TortsProf Blog

Editor: Christopher J. Robinette
Widener Commonwealth Law School

Monday, March 13, 2006

Another Humanizing Torts Story; Also a Timing Issue

David DeWolf of Gonzaga was kind enough to point me towards his Chronicle of Higher Education piece relevant to the ongoing issue about humanizing the teaching of Torts.  Again, it's a short piece and I urge you to go read the whole piece; briefly, it connects both his own personal story and that of a student.  He concludes:

And I’m not sure that a little bit of levity is out of place. Just as a surgical team’s repartee may help distract them from the disorienting closeness of the mystery of life and death, we who teach law weave in and out of the mysteries of love and suffering, parenthood and death. Sometimes humor is a means of keeping us on the surface of something that we fear might otherwise drown us. The intimacy we experience with our students must be treated with respect, but also with the same astonishment at our own absurdity that the intimacy of sexuality evokes.

I am entirely convinced that the reminder that the articles all suggest -- that every case involves a person and a family and (often) a tragedy -- is appropriate, and I'm glad I did that this year.  I am now trying to consider the timing of that.  My assignment of Dead Sorrow was three-quarters of the way through the school year.  (The evening section of Torts at WNEC is a full-year four-credit course, while the day section is one-semester, also four-credit.) 

That seemed about right, timing-wise, but I expect I'll try to make it an ongoing thread in the course in the future.  I wonder, though, if focusing on that too much too early might create some cognitive dissonance.  Especially early in the first year, we're focusing on analytically separating relevant facts from irrelevant facts and making evaluations based on those facts.  Is there a danger of confusing or disrupting that learning process by emphasizing the human identity behind those facts?

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