodation is unfair.
My problem with those who claim ADD: Okay, so they finish law school and let's say their accommodation helps them get a job they otherwise would not be able to get. What do you think would happen if they ask the partner at White, Old, and Rich, LLP for extra time to finish a memo because of their "disability"? Or ask a judge to postpone a hearing because they need more time to prepare? MOTION DENIED. (I'm sure, however, that a request from someone with CF or a blind lawyer will be granted.) If these ADD folks can and will suck it up in the workforce and work on the same time schedule as everyone else, why can't they do so in law school? Sooner or later, their "disability" will no longer be accommodated, and it might as well be sooner.
Luckily, at least at UCLA, professors are the ones who ultimately say yes or no on whether to grant an accommodation. There is at least one professor who will grant extra time only for what he believes to be real disabilities (read: not ADD). But most grant them, because they don't have any vested interest in the matter.
Sure, I recognize that ADD can be severe enough that I might be willing in those cases to look favorably on an accommodation request. But in the majority of cases, these students have no trouble concentrating on movies, video games, reading trashy magazines, or surfing the Internet (read: fun things) and claim to be distracted only on academic matters. These cases seem like people trying to game the system.
Last point: I recognize that some people will think of my position here as inconsistent with my position on affirmative action in the last post ("Hey Fox, you're willing to give an advantage based on race but not on disability"). Not so, I counter. I am likewise opposed to those 1/8 Native Americans or those "my great-grandmother was born Cuba" types but who identify only with white suburbia and try to game the system. I'm in favor of AA only for those who make a good faith effort; likewise, I support accommodation for those who really do have a need.
Post if you disagree with what I just said. Or email me if you don't feel comfortable commenting publicly.