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Monday, October 6, 2008

Teaching With Popper's Bordering on Madness

Popper_book Carolina Academic Press is issuing a second edition of Andrew F. Popper's novel Bordering on Madness:  An American Land Use Tale:

Bordering on Madness is a novel about a battle between a university and a community over proposed construction of a new campus facility. As the land use fight ripens, the homeowners and university become combatants. The opposition becomes the enemy, depersonalized and reprehensible.

From a teaching perspective, the novel allows for discussion of conventional and unconventional land use strategies as well as the development of a number of issues: When does one person have the right to control the lawful use of property owned by another? When does aggressive advocacy become unethical, unacceptable misconduct? What is the role of government when it comes to disputes between those opposed to development and those seeking approval of a proposed project? What are the best ways to handle the anger and frustration of individuals threatened by what they perceive as destructive change?

At the same time, CAP is publishing a companion casebook, co-authored by Popper and land-use experts Patty Salkin David Avitable:

Professor Andrew F. Popper’s new innovative casebook A Companion to Bordering on Madness: An American Land Use Tale delves into the legal, political, and strategic issues raised in his recent novel, Bordering on Madness, a tale about a university and a community who go to war over a building proposal.

Using the plot of the novel as a starting point, the Companion provides commentary as well as numerous edited cases and articles to discuss the conflict between those who seek to develop land and those who oppose that development.

“The notion of using fiction as a building block to teach a field is fairly common – but the idea of a casebook that addresses in depth the areas raised in a full-length novel is unique,” said Popper. “The novel touches on cutting-edge legal issues that could not be explored adequately. The Companion provides a wonderful opportunity to set out those issues and strategic challenges and explore the pertinent judicial decisions and scholarship in the field, something that cannot – and should not – be done with fiction.”

The story in the novel is a familiar one in higher education and many other fields. Battles between local residents and universities or other institutions are legendary and the novel and Companion build on one of those legends: the complex dispute some years ago between American University Washington College of Law and some of the surrounding residential communities over the construction of a new law school building.

“At any one time, throughout the United States, there are thousands of battles of this type,” Popper said. “Universities, hospitals, churches, commercial developers and even homeowners who want to put an addition onto their homes find quickly that owning land does not mean necessarily having the right to use land – even when those uses are perfectly consistent with the laws and regulations applicable to the subject property.”

Looks like a very innovative way of presenting these issues!

Ben Barros

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