Someone told me that somebody crashed the Section3 Wiki site. Apparently, reports of its death were greatly exaggerated, although I'm disappointed that nobody's added any outlines recently.
Looking back 4 years, I have to say that our Section 3 was a truly interesting and progressive bunch. As a kind of blast from the past, I thought I'd repost our manifesto. Plus, because I've picked up extra trial cases for next week (trial partner is very sick again), I don't have tons of time to blog with. How's that for a realist perspective? Not that I've been doing much besides watching movies with PDs and trying to limit my own sickness via copious amounts of western medicine. Oh - I ate some alligator and saw a couple of fem. punk bands. That was cool. But here's the manifesto. It's always good to kick the tires:
RETHINKING the LEGAL CURRICULUM:
Does Section 3 go far enough?
American legal culture is plagued by seemingly intractable problems, of which hierarchy, bias, and ideological paralysis are just a few. These problems (which reflect and perpetuate a larger capitalist, racist, sexist, speciesist, ageist, imperialist culture) are replicated in and by law schools, which inculcate and indoctrinate law students into this evil hegemonic empire. The alienation, marginalization and infantilazation of students is a particular problem of hierarchical legal classrooms, and so student empowerment must be a necessary part of any larger reform project.
In light of this, we affirm the necessity of our alternative curriculum, and we affirm its success on many levels. We recognize that the curriculum reflects a variety of voices and agendas, and that we are only able to advance the following critique due to the education it has given us. Our criticisms and suggestions come from a place of love, solidarity, and support for the community which bore this project and which has encouraged its growth and acceptance.
As a collective of students in one section of one law school in the U.S., we realize that our reformist reach is very local, at least for now. We begin where we are, as students in the longest-running attempt at an alternative vision of what law school, and hence the legal profession, might be. In order to remain fluid, flexible, and free from institutional constraints we believe that an informal, anti-establishment, "underground" mobility is necessary. By refusing to be co-opted into committees, boards, or administrative-based initiatives, we reserve the right to change course, change leadership, change tactics, and change our minds. This dynamism is the only way to keep from becoming another frozen wing of legal reality. Our goals are and must remain concrete; though dialogue is central to our mission it will not replace substantive change.
We believe that for Curriculum B to remain meaningful, it also must retain a skeptical and critical stance, that it must be a permanent revolution in legal education. In the spirit of dynamic collaboration and cooperation we offer our own perspectives on the ways in which Curriculum B might grow.
We want to build on the sense of community already present in Curriculum B by organizing collective sources of student power and refusing to compartmentalize our lived experience and goals for future social change as something incidental to our legal education.
Curriculum B is centered on a Legal Realist critique of Classical Legal Thought. The overt inclusion of Realist critique and analysis into the first year classroom is a radical step forward in a time when Langdellian categories and methods still rule curricula at almost every law school. In de-naturalizing the Classical Liberal categories, however, many of the professors still cling to formalistic and categorical techniques. Critiquing white, male, classical liberal thought from a white, male, leftist perspective is not sufficient. Having a one-class conversation about feminist theory and critical race theory is insufficient. Having no professors of color save one small-section leader is insufficient. The paucity of voices from the bottom -- from perspectives of poverty or minority status -- in our classrooms and in our syllabi must be addressed.
The curriculum purports to be integrative, but in fact disenfranchises poor, women and minority voices by excluding them from the central narrative about law. Students and teachers are let off the hook from having to seriously engage in critiques of our basic legal structure, which allows for such oft-heard comments as "Feminism is interesting, but it's not jurisprudence."
Despite the progress Curriculum B represents, it still forefronts and reacts to the Classical Liberal categories, painting such "outside" critiques from gender, race, or class as exceptional, deviant, about something other than Jurisprudence. Most of our professors still hide behind the mask of neutrality -- their presentation of deconstruction purports to flatten differences between positions, revealing each of them as equally indeterminate and equally available for our adoption. This problematic "neutralization" of profoundly important political positions represents a disempowering and demoralizing way to present the realist critique, depriving it of real political force.
We are still primarily using the Langdellian method of reading appellate and Supreme Court cases, hearing the voices of the powerful describe the lives of the powerless, shutting out the voices of the parties themselves. We often read these cases in isolation from the specific social and political dynamics which gave rise to them, which reduces our engagement to the purely theoretical, or to issues of black letter law. While we acknowledge that case-reading is an important skill, we question whether it must be the backbone of nearly every class to the exclusion of other texts.
In addition to seeking changes in substantive elements, we also advocate for further refinements to the pedagogical structure of Curriculum B.
We seek a greater change in hierarchical classroom dynamics, one aspect of which is looking for creative solutions to the problem of equitably and accurately evaluating our understanding of legal issues. The old model of a single three hour exam, graded all but arbitrarily and against one's classmates, is so ineffective as to be offensive. We require more feedback, more opportunity for discussion, more disruption, more dialogue, and methods of evaluation which do not foster unhealthy competition.
We need a tutorial program that is meaningful and challenging. The Legal Practice class contains great potential for small-group learning and honing skills useful in advocacy (i.e., in actual practice), but that opportunity is wasted with an unfocused, corporate approach.
Above all, students must be able to offer true critiques to professors so that we may work together to find the most effective pedagogical methods. It seems obvious that existing methods, traditional or no, employed by the vast majority of other law schools or no, should be critically evaluated and jettisoned in favor of other models if they produce negative effects, or fail to maximize the student's learning experience.
As students must be empowered to be lawyers who will challenge the existing social order, student engagement with substantive and pedagogical development in legal education is both inevitable and desirable. Creating spaces and supporting students who do this is important, but it must be better integrated into the law school experience, not ghettoized into "public interest" programs and the like. Both the positive and negative experiences of law school carry into the legal profession as a whole; if we seek to address pressing issues for the legal profession such as corruption, alcohol and substance abuse, job dissatisfaction, moral relativism, myopic advocacy, and self-centeredness, we ought to begin at the beginning.