ContractsProf Blog

Editor: Jeremy Telman
Oklahoma City University
School of Law

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Thoughts on Curricular Reform V: A Coordinated Curriculum and Academic Freedom

PilloryAs I have mentioned in previous posts. one way to make it possible to integrate real, concentrated skills training across the curriculum without hiring a score of new legal writing and skills training instructors is to have doctrinal faculty and legal writing and skills training faculty work with doctrinal faculty to build a coordinated curriculum.  I think a consequence of this decision would have to be the eventual development of custom-made teaching materials and the rejection of traditional, subject-based casebooks.  My own experience in putting together my own materials for many of the courses I teach is that one can save the students 70-80% of the costs associated with buying course materials by simply putting together materials using legal materials in the pubic domain and exercises of one's own design.

This is a difficult task, and as the third post in this series suggested, part of the costs of such change would be those of re-training a faculty hired to teach a traditional curriculum so that they could become effective teachers of an integrated curriculum.  But there is another potential problem.  What of academic freedom?  What if the faculty members don't want to change?

One option would be the whipping post and the pillory (pictured).

According to the AAUP Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom, instructors are "entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing their subject, but they should be careful not to introduce into their teaching controversial matter which has no relation to their subject."  Read broadly, as I believe it should be, this means that an instructors' determination about how best to deliver her material to her students need not bow to an institutional curriculum with which she does not agree.  The reason for this braod construction of academic freedom is that, if tenured faculty could be disciplined or terminated for not teaching in a certain way, their perceived departure from institutional pedagogical norms could become the purported grounds for a termination that is in fact motivated by other, impermissible considerations, such as political views, dogged opposition to the law school or university administration, age, race, sexual preference, etc.  A new curriculum cannot become the means by which the law school rids itself of inconvenient colleagues.

Ideally, with adequate faculty vetting, discussion, participation and buy-in, the transition from a traditional curriculum to an integrated curriculum could go smoothly.  In many institutions that attempt to transformation, however, the transition to a new curriculum will likely have to take place slowly, perhaps piece-meal.  If only the torts professors are willing to coordinate with the legal writing and skills training programs, then only that part of the curriculum will be coordinated.  If the program is clearly a success and the students clamor for greater integration, then perhaps the more recalcitrant professors can slowly be won over.  


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I think I see the problem now. Cutting costs is just not a good enough reason to use legal materials in the pubic domain. That is really a domain where they don't belong.

Ha! I slay myself. Thanks for pointing out the blog posts, though, Jeremy. I enjoyed them thoroughly, and I hope this is a blip.

Posted by: David Butler | Dec 26, 2012 3:18:48 PM