M. J. F. Stewart lives is San Francisco and
actively hopes that Michael Jackson will stage a
viable comeback. His favorite animal is the lion.
The Categories of June 9
by Matthew. J. F. Stewart
On June 9, 2003, the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) will be administered at hundreds of locations around the world. Prospective law students will complete five LSAT sections encompassing Analytical Reasoning, Logical Reasoning, and Reading Comprehension, as well as an unscored Writing Sample. LSAT scores, along with college grades, are the top factors considered by law schools in admitting new students.
In this crumbling economy, more prospective students than ever before are expected to sit for the June exam. Many of these test-takers are dedicated to the legal craft. They have taken all the proper undergraduate courses in preparation for a career in law, have interned at the Justice Department, and can cite important Supreme Court cases with gluttonous ease. Extensive analyses of law firms have been performed annually on advanced statistical software in order to determine the job prospect that provides the most attractive blend of career advancement, responsibility, income, and benefits. An LSAT prep book rests under their pillow. These Legal Eagles are ready.
Other June 9 test-takers will be less enthusiastic. Urged by family members to take the exam "just to see what happens," these potential lawyers are nauseated by legal conniving. The thought of defending scumbags and liars, or locking up products of grievously unfair childhoods, does not incite a thumping in their collective chest. They believe the O.J. verdict perfectly reflects the domination of wealth in America, and that suing McDonald’s for serving fatty food is a direct assault on the intelligence of each human over ten who has ever enjoyed a Big Mac Attack.
These Opportunists are bright and motivated, but feel they "got screwed" by the economic downturn. Upperclassmen friends in college were bombarded with stacks of currency after graduation, but the classes of 2001 and 2002 have been resigned to eke out an existence in support positions that do not nearly justify the mammoth cost of a tertiary education. They paid too much to eat shit for a living, they like to think, and they have recently acquired an appreciation for many tenets of the capitalist system. The LSAT? Sure, why not?
As the exam begins, the Legal Eagles attack the papers in front of them. Nurtured by $1100 test preparation classes, they quickly evaluate question stems, uncover veiled premises, and locate the natural extension of an argument from five alphabetical options. The answering rhythm is diligently paced so that each section is completed in thirty-five minutes and, as these test-takers are keenly aware that there is no punishment for incorrect responses, no question remains unanswered. No matter the ultimate score received, the Legal Eagles skip from their testing facility on June 9 with the assurance that they put forth the best possible effort.
The Opportunists do not blitzkrieg through the test with such disciplined aggression. They devour the fascinating reading comprehension piece on Miles Davis, but bog down on more soporific topics, such as the discussion of osmosis in Mediterranean waters. These test-takers enjoy the Analytical Reasoning games, and recall with fondness the more simplistic versions that were often assigned as extra credit in middle school math class. When they read that:
[A dog show is going to be held with five participating dogs, Albert, Barry, Candy, Deli, and Elixir. There are three possible prizes—Gold, Silver, and Bronze— for three different categories of competition—Tricks, Fetching, and Style. The results of the dog show conform to the following conditions:
Candy only wins the Silver prize.
Whatever dog wins the Gold prize in Tricks wins the Bronze prize in Fetching.
If Barry wins a prize, Elixir does not win a prize in the same category.
Each dog wins at least one prize.]
their minds are flooded by fond memories of over-exuberant childhood pooches rather than confident answers. By the time these less motivated test-takers get to the Writing Sample at the conclusion of the exam, many already recognize that their performance was a sham, an insult to their logical capacity, a self-inflicted crowbar to the kneecap. Thus depleted, the mighty surge to the finish dwindles to a sigh, and the completed test is submitted with copious apathy.
Newly unburdened, the Legal Eagles appear to achieve a noteworthy stoicism. They resume volunteer responsibilities and rejoin coworkers for Friday Happy Hour. But their friends and family know the truth; even after reading email affidavits to the effect of "I don’t care anymore, at least it’s over," the hunger bleats like a dying lamb. For the next few weeks, when seemingly daydreaming or lost in conversation, the L.E.’s are estimating the percentage of questionable responses that converted on the road to a perfect 180 score, calculating how each possible outcome will mesh with a crystallized college GPA, and speculating as to what doors that combination will open.
The Opportunists try to forget. They swim in vats of hard liquor and oceans of denial, testifying that they took it, now they’ll see. Work on the novel begins anew and the tennis racquet is located and restrung, the glossy pond’s surface barely disrupted by the menace of graduate school. But already, the confession has been forced, the cares underneath thrashing silently, the investors cursing their arrogant lack of preemptive research, but, by golly, if we’ve sunk something into this cursed bitch, we want to reap the glorious dividends and feel the sunshine stream upon our tangled faces. Bring another round of champagne, a box of Espléndidos for all!
The LSAT? Why not?