Tuesday, July 18, 2017
Of interest to bloggers and listserv members. A blog or listserv may have a special topic. What should its policy be in considering postings that may wander from that topic? At our blog, were are not strict. Recently, at the LRWProf listserv, some members engaged in a dialogue on baseball issues, which some readers felt went too far afield from the listserv’s topic. In response, Professor Deborah Borman wrote the following. I repost it her with her permission:
I understand being aggravated by a thread on a topic that does not pertain to particular, individual interests. I personally found the thread fascinating, learned many things I did not know, and forwarded it to a non-lawyer, non-professor, baseball-expert friend who admitted that he learned something he did not know from this thread. I certainly don’t want to pick on you or anyone, either, but I do feel compelled to defend the contributors and respond to the themes you raise in your note, i.e., “directly related to the field,” and “closely tied to teaching.”
The Legal Writing Institute is a unique organization of writing professors comprising professors with a wide spectrum of knowledge and a large variety of interests. As I’m sure you are aware, LWI was born out of the necessity to recognize law school writing programs as vital to legal education, as well as to advocate for equity in salary, security, and promotion. Without reviewing the whole history here (there are others on this list far more equipped to do so than I), LWI and this listserv creates a space for sharing our materials, our opinions, newly enacted laws, and relevant concerns about current events, among many other things.
Our lives as professional colleagues and our teaching of legal analysis do not occur in a vacuum. We talk to each other about our dreams and goals. We craft student assignments to reflect current events and to integrate legal/social problems, in the hopes that our students will not only learn to analyze and communicate a profound legal analysis, but also to reflect on their individual roles within society. As you know, legal work at its finest, inter alia, addresses and rectifies unfair advantages, provides a voice to unequal parties, sorts and mediates disputes. To this extent baseball is directly related to the field.
Many of us love sports, and especially love baseball. Some of us craft assignments, illustrations, and analogies to baseball to teach aspects of legal analysis. Baseball has rules and exceptions, not unlike statutes and common law. Baseball is not only a game, but also a beloved summer pastime, a unique American obsession, and a business replete with legal issues and controversy. Baseball has heroes and villains, plaintiffs and defendants, employers and employees, all relevant to the legal system and to our teaching. Baseball is closely tied to teaching.
Baseball also has a long and hard history or racism, sexism, institutional bullying, and dishonest transactions. These are the intractable social problems that we hope to bring to the attention of our students, as they prepare for a life in the law as advocates for the underserved and the corporate client, as well as to become agents for the courts in the complicated array of local, state, and federal justice systems.
In my opinion, this discussion is entirely relevant to our goals, our hopes, and our teaching. I learn more from these discussions than from the "me too" emails, as in, "send me a syllabus" or "tell me how to teach contract drafting." If you are not a baseball fan and do not respond favorably to the stories or the analogies (or the abundant stats) perhaps skip these threads. I skip threads on topics that are not of interest to me.