A Field Trip to Benetton and Beyond: Some Thoughts on Outsider Narrative in a Law School Clinic
Clinical Law Review, Vol. 4, No. 109, 1997
21 Pages Posted: 22 Sep 2010 Last revised: 15 Dec 2012
Date Written: 1997
This essay explores the process of teaching students - and ourselves - to listen to and accept different versions of reality. Such exploration results in a proposition that is easy to state but difficult to accomplish: that in order to achieve this goal, we must challenge the students' "common sense” - their sense that they "know" how people act - by offering examples of behaviors that differ from that knowledge, without triggering the very "common sense" we are trying to combat. Toward this end, the first section of the essay presents a hypothetical initial interview with a client, and the student interviewer's reactions to her, which reflect the student's "common sense" understanding about the lives of people like his client. The second section compares the student's reactions to criticisms of the broader movement of "outsider narrative”, and concludes that the two reactions emanate from the same failure to acknowledge and integrate differences between the storyteller/client and the critic/student. The essay then explores the development of sexual harassment law to demonstrate how outsider narrative can change laws by challenging the entrenched common sense of the fact finder. Finally, the essay returns to the clinic and suggests having students read relevant fiction along with other outsider narrative as a way to reach the students' common sense understanding before it gets in the way of their ability to hear their clients' stories.
Keywords: 'Benetton Story', race, privilege, non-traditional families, sexual harassment
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation