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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Fostering a Positive Learning Environment: A Law Student’s Perspective

By: Rachel Pender (WFU Law ’20)

The first year of law school can be challenging. In my experience, most law students were the best and brightest at their undergrad and now have to compete against other, equally qualified candidates. Most 1Ls do not have any legal experience and are easily intimidated by professors who are titans in their fields. Despite these hurdles, my first-year professors have established warm and inviting classroom environments that put students at ease while still challenging us to improve. As a teacher turned law student, I wanted to share the following strategies that may help create a more positive learning environment in your classroom: Continue reading “Fostering a Positive Learning Environment: A Law Student’s Perspective”

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Take Your Students on a Curiosity Voyage this Halloween

The voyage begins with my spooktacular Halloween-themed door.

By: Professor Abigail Perdue

There are stranger things than using a Halloween-themed exercise to engage your students, particularly during this stressful point in the semester. After a weekend of binge-watching Season Two of the Netflix phenomenon, Stranger Things, I reconfigured my Halloween lesson to include items that every respectable professor needs to tame little monsters, brain-drained zombies, and every other ghoul in school:

  • Build suspense with an email inspired by Stranger Things or another Halloween favorite: I sent the following email to my students the day before our Halloween class:

Tomorrow we’re taking a “Curiosity Voyage.” Don’t forget to bring your oars — hard copies of your two cases. However, as you read them, especially the dissenting opinion in the appellate case, don’t get turned Upside Down by the various arguments regarding how to use statistical evidence in a disparate impact case. The way that statistics would be used is not particularly relevant to the Salon at this point (although the case mentions three primary approaches to using statistics, not Eight or Eleven.) It would be highly relevant if the Salon were already facing litigation, but here, we are in a counseling posture. (Trust me on this; friends don’t lie.) Use your unique mental powers to focus primarily on each case’s implications, if any, for Memo Three. There’s nothing stranger than me asking you to bring your laptops to class tomorrow, but please do.[1] Bring your Bluebook, too. You’ll be doing an “eerie exercise” in honor of Halloween and one with a party. (Let’s hope it includes a zoomer and mage lest your mind get flayed!)

Frightfully yours,

Professor Perdue

Continue reading “Take Your Students on a Curiosity Voyage this Halloween”

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Getting to Know You: Using Pop Culture Pedagogy to Connect with Students

By: Professor Abigail L. Perdue, Wake Forest University School of Law

As a teacher I’ve been learning.
You’ll forgive me if I boast.
And I’ve now become an expert
On the subject I like most.
Getting to know you,
Getting to know all about you.
Getting to like you.
Getting to hope you like me.”

– Rodgers & Hammerstein, from Getting to Know You in The King and I

As a child, I was mildly obsessed with Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals. The King and I was my absolute favorite! I still remember the first time I saw the confident and commanding (albeit quite sexist) King of Siam twirling lithe Anna Leonowens all over the ballroom. The musical, which was inspired by true events, recounts the magical story of a British woman who travels halfway around the world to serve as governess to the King of Siam’s royal children.
Continue reading “Getting to Know You: Using Pop Culture Pedagogy to Connect with Students”

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