Academic Learning in Law

Academic Learning in Law

Theoretical Positions, Teaching Experiments and Learning Experiences

Edited by Bart van Klink and Ubaldus de Vries

This timely book calls for a critical re-evaluation of university legal education, with the particular aim of strengthening its academic nature. It emphasizes lecturers’ responsibility to challenge the assumptions students have about law, and the importance of putting law in a theoretical and social context that allows for critical reflection and sceptical detachment. In addition, the book reports upon teaching experiences and innovations, offering tools for teachers to strengthen the academic nature of legal education.

Chapter 11: Orchestrating encounters: teaching law at a liberal arts and sciences college in the Netherlands

Barbara Oomen

Subjects: law - academic, legal philosophy, legal theory, research methods in law, research methods, research methods in law

Extract

It was an October meeting in my ‘Transitional Justice’ class of 30 sessions, with the rain pouring outside of our Gothic town hall, and the 25 students playing out an exercise on Truth Commissions inside. I’d asked them to focus on one single testimony in the Truth Commission Reports of South Africa, Sierra Leone, Guatemala and Argentina. ‘Choose the life story of one person who is closest to you – possibly a student like yourself – and be prepared to describe what happened to you during the war. After that, we can discuss the tensions between truth and reconciliation from the perspective of your persona’. As the students gave their testimony one by one there was a focused atmosphere. One told the story of a young warrior from South Africa. The other was a girl from Guatemala, who saw her brother being killed. Tears welled from her eyes as she told how his head was smashed against a rock. The subsequent discussion on whether knowing the truth leads to healing, and whether reconciliation can replace accountability was of remarkable depth and seriousness. The exercise above is one of many attempts to achieve the objectives of a liberal arts undergraduate program within my law classes over the past years.

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