Saturday, September 20, 2008

Alford on the Socratic Method and the Carnegie Foundation Report

Ryan P. Alford, an attorney at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, has posted, How Do You Trim the Seamless Web? Considering the Unintended Consequences of Pedagogical Alterations, which is forthcoming in the University of Cincinnati Law Review. I'm sure there will be other attempts to put into a historical context the recommendations for legal education made by the Carnegie Foundation last year, but I doubt they'll be many that go back to Petrus Ramus's quarrel with Aristotle to do it. Here's the abstract:
The Socratic method is considered obsolete and unhelpful by many legal educators. Catalyzed by the latest report of the Carnegie Foundation on legal education, educational reformers are pushing for the reduction or elimination of its use. This paper presents a historical perspective on the importance of the Socratic method to the development of law and to its continuity across time. It highlights the importance of the method in imparting Aristotelian epistemology and scholastic modes of reasoning that are increasingly rare in society at large, but which are critical to the structure and spirit of the law. Accordingly, it is argued that it is impossible to predict with confidence that the end of the Socratic method would not critically impair our hermeneutic bridge to the era in which the foundational concepts of law were elaborated or even destroy our ability to understand their meaning.