Take One: The World Premiere of an Exciting New Resource on Pop Culture Pedagogy

Have you ever wondered what Star Trek could teach you about the U.S. Constitution or how an episode of The Good Wife could demonstrate best (or bad) practices during e-discovery? You’ll find the answers in an exciting new teaching resource — The Media Method: Teaching Law with Popular Culture, (Carolina Academic Press 2019).

Editor Christine Corcos of LSU School of Law has compiled twenty-seven interesting chapters chocked full of wonderful ideas for using pop culture as a fun vehicle to teach legal concepts on a vast array of diverse topics. She compiled works from law professors around the globe who integrate everything from poetry to comic books into their teaching.

While legal legend and author of Reel Justice, Michael Asimow, discusses how the lived experience of a lawyer often differs from its portrayal on the big screen, Deborah Ahrens shares how musical theater impacts her approach to covering difficult criminal law topics with her students. Other chapters showcase how to use pop culture as a vehicle to study Torts, Property, Civil Procedure, Evidence, Environmental Law, Professional Responsibility, and Constitutional Law. Nancy Soonpaa, JoAnn Sweeny, Sha-Shana Chricton, Terri LeClercq, and many more highlight creative ways to incorporate pop culture into Legal Research and Writing, including exercises focused on timely and important social justice issues. In Magical Thinking, Kelly Collinsworth explores how pop culture may be an equally effective vehicle to introduce college students to legal analysis.

My chapter — Pop Culture Pedagogy — explores the potential benefits and downsides of using pop culture in the law school classroom. I’ve included an excerpt of pages 68-69 below, although citations have been omitted:

Pop culture surrounds us. We lead “media-saturated lives” infused with influences from film, television, social media, and other aspects of pop culture. For better or worse, these influences significantly impact how we view ourselves, our profession, and our world. Our tech-savvy law students are particularly susceptible to these influences. Thus, if legal education hopes “to survive these pop culture ways of knowing and meaning, it too must transform.”

Prompted in part by calls for law school reform from the bar, legal educators struggle to find innovative ways to effectively reach the increasingly diverse and globally minded digital natives flooding our classrooms. This chapter suggests that when properly used, “pop culture pedagogy” may provide one such innovation — an “ideal medium” to “complement” black letter law and thus better promote learning and engagement, particularly with regard to professionalism.

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As used herein, “pop culture” refers broadly to “the body of intellectual or imaginative work in which human thought and experience are recorded.” As such, it encompasses cultural references that derive from traditional and non-traditional print media, including poetry, blogs, and graphic novels, as well as the so-called “public arts,” such as film, radio, television, video games, music, social media, and other Internet sources.

Likewise, “pop culture pedagogy” refers to teaching both with and about pop culture. For example, a Trial Advocacy professor teaching with pop culture might assign a chapter from Mauet’s Trial Techniques regarding how to draft and deliver an effective closing argument. In class, the professor could show film clips of closing arguments from A Time to Kill and Ghosts of Mississippi and ask students to work in pairs to draft a short reflection paper explaining which closing argument was more compelling and why. An Appellate Advocacy professor seeking to reinforce how citing authority enhances an advocate’s credibility at oral argument might show the scene from Law Abiding Citizen when accused killer Clyde Shelton cites a case in support of his contention that he be granted bail. In part because opposing counsel is unfamiliar with the cited case and provides no authority to counter it, the judge proceeds to grant Shelton’s motion even though his citation was a ruse.

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With the advent and widespread availability of new technology, pop culture has increasingly become an integral part of the human experience. Millennials – individuals born between the early 80s and mid 2000s — are indisputably the most “connected” generation in history, constantly bombarded with a vast array of cultural texts through which they construct meaning about themselves and their world.

Today’s law students undoubtedly consume more mass media than prior generations. With an IPhone in hand, AirPods in their ears, and an Apple Watch on their wrists, they experience the world amidst a backdrop of technological distractions, mentally multitasking every minute of the day. Given the sensory overload to which students constantly subject themselves, educators grapple with how to more fully engage them.

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I ultimately conclude that “pop culture pedagogy provides an easy and inexpensive way to bring [the] world into the classroom and share a glimpse of it with our attorneys-in-progress.” (p. 93)

To learn more about how you can teach law with pop culture, purchase a copy of the book from Carolina Press, Amazon, or other retailers. That’s a wrap!

 

Do you use pop culture as a vehicle to teach legal doctrine or skills? If yes, share your good ideas at teachlawbetter.com, and we might just post them. 

 

 

 

 

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Listen Up: The Advantages of Audio Commenting

By: Professor Abigail L. Perdue 

One of the most surprising things about teaching is that each new semester brings entirely new challenges. Just when you think you’ve finally mastered the craft, Life throws you a curveball to keep you on your professional toes.

I experienced one such curveball this semester when I began experiencing persistent discomfort in my wrists and fingers, which often made typing onerous and even painful. As a Professor of Legal Writing, this pain simply wouldn’t do because I must provide oral and written feedback on multiple written exercises for my three classes and 50+ students throughout the term, not to mention the countless emails I must draft on a near daily basis or the book manuscript I’m currently trying to complete. Continue reading “Listen Up: The Advantages of Audio Commenting”

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Beautiful Distinctions

By: Professor Abigail Perdue

America is at a pivotal moment in history. Recently, race, gender, and other relations have been incredibly strained. Communities, both urban and rural, have experienced social turbulence, which at times, has erupted into protests and even violence. From the #MeToo Movement to Black Lives Matter, these issues are surfacing at campuses across America. In light of this, what, if anything, can we, as educators, do to inspire our students to embrace different people and engage different perspectives, rather than fear and suppress them? Continue reading “Beautiful Distinctions”

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New Perspectives on an “Old” Technique

By: Professor Emeritus Otto Stockmeyer

No citation of authority is necessary to establish that many beginning law students fear the Socratic method of teaching above all else. One reason is their dislike of having to stand in a room full of strangers while responding to their professor’s questions. Yet standing to recite has several benefits. Continue reading “New Perspectives on an “Old” Technique”

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Moving Forward by Looking Back: Encouraging Students to Practice Mindfulness and Reflection

By: Abigail L. Perdue

Encourage honest and productive self-exploration.

During the first semester of law school, 1Ls process a tremendous quantity of information in an incredibly short and hectic period of time. Hopefully, they also gain discernment as they evolve from analytical surface-dwellers to deep thinkers. For these reasons, a positive and productive 1L year provides an unparalleled opportunity for growth.

Yet to optimize the benefits of the first semester of law school, it is critical for students to practice mindfulness. Thus, throughout the year and again as we commence the spring semester, I encourage my 1Ls to engage in contemplative lawyering and to thoughtfully reflect upon their goals and performance. Below are some suggested ways that you can create a more mindful 1L experience for your students and thus, maximize their learning.[1] Continue reading “Moving Forward by Looking Back: Encouraging Students to Practice Mindfulness and Reflection”

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