Friday, July 24, 2015
Kim Chanbonpin (John Marshall), Crisis and Trigger Warnings: Reflections on Legal Education and the Social Value of the Law, 90 Chi.-Kent. L. Rev. 615 (2015):
This Essay begins by understanding the law school crisis through the framework of disaster capitalism. This framing uncovers the ways in which reformers are taking advantage of the current crisis to restructure legal education. Under the circumstances, faculty may reasonably read the contemporaneous student-led movement to require trigger warnings in the classroom as an assault on academic freedom. This reading, however, clouds the water. Part II attempts to clear the confusion by decoupling the trigger-warning movement from the broader phenomenon of law school corporatization. Trigger-warning demands might alternatively be read as a student critique of traditional law school pedagogy. Especially in the first year, the role of faculty is to indoctrinate students in a system of dispassionate analysis where subjective experiences and emotional reactions have no place. In this light, the trigger warning debate offers an opportunity to fundamentally alter the learning process by inviting students to become partners in the production of knowledge by allowing them to reclaim power in the classroom. Attending to student concerns facilitates robust discussions where the assigned materials are thoroughly dissected and debated, a result that ultimately benefits everyone in the classroom. Part III proposes that law school is still a good option for those students who are interested in both rigorous intellectual exercise and developing the practical skills necessary for the effective representation of clients. This discussion lays the foundation for a reflection on a broader question—the role of law in a democracy. Although the U.S. legal system falls short of perfect justice and equality, lawyers ought to be vigilant when confronted with market demands that would force law and society to cede ground to powers that represent solely private interests.