Experiential Learning and the Marginalization of International Law

by Roger Alford

There have been several interesting blog posts about Washington & Lee’s controversial new program of 3L experiential learning. (See Concurring Opinion posts here and here and Brian Leiter‘s post here).

None of these posts have touched on how such a move will impact elective courses like international law. I strongly suspect that with a traditional 1L curriculum and a non-traditional 3L curriculum, the overwhelming majority of W&L students will forego elective courses such as international law. Why take international law when you only have one year to take core upper-level courses like evidence, corporations, etc.?

International law is not part of the 1L curriculum at W&L. And 2Ls there have two required courses (Professional Responsibility and Constitutional Law). That leaves a few electives for core classes that will be on the bar plus one or two other elective courses.

So students who care deeply about international law will not have the time or opportunity to really specialize in the discipline by taking numerous courses (unless they are going to compromise and forego the core subjects). And students who have a passing interest in international law will simply choose not to be exposed to international law at all. One could argue that W&L’s marginalization of international law may be the antithesis of Harvard’s new 1L program that includes international law in the curriculum of every HLS student.

I recognize that an international environmental law practicum (taught by Hari Osofsky) and an international criminal law practicum (taught by Mark Drumbl) will be included in the proposed 3L curriculum. But how many students will enroll in those classes compared to a traditional international law course? And while those subjects may be well-suited for experiential learning, exactly how does one conduct a practicum on Conflicts of Laws, Foreign Relations Law, Comparative Law, or for that matter a dozen other subjects within Public International Law? Truth be told, many topics within international law do not easily lend themselves to experiential learning.

I’m sure there are colleagues at Washington & Lee and elsewhere who can disabuse me if I am mistaken. But my sense is that W&L’s new 3L experiential learning program will result in the general neglect of elective subjects such as international law.

http://opiniojuris.org/2008/03/31/experiential-learning-and-the-marginalization-of-international-law/

3 Responses

  1. Roger,

    It would help if you posted your important thoughts on this over at Concurring Opinions as well!

  2. Patrick,

    Thanks for the suggestion. I have done so here.

  3. Roger,

    I posted a response to your post at Intlawgrrls:http://intlawgrrls.blogspot.com/

    Please let me know your thoughts on this.

    Thanks,

    Johanna Bond

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