Philosophy of Teaching
How one teaches, is necessarily influenced by what one perceives as the goals of legal education. Certainly, the primary goal is to prepare you to be effective lawyers, judges and policy makers. At a minimum, these goals include helping the student to develop the ability to:
think critically, precisely, and clearly;>
express his or her self succinctly;>
understand the expressions of others; particularly those who are different from his or her self;>
understand human nature, particularly the motivations and needs of his or her clients, opponents, jurors, judges, etc.;>
use the techniques of the legal profession to represent a client in general matters, to recognize where you lack competence, and to comply with accepted ethical standards>
While it is hardly arguable that preparing you to be an effective lawyer is an important goal, it is not the only one. Many of you will be law makers and policy makers, and training you to understand the values implicit in the law is an important goal. Another important goal is to train you to address in a systematic manner your social responsibilities as an individual lawyer and your collective responsibilities as a member of the bar. This includes a student's responsibility to assist the community in maintaining an accessible, effective and socially responsible legal system.
The primary focus of my teaching method is to provide you an educationally sound introduction to "Race and Racism in American Law". Furthermore, given the impact race and gender have on the law (and vice versa) my approach to teaching is to explore explicitly diversity issues as a component of all aspects of law.
A. Teaching Objective #1: Educationally Sound Pedagogy
An educationally sound legal pedagogy is a philosophy of legal education grounded in known educational theory. To be so grounded, an educationally sound legal pedagogy:
trains you to solve legal problems by providing you with working program for solving problems;
provides you with criteria for indicating specifically what progress you are making;
evaluates your performance in accordance with the criteria set;
provides you with the opportunity to practice each new skill throughout the learning process; and,
provides you with adequate instruction on how to study for law school and this course.
B. Teaching Objective #2: "Race and Racism in American Law" Teaching Objectives
Substantive law teaching objectives are those objectives that relate directly to the substantive area of the law. They can be divided into two categories: knowledge and skills/abilities. The objectives of this course are:
to provide you with a basic understanding of the structure of the legal system and how it impacts different individuals based on race;
to provide you information about selected principles of law (or black letter law) and significant issues (or unsettled matters) in race law;
to help you understand the value implications of legal choices and race law;
to help you develop and improve your analytical skills including understanding, issue-spotting, problem-solving, judgment and synthesis;
to help you to understand the importance of inference and intuition in problem definition and problem-solving; and
emphasize that "personal neutrality" is not necessary to scholarly objectivity.
C. Teaching Objectives #3: Bias-Conscious Legal Pedagogy
Class, disability, gender, race, religion and sexual preference issues are such an integral part of our society (and the legal profession) that we often overlook how the law affects individuals with different backgrounds differently. In a diverse society, such as ours, understanding of how different class, disability, gender race and sexual preference are affected differently by the law is essential. This is true whether the person is a defendant, plaintiff, lawyer, juror, judge or law student. Diversity skills should be a normative part of the value system of the practicing attorney. An education which is aware of diversity:
explores how racial, ethnic, gender, class, disability, cultural and sexual orientation are related to and impacted by the structure of law. In particular, it illuminates the connection between racial and gender issues and the values, interests, rules and theories that appear to be neutral but, are in fact a representation of the values of the dominant culture;>
broadly frames classroom discussion so that we step outside the doctrinal bounds of the law to critique the rules and legal practice; and,>
focuses discussion on problems, interests and values that reflect a broad range of perspectives .