Positive Disruption: Addressing Race in a Time of Social Change Through a Team-Taught, Reflection-Based, Outward-Looking Law School Seminar
21 U. Pa. J. L. & Soc. Change 121 (2018)
33 Pages Posted: 7 Apr 2017 Last revised: 30 Oct 2018
Date Written: April 7, 2017
Addressing race in the legal classroom has long been a potentially disruptive, even professionally hazardous, act. Despite multiple innovations in the legal curriculum, the decades-long discussion regarding racial inclusion in law schools has led us to the same, largely race-avoidant, place. Now, as we navigate a tumultuous period in which issues of marginalization, structural oppression, and active movement are occupying a prominent space, the need to respond to the growing demands of marginalized communities as well as students’ desires to deepen their understanding of racial injustice is even more pressing. This Article contributes to the literature addressing the inclusion of race in the law school curriculum by providing an analysis of one race-focused course, the Critical Race Reading Seminar (CRRS), developed and taught by a group of professors at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law.
The CRRS is designed to be a source of positive disruption in the legal academy in several ways. Unlike the traditional legal classroom, in which the racial origins and implications of law and policy may be invisible or marginalized, the CRRS centralizes race as its primary focus. Because it is co-taught by a team of instructors, it upends the hierarchical nature of law school classrooms and faculties by modeling collaboration and a shared commitment to the study of race and the law. The seminar also uses non-fiction books rather than legal texts as framing devices for each semester and embraces assessments that are grounded in students’ reflections. With its in-depth discussion and analysis of this structure, including lessons learned from implementation, this Article provides a template for other faculty members to more nimbly create and teach classes that address questions of race and other social justice issues of concern to law students and society.
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