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Tarot Deck To Use (Together with an Ordinary Deck) for Calling Randomly on Students:

A reader asked me which deck I finally decided on.

Unfortunately, I couldn't find any that had a legal motif or a crime motif; but I did come across an Oz deck — the land, not the HBO show — that looked cute and that reminded me of reading the books when I was a child. (I read the books in Russian, so much of what I read may have been the purely Russian sequels; I can't remember for certain.) So that's what I decided to use: I passed around a normal card deck and the Oz deck, and students picked any card to sign; now, to choose a student to call on, I just pick a card at random.

Thanks to all who offered suggestions for possible decks — and if any of you can find a good source for Mexican Loteria cards (whether online or in some store in L.A.), please let me know, since those also struck me as potentially fun for future classes.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Tarot Deck To Use (Together with an Ordinary Deck) for Calling Randomly on Students:
  2. Looking for Cute Tarot Deck To Use for Calling Randomly on Students:
Syd Henderson (mail):
Eugene, an Oz Tarot would be something I would like to have. Where did you find it?
8.29.2007 8:59pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
At the Bodhi Tree store in L.A., but I expect it's available on amazon and elsewhere online.
8.29.2007 9:08pm
Arvin (mail) (www):
Given the controversy when you first posted on your intentions to do this, are you comfortable reporting on the reaction and/or the breakdown of normal to tarot card signing?
8.29.2007 9:21pm
guest (mail):
Print your own http://www.plaincards.com/
8.29.2007 9:38pm
dr:
other than the one loteria deck available through amazon, i believe that the (very good) burrito joint in the 3rd street farmer's market goes by the name of loteria. if i'm not mistaken, you can sometimes buy the cards there...
8.29.2007 11:05pm
JohnO (mail):
I think you should have gotten a normal deck of cards, donned a cavalry hat, and slowly walked around the classroon tossing cards at each student, calling out the card like Robert Duvall in Apocalypse Now.
8.29.2007 11:11pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
I had the same question Arvin did... roughly speaking, what's the break down of regular to tarot card takers? And were there any significant objections?

JohnO, AWESOME suggestion.
8.29.2007 11:27pm
Waldensian (mail):
Of course, you could skip the Socratic method entirely, eliminating the need for calling randomly on students.

I'm certainly ready to sit corrected, but I'm not aware of any actual evidence that the Socratic method is more effective than "regular" lecturing for teaching law. I have long suspected that it survives in law schools largely because it fills the same role as fraternity hazing.

I could be wrong about that, of course, but I suspect my opinion has precisely as much evidentiary support as opinions that the Socratic method is effective (i.e., no support whatsoever).

You could take the half step of assigning seats and then calling on students sequentially, based on where they sit in the classroom. That would save you money on Tarot cards and other equally silly things. One of my professors did exactly that, and surprisingly enough we learned the law and the world didn't end. In fact, I think he was the best professor I ever had.
8.29.2007 11:29pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Arvin, PatHMV: Sure; I'm not at the office, so I don't have a precise count, but it was basically over 70 tarot cards and under 10 playing cards. My guess is that most students found the Oz cards to be more fun.
8.29.2007 11:48pm
scote (mail):

Arvin, PatHMV: Sure; I'm not at the office, so I don't have a precise count, but it was basically over 70 tarot cards and under 10 playing cards. My guess is that most students found the Oz cards to be more fun.

And how many students ran out of the class in fear of their souls?

(I'm going to guess, none.)
8.29.2007 11:55pm
SenatorX (mail):
Hah what a timely card! I wish I could believe you posted that very image to mock the federal reserve...
8.30.2007 12:17am
LM (mail):
EV,

I'm glad, but not surprised you weren't deterred by the moralizing conformity police.
8.30.2007 12:23am
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
For real fun:

Pick a card, call on a student. Replace card on top of deck.

Shuffle deck once or twice, the portion taken from the top is larger, so that its last few cards remain on top of the deck. The student's card is thus still atop the deck.

Cut the deck. Hold it in your left hand and cut with your right. But let the fingers of your left curl around the deck, and grip tightly the top card, so that it remains on top. Then take what you have cut with your right -- which looks as if it were to top half of the deck -- and put it on the bottom.

Draw the top card, and show that you have drawn the same student twice, and demand that they perform again.

This can be repeated ad infinitem. Caveat: at some point you will cross the line into intentional infliction of emotional distress.
8.30.2007 12:25am
Syd Henderson (mail):
Be careful what you wish for. This site
http://www.aeclectic.net/tarot/cards/
has some 800 tarot decks, including the Oz ones, some traditional ones, a lot of new age ones. I like the pseudo-Japanese ones and the Wonderland Tarot as well as the Oz Tarot.
8.30.2007 3:54am
WWJRD (mail):
EV:
How nice you went with a particularly California deck of cards -- Goyish looking friend of Dorthy anyone? -- and steered clear of the Death/occult/Tarot cards.

I'm sure those 10 students who chose the more traditional cards were happy to tolerate the Professor who still has young children, and had to grow up so fast in his that he misses all the fun and games of social peers.

Now good luck keeping the class concentrated on the classroom material, and don't steer too much off into La-La Land, even in a California state school they're not there for your personal interests! And remember, just because some might say you're a super smartie, lots of folks agree that the super smarties rarely are the best teachers. They may know a lot, but they can't deliver it to the audience as effectively as better teachers can.


Just curious:
I'm sure it was a fun-loving boy after your own heart who chose that pretty blonde Dorthy card eh? The fool! Coveting what he is not, but if he breeds properly ... oh the bloodline!
8.30.2007 8:46am
Patrick216:
Regarding some of the comments about the Socratic method,

I only had a few professors in law school who used the "traditional" Socratic method. Most either sequentially called on students or had voluntary-only participation rules. One or two professors just lectured and took time for questions.

I felt that, on balance, all of those methods were equally effective. The upside to the random Socratic method was that the fear of public humiliation served as an effective motivator to actually do the reading in advance of the class. However, a significant downside to the Socratic approach was the tendency of the professors to lose control of the class. Too frequently, the classes tended to devolve into discussions over esoteric points, which caused the professor to fall behind.

The more lecture and voluntary participation-oriented classes tended to cover more material and stay on track. However, I saw two downsides to that approach. First, there was less incentive to properly prepare for the class. Second, I thought I tended to focus too much on taking notes rather than really trying to engage the material during class.
8.30.2007 10:51am
Waldensian (mail):
Patrick216, your experiences pretty much mirrored mine.

I certainly think it would be hard to claim that the Socratic method is MORE effective than the other methods. Since the Socratic method largely depends upon the threat of -- and often devolves into -- public humiliation of students, which I view as a bad thing, I think it ought to have at least some demonstrable advantages over other methods.

Of course, if one takes the view that instilling fear in, and fostering public humiliation of, law students is a positive good, then the Socratic method would be superior. However, at that point, I think the line between teaching and fraternity hazing has been crossed. :)
8.30.2007 11:14am
Dave N (mail):
The other problem with the Socratic method is that often-times instructors are VERY BAD at it. So in those situations you end up with badly phrased questions followed by incoherent answers--and most students looking around thinking, "What the f---?"

My best professor skipped the Socratic method completely. His style was to spend the first 10 minutes talking about what he lectured on the previous class--and then lecturing on new material the remainder of the class.

Another professor had my favorite all time line for teaching--and something I am sure most of the conspirators would agree with: "I teach for free. They pay me to grade."
8.30.2007 12:10pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
There's always a risk with levity in class -- some students might enjoy it, while others might think it a distraction, undignified, or even childish. My sense is that with this particular bit of levity, quite a few people found it fun, so I'm willing to run the risk. But of course it's hard to tell for sure, since most students are unlikely to express either their enjoyment of this or their condemnation of it.

And I have not the foggiest idea of what the odd references to breeding, bloodlines, or "Goyish looking" might mean.
8.30.2007 1:41pm
A2 Reader:
Can I infer, Gene, that you are a fan of the OZ on HBO? Such an intense, well made show -- a shame it never received its due notoriety.
8.30.2007 3:07pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
A2 Reader: No, never watched it.
8.30.2007 3:39pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
You can always print out Lalo Alcaraz's comic strips and get them transferred onto playing cards. He's been doing a lot of "Loteria" lately, featuring characters from the American political system and the immigration debate. (I suppose it is possible that Alcaraz may actually put together a Loteria deck with his cartoons; I don't know.)
8.30.2007 4:18pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Got back to my office, and counted the cards -- 76 Oz, 6 plain deck.
8.30.2007 4:45pm
Spartacus (www):
Shame the Socratic method is viewed by so many as some sort of hazing--I actually enjoyed it. But then again, I wasn't one of the majority in many of my classes who felt that being expected to comprehend, consider, and intelligently answer a complex question in a semi-public setting in a limited time was something that they should not be expected to do, and was therefore only a form of torture; I thought it was a fun challenge. What boring cowards so many of those students were.
8.30.2007 4:50pm
SenatorX (mail):
Here :

http://tinyurl.com/po8q8

"Political interpretations of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz"

Silver slippers! Anyway I think that's Larry Kudlow.
8.30.2007 5:55pm
Waldensian (mail):

But then again, I wasn't one of the majority in many of my classes who felt that being expected to comprehend, consider, and intelligently answer a complex question in a semi-public setting in a limited time was something that they should not be expected to do, and was therefore only a form of torture; I thought it was a fun challenge. What boring cowards so many of those students were.

You must have been really popular in law school.
8.30.2007 6:04pm
Spartacus (www):
Waldensian—not particularly. I didn't know law school was a popularity contest. I was however, and remain, well-liked by the many with whom I got along.
8.31.2007 1:17am
David Chesler (mail) (www):
scote asked And how many students ran out of the class in fear of their souls?

Some, probably most, students experience was enhanced by this levity. The question isn't how many left, but how many were made to feel needlessly uncomfortable.

In that other discussion we left off with scote asking me Why not run it past a strictly observant Ultra Orthodox Jew? ... Running a question past the most orthodox religious tenants is not a valid way of testing the reasonableness of a proposition. The very simple is I didn't have any social engagements with any during the time the discussion was active. Nor would it have added any value. The question wasn't "Do you have a problem with this?" the question was "Why do you have a problem with this?" and it was, as I'd thought, not that he felt messing with them could raise up Satan, but that they were tools of a religion which is prohibited to him.

Tarot cards were invented for playing card games. Should tea be banned from EV's class because some people use it for divination?

We went over that. Tea does not have that connotation. Maybe in a generation, when Tarot cards have replaced the Socratic method in all the best law schools, and they are again being used in America, with modern motifs, to play Tarocchio they will have lost that connotation, just as Halloween is (to most people, though not to the individual I'd mentioned) only a holiday for kids to dress up and get candy.

Has anyone ever, in this thread used a more vacuous comparison than to suggest that a deck of playing cards is somehow comparable to an instructor killing a live bunny rabbit in class? (BTW, IIRC that scene is from a Disney anti-Nazi propaganda cartoon where a caricature of a German Nazi school teacher kills the bunny to convert German children into wicked killers. Nice comparison. No the shoe does not fit.)

It has one element in common, and I made that clear, that it would be appropriate in that context (teaching soldiers what it means to kill in person), but while permissible, it would not be appropriate in many others. As far as I know, the FOAF who told the story was in the US armed forces. Of course you don't think using Tarot cards is that inappropriate; substitute your own example of something that would be permissible but inappropriate. If you can't think of any, that's why you haven't understood the objection.

Apparently Godwin's Law was demonstrated, because that's where the comments closed.
8.31.2007 9:33am