Tuesday, September 16, 2008

For Law and Fun

All sorts of "law and" movments have popped up over the years—law and economics, law and literature, law and sociology, and so forth. Each has its merits, and each has its acolytes. Were I to choose a "law and" movement, though, I think I'd opt for law and fun.

For one thing, the study of law and fun would probably prove, well, fun. All else being equal, in my book, fun represents a prima facie good. Perhaps not all else is equal, granted; fun sometimes seems to come at the cost of respectability, which, though it often strikes me as overrated, seems pretty important to a lot of people.

Fun offers more than just intrinsic charms, though: It also serves Very Important—indeed, I daresay, respectable—pedagogical goals. Making a lesson fun can make it more easily understood and remembered. Yesterday, for instance, I took my guitar to school and played a couple of songs for my students. My Agency and Partnership class heard, "Sensible Khakis," a song that celebrates entrepreneurs and explains some principles of business formation. In Torts I, my students heard, "I.I.E.D.," a song that walks through the elements of intentional infliction of emotional distress.

If that sounds a bit too wild and crazy to you, you might take consolation in the fact that I performed in a suit and tie. And instead of a laser light show, I played to the accompaniment of PowerPoint presentations—complete with explanatory notes! Geeky? A little, I guess. But it's not a "fun and law" movement I advocate; the "law" part comes first. Or, if I might coin a Jesse Jacksonism, "You've got to put the 'school' before the 'cool.'"

[Crossposted at Agoraphilia, MoneyLaw, and College Life O.C.]


Blogger Ani Onomous said...

I suppose your students enjoy your antics, which I guess is the point of the post -- not anything about "law and fun" as compared to the other movements you describe, or even about the study of law and fun. It's just about how you like to teach.

But it's interesting to compare and contrast to the prior post. Does adding a spoonful of sugar, as you do, improve education? I'm inclined to think that it enhances learning in a particular class when undertaken by one who's skillful at it -- a good entertainer. That said, it arguably creates a disability, insofar as entertaining classes (with music, props, multimedia, jokes) make students less receptive to learning in a less adorned environment. Perhaps not every class can be dressed up this way, or perhaps not every teacher has these or equivalent skills, and perhaps as practicing lawyers CLE and self-instruction will seem even less appealing . . ..

9/17/2008 11:15 AM  
Blogger Tom W. Bell said...

Ani Onomous: I'd say that humor, or entertainment generally, helps pedagogy only in rather modest doses--as a contrast to the usual, rather dry but necessarily so--work of figuring out the law.

9/17/2008 7:49 PM  
Blogger Ani Onomous said...

Tom, thanks for replying. That wasn't actually what I was driving at. My question isn't so much whether it helps your particular class (I assume it does, modestly or otherwise), but rather whether there are externalities for other classes . . . whether it breeds a disability in terms of learning in other less entertaining circumstances.

9/17/2008 9:09 PM  

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