Many readers and viewers wonder if John Osborn Jr. had someone special in mind when he created the imperious professor in his 1971 hit novel “The Paper Chase,” based on his Harvard Law School (HLS) years.The book centers on “Hart,” an eager young law student, and his tumultuous relationship with an austere contracts professor named “Kingsfield” (played to perfection in the 1973 film by actor John Houseman, who won the Academy Award for best supporting actor).With a careful reply, the author told HLS Dean Martha Minow and a crowd gathered at Austin Hall Thursday for a discussion about his book that the character was actually a composite of several people. But, he added, “It wasn’t like it was hard to find role models.”According to Osborn, a 1967 Harvard College and 1970 HLS graduate, 40 years ago the Law School had professors with stern classroom styles and zero tolerance for poorly prepared pupils. Based on that experience, Osborn crafted his curmudgeonly composite, one that has proved popular to generations of readers and moviegoers. The hit movie version, released in 1973, was soon followed by a popular TV series that aired for four seasons in the late ’70s and early ’80s.Minow, it turns out, is one of those many groupies. “I am a ‘Paper Chase’ fan. It influenced my life, my career — here I am,” said the HLS dean, who asked Osborn a series of questions, including why he wrote a novel while balancing the strenuous workload of a third-year law student.The decision was threefold, explained the author. At Harvard College, Osborn said he had wanted to pursue writing but was discouraged after being rejected from a poetry seminar by a teaching assistant who told him his poetry was terrible. He returned to writing at HLS in part as a “reaction against the status quo” — his feeling, he explained, that the School “glorified their teachers” over the students.I was learning “reciprocity in the contract class, and yet there was no reciprocity in the classroom,” said Osborn.In addition, the author said he chose to write as a way to “find another narrative” for himself, one that didn’t involve a large Wall Street firm after graduation. Later in the discussion, Osborn laughed while recalling how his fear of being sued over his book’s grim depictions of big-firm lawyers turned to utter surprise when they instead began to thank him for being included in his work.Osborn said Harvard’s William Alfred, a professor of English literature, helped him work on the narrative and suggested a number of publishers.In discussing the film, which he called an “almost literal transcription of the book,” Osborn said he worked closely with the movie’s noted cameraman, Gordon Willis of “The Godfather” fame, to help establish the imperious role of Kingsfield by including close-up shots of the gruff professor throughout the first part of the film. In addition, camera tricks and a movable set heightened the sense of distance between teacher and student. As the film progressed, Hart came increasingly into the foreground of the camera’s lens and was finally “right in the frame with Kingsfield,” on a par literally and figuratively with the stern professor, said Osborn.Reflecting on the choice of Houseman to portray the professor in the film, Osborn said the actor was the perfect fit. “He could be that way; it wasn’t a big stretch for him. He was used to being in control.”But when it came to the TV series, they had to modify the Kingsfield role to entice a weekly audience to keep watching. “You can’t have a guy who is just nasty through and through,” said Osborn. Instead, Houseman, who reprised the role for the series, offered viewers “a watered-down version” of Kingsfield for the small screen.Osborn also discussed his work teaching at the University of San Francisco’s School of Law. Instead of relying on the intimidating “cold call” process where a professor simply points to a student and waits for the response to a question, he has his pupils raise their hands, he said, as a way to get them to engage. “Students,” he said, “are not scared in my class.”Constitutional scholar and Osborn’s former professor Laurence Tribe said he thoroughly enjoyed the 40th anniversary event. “I loved this,” said Tribe, Harvard’s Carl M. Loeb University Professor. “He was a wonderful student in my seminar.”First-year HLS student John Wiest heard about “The Paper Chase” only after he was accepted to the School, and his parents made him watch the film. “I was pretty terrified,” said Wiest of his reaction to the movie. “But I had been here to visit, so I was assured that was not reality.”
All around the world students at schools and universities are preparing for year-end exams and graduations, and this time every year makes me think back on my own student days. The choices of programmes were way fewer, and the types of jobs to prepare for much clearer. It was nothing like the future today’s students will have to face.Where my generation is still often astonished at the impact of new technology, the younger generations are hyper connected. They navigate naturally in a world with voice assistance, self-driving cars, and not least information available at the touch of a screen. They leverage technology in everything they do and will demand the same level of innovation and personalisation at school and in their future jobs that they experience in their personal lives today.Although today’s technology changes and innovations present today’s businesses with interesting challenges, it will be even more challenging for our education system to adapt to the reality of tomorrow. How can teachers, schools and universities prepare our children for jobs that do not even exist yet? How can they help future generations make the shift from learning and storing information to digesting knowledge? How can they apply new technologies in the classroom and include both soft and hard skills?In a recent study – Realize 2030 – commissioned by Dell Technologies, 3,800 CxO business leaders from around the world shared their views on how they prepare for the future by working together with intelligent machines and new technologies in a so-called human-machine relationship. More than 42 percent believe they will get more job satisfaction by giving the most boring tasks to intelligent machines. And an impressive 82 percent of leaders expect humans and machines to work as integrated teams in their organisation within five years.What is even more interesting is that almost 60 percent say that our education system will need to change to teach students how to learn and how to digest information on the fly, rather than to continue to teach them facts and memorise data. This will be critical if we want to help students prepare for jobs that don’t even exist yet – taking into account that an incredible 85 percent of jobs that are likely to exist in 2030 haven’t been invented yet.According to a recent article in Harvard Business Review, the next generation will need to work in teams even more than today and increasingly integrate solutions and components from other teams in their own work. To do so seamlessly, they will need a strong set of soft skills ranging from creativity and adaptability to interpersonal skills. An open, inclusive and culturally aware mindset will prove invaluable as boundaries between companies and nationalities blur and crowdsourcing play an ever-increasing role.Future new technologies will not only provide the next generation with some incredible opportunities, it will also push their ethical boundaries and present them with difficult choices of how far they can and should go. Hence, a strong ethical foundation bundled with increased technological understanding will be key. In order to offer students the right set of hard skills and stimulate them to feel comfortable in a technology-heavy world, schools need to immerse students in a broad range of computer science domains from an early age. It is critical to secure at least some basic technological understanding, but clearly even better to help students discover a higher level of passion for technology – ranging from robotics to computational mathematics such as statistics, probability and logic.From what I have seen when travelling around the region, the future of our next generation is bright. More and more educational institutions already make use of new technologies that are available, providing students with great insight into what the future holds. But we can do better – I still see an increased opportunity and an important role for Artificial Intelligence (AI), Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) at the schools of tomorrow.With mobile VR, students would have the world at their fingertips. A VR history class could transport students to anywhere in the world and offer them an immersive history lesson without leaving the classroom, thus democratising knowledge and allowing children from all social classes access to the same experiences. Medical students could use the technology and VR videos of real-life surgery to practice steps of surgery in detail, and it could give architect and design students an instant virtual view of their projects. With AR, static images in books can be brought to life and bring an extra dimension to the learning experience.If today’s educational sector continues to utilise the available technologies with a strong focus on teaching soft collaborative skills combined with the right set of hard digital skills, they can offer tomorrow’s data-driven workforce everything needed to start their professional life – in jobs that are yet to be created.As the exam season nears I wish all students the best of luck with their exams – and the rest of us congratulations on a much better educated and technology savvy workforce of tomorrow.
The Women Business Owners Network (WBON) welcomes 16 new members.Lisa Dagett, The UPS Store #4618; Linda Doty, Vermont By the Bushel; Sarah Forbes, Sarah Forbes Design; Sue Gillis, Vermont Woman; Bonnie Horsford, Universal Mortgage; Doris Kopp, Granny Blossom’s Specialty Foods & Marketing, Inc; Dr. Maria Kowalchyk-DeVito, De Vito Associates; Joan Lynch, The Inner Garden; Elizabeth Meyer, Child Care Resource; Catherine Miller, Education Consultant; Linda Mirabile, Mirabile Designs; Michelle Parent, Child Care Resource; Joanne Patalano, Eservices of Vermont, Web Designer – Database Developer – Computer Instructor; Cheryl Pickreign, Vermont Economic Development Authority; Pamela Scanlon, Athena Consulting; Emily Stebbins, Stebbins Ink;Womens Business Owners Network (WBON) is a Vermont-based non-profit association for women business owners. Since 1984, WBON has been offering a forum for members to exchange information and resources in an atmosphere of mutual respect.For more information, go to www.wbon.org(link is external) or call 802-363-WBON.