Canadian Law Faculties ‘Like Psychotic Kindergartens”

“Psychotic kindergartens.” According to this piece from, Robert Martin, professor of law, emeritus, at the University of Western Ontario used this term and the term “feminist seminary” to describe Canadian law faculties. Martin’s article, in the October 2009 edition of the scholarly journal Interchange, is behind a paywall. I have not read it, but thought it worth pointing to nonetheless.


  1. Wow. Talk about your “cranky old man.” The very first page of the article is available online and reveals far too much about Professor Martin’s… world view. Herewith some excerpts from that page:

    People arrive at university after completing lengthy processes, which we call education, of idiotisation and moronification. They have also spent years immersed in a barbarous popular culture which is, in my view, vulgar, coarse, and infantile.

    Each fall a horde of illiterate, ignorant cretins enters Canada’s universities. A few years later, they all move on, just as illiterate, just as ignorant, and rather more cretinous, but now armed with bits of paper which most of them are probably not able to read called degrees

    Note that the Guardian writer who did a piece on this screed is the editor of the “Annals of Improbable Research and organiser of the Ig Nobel prize.” Shame on Springer for publishing a stupid rant.

  2. Simon Chester linked to the article in his roundup of diverse legal publishing events lately on Slaw, and there was no paywall since the link was to the original Canadian publication.

    Professor Martin is not an happy individual.

  3. David Cheifetz

    Consider the conclusion to the piece:

    Current levels of homelessness are a disgrace in a country as wealthy as Canada. I have a two-step plan for freeing Canada at once of two major social ills. This is the plan.

    Step One: Close every law faculty in Canada; and
    Step Two: Hand the premises of the former law faculties over to homeless people.

    The books in the law libraries would serve a much more socially useful function as cooking fuel than they do being gawped at by illiterate students.

    Let’s be realistic – putting aside the question of whether he’s underestimating the number of homeless – what self-respecting homeless person would want to move to the York U campus?

  4. What I find so sad about this rant is that a person who spent much of his life in a law school now sees what he did as worthless. My own experience at U of T was mostly very happy and satisfying with wonderful students to challenge me; and that’s the case with the Osgoode students I now teach. I look forward to continuing to teach for as long as I can and any law school will let me.

  5. Wow. I’m glad I never had this guy when I went to Western seven years ago!

    As a Western alumnus, I can honestly say that the quality of education I received there was very good. The profs were very knowledgeable, and always took the time to answer your questions. Many of my classmates were extremely intelligent and hardworking people. One of whom was a 55 year old grandmother who went back to school. She is now in practice and we have been friends ever since.

    No, they are not “ignorant cretins” as Mr. Martin would suggest. While some of them can’t research very well, I would say they are eventually smart enough to realize what they don’t know, and many (but not all) take action to get help from us.

    To be sure, the fees are high, but that is only a reflection of the fact that in many cases, you will make very good money when you leave.

    To Mr. Cheifetz, the York campus may not be the greatest, but the law school is very good!

  6. David Cheifetz

    Mr. Perlin,

    You missed the joke. Spend a few moments and look at my \pedigree\. I’m not anonymous, nor (entirely) unknown.

  7. MacLean’s reads Slaw … well, a MacLean’s writer does. The June 7/10 issue, on p. 58, has an article about Martin’s piece. The last paragraph mentions Slaw and Simon C.

    “… while Simon Chester, who blogs on the well-read dismissed Martin’s words as “hyperbolic rant,” a point that most seem to agree on. Talk about your cranky old man,” wrote one commenter on the site.”

  8. I spotted the piece by Kate Lunau in Macleans yesterday and have just found what appears to be an online copy of Martin’s (15 page) article. As a non-lawyer whose education in law has been acquired mainly as a self-represented litigant – that is, preparing for and actually appearing in the courtroom – I long ago came to conclusions about the entire Canadian injustice industry that Martin’s “rant” supports.

    The legal profession / establishment is afflicted with a severe and chronic schizophrenia. This is essentially because it has failed to adapt to a rapidly changing world. It wants to hold on to what was once a fortress that now looks increasingly like a house of cards.

    Over the course of a decade I have faced quite a collection of barristers and adjudicators, and I have nothing good to report. The entire system of courts and tribunals is a disgrace. It betrays rather than serves the public interest, and many people inside the system clearly know that, but hardly anyone has the courage to speak out about it.

    The Canadian press corp is fully complicit in the silence that keeps the public ignorant about the truth. Professional journalists though are another threatened species. Both lawyers and journalists work with one principle tool – language. John Ralston Saul thoroughly explained what’s going on in “Voltaire’s Bastards” and “The Unconscious Civilization”. Lewis Carroll could not have done better than the Canadian juristocracy’s “clearly irrational standard”, which they eventually confessed they couldn’t really explain. They should take Saul’s advice and look in the mirror. They are the “clearly irrational standard”.

  9. The Maclean’s piece was also brought to my attention today. I read Martin’s article when it first came out and was not impressed at that time. I contacted the journal on January 18 about some errors Martin made in the piece about the operation of Law is Cool. I also stated,

    Even ex-professors of law can apparently get things wrong too. Perhaps we can divert their pension funds to the homeless as well.

  10. If nothing else, Martin’s article in Interchange made me laugh.

  11. Professor Martin’s peppery critique of university education, and legal education in particular, is full of I’ll-impress-you-with-my-erudition discourse to mask the hole at the center of his argument. He attempts to sell his discomfort with uppity feminists and misguided social engineers by blaming them for the sad state of educational quality. He might just as well have blamed global warming.

    Even here in the U.S., we recognize that things were much better when we men ran the universe…ity. Who needs evidence?