At this point in my ruminations, my thoughts are focused on two themes:
- The constraints imposed on public legal education by its grounding in legal positivism: how it came to be so grounded, what the problems are with legal positivism, and what alternatives might be worth considering.
I am taking HLA Hart as the reference for legal positivism because he occupied the high ground in legal theory during PLE’s formative years. I am updating my understanding of legal positivism by reading McCormick’s work, particularly on post-positivism. I’m also looking at the work of critical legal theorists to see what they might have to offer us. At this point, though, critical legal theory seems to be focusing on legal liberalism while still buying into the basic idea of the law.
- The social justice program for public legal education: what is meant by the term social justice, ways of achieving it, possible roles for public legal education in moving toward a more just society.
I’m focusing on the influence that legal theory has had on the development of PLE. I do so with a very full realization that the scope of PLE has been substantially defined by those who fund that work. I spent a full forty years in the trenches! Raising funding for a more radical form of PLE might be impossible. That said, I would argue that the idea of law that lies behind the decisions of funders is also positivistic, indeed perhaps more positivistic than some PLE agencies might wish. Part of the job to be done lies with getting law schools to introduce students to a broad range of insights about law so that when they become funders they will recognized that the domain of public legal education is larger than the positivist notion of law suggests. I’m not naive enough to think they’ll suddenly start funding a more radical project, but it may be possible to make some inroads into funding a more robust approach to public legal education.
My project is ambitious. I need help!!!! Please feel free to comment on any of the material I post. Consider it all a work in progress. If I don’t respond as appropriately as you might think your comment warrants. Please be patient with me. I find it often takes me some time to incorporate critiques into my thinking. I usually get there but the journey is arduous. Trust that I appreciate your thoughts. I’m just not as quick on my feet as you might wish.
Also, please feel free to suggest fruitful lines of inquiry, writers you enjoy, questions that are challenging you. I hope this blog will prove provocative for all of us.