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August 22, 2008


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Does Hamdi result in students drawing lines and picking sides too quickly? And, why do you believe the relationship between law and social change should be a major component of a con law class? (not a hostile question - just a curious one). Hope all is well in the first week of classes.

Kathleen Bergin

I think Hamdi actually had the opposite impact when I led with it last year. Students who participated in the discussion approached the case strongly aligned with one Justice or another based on their view of who was overreaching in the war on terrorism. By the end of the class, I was convinced that at least some of them had a new found understanding and respect for the competing view. Not that any of them changed their position, but they understood more clearly why the debate can be so tricky.

It was also not uncommon later in the semester when other cases were being discussed for students to refer back to Hamdi: "well its like Justice so and so said in Hamdi . . . . " For whatever reason the lesson stuck with them.

Another reason for putting Hamdi first is the excitement it generates (ok, maybe 'excitement' is too strong a word) about Marbury. Its difficult for students today to appreciate the lessons of history or draw parallels between past and present controversies. The new millennials are all about the here and now, and reading cases from the nineteenth century sends them straight into a coma. Marbury makes much more sense to them after seeing a similar struggle play out in a contemporary context.

As to lessons on the law and social change, I'll post on that soon.

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