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Yale’s Box of Crayons
December 9, 2013
In the formative years of my early childhood, I was often told that that bigger is better. A bigger McDonald’s meant a better PlayPlace. A bigger box of crayons meant a better range of colors. Granted, I learned that this wasn’t always the case—bigger clothes, for example, did not actually mean better style. But the box-of-crayons analogy stuck: you couldn’t get colors like “Blizzard Blue” or “Laser Lemon” from your 16-pack of Crayola©. Bigger usually meant more choices.
Coming to Yale, I hoped that attending a smaller institution would not force me to conform to a select few molds—I did not want a box where every crayon was “Gunner Green” and “Supreme Court Silver.” I felt that I knew enough about myself to convey a character on paper, but I wanted the ability to keep that character flexible as I learned more about what the law actually does. I wanted to gain a set of skills and experiences in both breadth and depth—a box of crayons that wouldn’t crimp my style.
Yale does not guarantee twenty tenured professors in every niche of the law—in this economy I’d be surprised if any law school did. What Yale offers, however, is a kaleidoscope of budding ideas and an expansive network of mentors, alumni, and friends. This is not to say that other schools don’t have this model, but just that Yale provides the ideal setting to foster it. The other posts describe at length the virtues of the nurturing small group class, impactful clubs and clinics, and the super helpful advice that flows freely in a relatively low stress environment.
Yale does diversity right in the sense that it doesn’t just provide more options—it creates a community that fosters new friendships, new ideas, and entrepreneurial approaches to the law. This is hardly to say that Yale students restrict themselves to thinking outside the box and avoiding the beaten path—most enter and excel in the same professions one would enter anywhere else. The difference lies in their approach towards those informal channels of learning that constitute education in the real world. Yalies love to share. And they do so generously, despite incredible constraints on their time. Diversity yields no synergy in balkanization. An entire classroom sharing varied assortments of 16 yields more choices than one pack of 64.
One of our professors likes to hammer home this message in the first semester—you die with your options open. What makes Yale such a rich experience is the not just the facial diversity of its community, but its ability to facilitate the knowledge transfer that makes diversity such a compelling interest for schools, firms, and the state. Yale helps its students make informed decisions and stay informed as well. Although the means by which this is accomplished is often ad hoc, the school encourages students to proactively help each other rather than hoard indiscriminately for themselves alone.