March of the Legal Beagles.

A quick sketch referencing the work of Charles Schulz, and my upcoming Mock Trial Activity.

A quick sketch referencing the work of Charles Schulz, and my upcoming Mock Trial Activity.

Today has been a frustrating day. In part, that is why the background is so gloomy and overcast in the art, with Cap and the World Famous Attorney, Snoopy, walking along and talking about professional licensing. Their conversation is very relevant to my class both today and tomorrow, since we are having our In-Class Bar Exam. Scores on the Bar Exam (a fairly basic Mock Trial Vocabulary test, with some hypothetical problems to apply definitions to) will determine roles in our upcoming Mock Trial, making it a relatively “High Stakes” exam.

Not “High Stakes” in terms of point value, or even in terms of the students’ futures. No…”High Stakes” in terms of what you get to do in the activity, which has generated a large amount of interest among the students.

Unfortunately, the entire “Study/Practice Bar” Day has been undermined by ACTUAL High Stakes Testing. All day long, students have been pulled from my class to take the CELDT exam, albeit past the deadline. That’s the exam that gets you our of the English as a Second Language, or English Language Development, classes. So…yes, that is “High Stakes”…it is directly correlated to graduation scheduling. In addition, the PSAT is on Wednesday, which forces a reorganization of the entire Bell schedule for the day. Heck…I was even pulled out of class, to sit in on a meeting which determined a student’s eligibility for certain services. The whole day has seemed like a conspiracy to prevent the activity in its entirety.

Tomorrow is the actual “Bar Exam”, which will consist of twenty one questions. Ten are simple definitions, seven are “application” questions, where a problem is given, and the correct objection needs to be chosen, with an explanation, and three are about applying appropriate charges to a defendant. The last question is a Wild Card, that I have not written yet. The point is to have enough questions to determine rankings, which means that I need to turn around on this and grade it within 24 hours.

Conveniently, I have all that PSAT administration time to do so. It is the one, the only benefit of that particular time sink. The whole business of Mock Trial is labor intensive for me, which says something about our legal system, I think. However, the point of it is to maintain student engagement…a hard thing to do, while simultaneously meeting the analysis standards for a piece of literature that we have covered. Since a good twenty to thirty percent of the students opted to not turn in the last composition for the class, this is a pretty important project.

I haven’t drawn anything referencing Charles Schulz and “Peanuts” for a while, and it seemed like Attorney Snoopy was a good choice here. Much like my students, Snoopy isn’t a lawyer, he’s just a dog, but sometimes he thinks he’s a lawyer…and that seems to be good enough. At least for him, in the moment. It’s the kind of rich fantasy life that my students are rapidly outgrowing, the idea that the entire world is one of endless opportunity. Already, a good portion of students are being advised on “alternate paths to graduation,” so the idea of Mock Trial is kind of huge. It keeps in play the idea that maybe any one of them can grow up and practice law, it keeps the basic motivation of the School System alive for just a bit longer.

Again…much akin to Snoopy’s rich inner life, which fully refutes the idea that he is a beagle.

The protagonist is dressed in Linus Van Pelt’s fall clothing, sans the blanket. Charles Schulz has said some pretty interesting things about the character. “Linus, my serious side, is the house intellectual, bright, well-informed which, I suppose may contribute to his feelings of insecurity.” I think that’s part of why I like Linus, and also why our hero is dressed like him today. Linus is about knowing things that might scare you, about having a kind of insight that might be worrisome. Sort of like know the students’ various transcript is a kind of worrisome insight. You look at a young person, ostensibly full of promise, and you realize that they need to make up almost an entire year of high school…it’s tough to deal with. You don’t want to shatter any dreams, but you need to be practical.

It is a very odd perspective, when at the same time you’re talking about a fictional Bar Exam, that has no foundation in anything other than a class activity.

I actually rather like the Linus outfit, although I don’t think she’s going to wear it all that much. The hat especially worked well, and that’s tough, given Cap’s ears and all. Drawing in Schulz’ intentionally simple style, with simple line work and implied backgrounds and settings is a fascinating challenge, and one very well suited to this overcast and odd Monday.


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