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Ralph Nader to Harvard Law School: “Without elevated imagination, we don’t go anywhere”

Ralph Nader to Harvard Law School: “Without elevated imagination, we don’t go anywhere”

November 6, 2009

From the Harvard Law Record‘s report on Ralph Nader’s address to Harvard Law School during his visit on October 30, 2009 in support of “Only the Super-rich Can Save Us!”:

. . . Nader expressed serious concern about the ability of the next generation of HLS alumni to apply their efforts and their imaginations to the problems facing our country. “Without elevated imagination, we don’t go anywhere. If your imagination is not elevated, you don’t have a vision of possibilities. If you don’t have vision of possibilities, you don’t have reach. If you don’t have reach, you don’t have a grasp. And let’s face it, we grow up in cultures that set our imaginations at a certain level.” During his time at HLS, Nader found the culture of the school to be an oppressive series of measures designed to cow students into submission to a legal order dominated by corporate firms. . . The process of inquiry, said Nader, should begin for law students while they still have the freedom to write about subjects they would enjoy pursuing after graduation. “It’s very important for law students, while you are free to do it, before you are out working 100 hours a week in these pressure cooker, corporate law factories, to raise that imagination level.”

. . . Quoting from an article he wrote for The New Republic in 1968, Nader characterized his time in law school as “a process of engineering the law student into corridor thinking and largely non-normative evaluation. It was a three-year excursus into legal minutiae embraced by wooden logic and impervious to what Oliver Wendell Holmes once called the felt necessities of our times.”

Another pitfall of academic myopia, Nader said, is the fetishistic reverence of pure intellect. But the fallacy of this blind adherence to intellectual ability lies in its failure to yield actual improvements in the lives of individuals. . . Nader pointed to former President of Harvard University Larry Summers, who was instrumental in the deregulation of the financial industry through the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999, as the epitome of the fetish of brilliance.

. . . “Would you rather have someone who is dim but right or smart but wrong?” he asked.

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