First Year Law Teaching asPolitical Action*
To suggest, as the title does, that teaching first year law stu-dents is a form of political action may seem like a joke; perhaps,if one is sufficiently hostile to the law/academic milieu, an ob-scene joke. Reading the title, I think of Milovan Djilas, whowondered whether it was legitimate to emphasize as greatly ashe did the way in which political activists in pre-War Yugoslaviawithstood police torture.
My thoughts turn also to politicalstruggles in Chile and Argentina. Obviously, teaching first year law students bears only an oblique relationship, if any, to politi-cal action of that dimension and intensity.It is also true, however, that our situation as members of theAmerican academic intelligentsia bears little relation to that of the intellectual community in those countries. I persist, there-fore, in exploring the possibility that what we do—teachinglaw—is or could be a form of political action.My comments are intended as a proposal to law schoolteachers who have tenure. Untenured teachers should consider my views as a set of suggestions about what to do if tenure isever acquired.I propose that we develop our first year courses into system-atic embodiments of our views about the present and future or-ganization of social life. In particular, we should teach our stu-dents that bourgeois or liberal legal thought is a form of mystification. We should teach our students to understand thecontradictions of that thought, and we should make utopian pro- posals to them about how to overcome those contradictions.I have encountered two quite different lines of objection tomy proposal. I will call them the Green Critique and the BlueCritique.
* Speech presented at the Second National Conference on Critical Legal Studies,Madison, Wisconsin, November 10, 1978.** Professor of Law, Harvard University.1. M.
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