Wednesday, August 31, 2011

What this blog is about

Years ago, my colleague, the late, great Ed Belsheim, took me aside and revealed to me some of the secrets of his success as a law professor.  One of them was this: "We're here to teach the basics.  In class, by the time you say anything that's interesting to you, you've said too much."

Ed was a character.  At age 80-something, he'd cover huge swaths of material in every class session, and he had his syllabus memorized.  If a student asked an advanced question early on the semester, Ed would say something like, "We'll be covering that at 3:12 p.m. on October 14."  One evening, as I watched him slowly shuffling to his lecture, huffing and puffing a bit as he went, I kidded him: "Hey Ed, another 40 pages tonight?"  Without missing a beat, he replied: "At least."  The students loved him, and rewarded him with several best teacher awards.

As the years pass, I appreciate Ed's wisdom more and more.  I call it the Belsheim Rule.  There are so many interesting (at least to me) things that I'd like to say in the courses I teach -- the basic Income Tax class in particular -- but there isn't time for all of them.  And succumbing to the temptation to include too many can worsen the constant problem of trying to boil the entire income tax law into 52 hours.

This blog is an attempt to avoid that pitfall.  When I get out of a class session in which I've resisted the impulse to tell a good story, I'm going to reward myself by writing it down here.  I'll let the students know that this site exists, but I'll make their looking at it completely optional.  I hope I'll feel as though I satisfied my duty to share what I know, without gumming up the march through the syllabus with too many detours.

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