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Sunday, August 30, 2020

Should Any Words Be Categorically "Eliminated" from "Legal Pedagogy?"

The answer, I think, is "no." But apparently opinions may vary.* 

I should think it is neither possible nor wise to categorically "eliminate" particular words from legal or any other form of pedagogy. Of course there are many words one might choose not to use in teaching. Given that I teach constitutional law, sometimes including free speech, and legal ethics, I am a little surprised by the words I have not used in my classes. My choices are influenced by many factors. Certainly sensitivity to the views and needs of my students is one of them, although it's not necessarily dispositive. Not begging for trouble is probably another factor, although I try not to let it be. A major point of tenure is to ensure that when the choice is between avoiding trouble and making an independent academic judgment about what teaching or scholarship require, one chooses the latter. (The same is true before tenure, at least for good professors and good institutions. It certainly should be.) Like most things in pedagogy, those decisions, whether they turn out to be right or wrong, are contextual, particularized, and multivarious. What else could they be?   

*[In fairness, although the language in the title of the post is apparently the exact language that a law school dean used (albeit the story is from Above the Law), she did not say precisely what she meant by it. It is far from clear to me that a dean in a public law school could order that any particular word be "eliminated" from "legal pedagogy" at his or her institution, and pretty clear--at least I think it is--that most professors would, at a minimum, politely ignore such an order.]

Posted by Paul Horwitz on August 30, 2020 at 10:32 AM in Paul Horwitz | Permalink

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