Pensar (en) la educación jurídica en tiempos de (re)formas.

Ya en otras ocasiones al comenzar el año académico he llevado a cabo una reflexión sobre los propósitos de la educación jurídica y sobre dónde y cómo debemos ubicarnos como profesoras y académicas del Derecho (vea por ejemplo estas entradas, comenzando por “A propósito de la enseñanza del Derecho”, y esta, esta y esta). Este año nuevamente dedico tiempo a leer sobre el tema y paso revista sobre lo que me (nos) mueve en tanto docentes y los elementos que tendríamos que tomar en cuenta.

En esta ocasión, comparto aquí parte de un debate no poco común en el mundo de la educación jurídica y muy pertinente en estos tiempos de reformas unidireccionales: el hoy prevalente enfoque hiper-profesional, hiper-pragmático, de eficiencia o “de mercado”, en tensión con otros enfoques dirigidos al Derecho como disciplina, área del saber y fuente de conocimiento. Se trata de una tensión subyacente en las universidades y “Escuelas” de Derecho (“Facultades” de Derecho?), una tensión que va y viene como un péndulo y que evidentemente es parte de lo que Bourdieu llamaba la puja de poder dentro del campo del Derecho. Demás está decir que las políticas que se adoptan guardan en sus premisas inarticuladas el resultado de esa tensión.

Tomo el siguiente fragmento de Leonard J. Long, RESISTING ANTI-INTELLECTUALISM AND PROMOTING LEGAL LITERACY, 34 Southern Illinois University Law Journal 1 (2009). 


However, there are a significant number of people, both within and outside of the legal academy and the legal profession, who view the dominant purpose, and primary function, of law school as training lawyers.4  This narrow view, it is suggested, seriously threatens legal education because it curtails the intellectual scope, intellectual depth and, more importantly, the intellectual vitality of legal education.5  And, having adopted the limited view that the dominant purpose of law school is merely to train lawyers, it falls short of truly educating students because it tends to limit their curriculum choices (both in terms of courses offered and the contents of those courses) to only approaches, subjects, and skills frequently encountered in actual law practice.

Legal education is experiencing a growing insurgency within the narrow vision of the legal education purpose.  It is the manifestation of a longstanding strain in legal education.  This strain, which has, in essence, become a tradition, in legal education can be characterized as the anti-intellectual tradition in legal education.  In legal education, this strain is not as severe as that described by the historian Richard Hofstadter:  “The common strain that binds together the attitudes and ideas which I call anti-intellectual is a resentment and suspicion of the life of the mind and of those who are considered to represent it; and a disposition constantly to minimize the value of that life.”8  For the anti-intellectual tradition in legal education, the benchmark is not resentment and suspicion of the life of the mind, though it is suspected there is a residue of suspicion.  Rather, the benchmark is a questioning, or a doubting, of the relevancy of what is at the core of what intellectuals do.  For the anti-intellectual traditionalists in legal education, the dominant purpose of law schools, and the nearly exclusive aim of legal education, is training law students to become practicing lawyers.  This purpose falls within the realm of anti-intellectualism because it demonstrates hostility towards intellectual pursuits in legal education when such pursuits are not directly, and obviously, relevant and transferable to the task of lawyering.  It is hostile to merely forego the encouragement of intellectual pursuits and intellectual cultures because these are not deemed relevant to law practice.  In the context of legal education, the “attitudes that interest [us] most are those which would, to the extent that they become effective in our affairs, gravely inhibit or impoverish intellectual and cultural life.”9

The anti-intellectual tradition in legal education is appealing in many ways, it is realistic, pragmatic, focused, and efficient.  The anti-intellectual traditionalists ask, ‘if most law students aim to be practicing lawyers, should not we funnel scarce educational resources into subjects, skills, programs, and services that will enable graduates to tackle the task actually encountered by real, practicing lawyers?’  Anti-intellectual traditionalists answer in the affirmative.  As a consequence, anti-intellectual traditionalists tend to evaluate the quality or success of legal education principally on the basis of criteria ostensibly relating directly to recent law school graduates’ ability to function as full-fledged practicing lawyers on day one. …  However, anti-intellectual traditionalists tend to de-emphasize, discount, and ignore a law school’s success or failure in enhancing students’ capacity for thinking and acquiring knowledge, particularly legal knowledge, and the cultivating of intellectual curiosity about the law.11

Certainly the legal profession values intelligence and, to a certain degree, values the development and exercise of intellectual capacities.  …However, …(this) tradition fails to appreciate that law schools (at least the better ones) are engaged in the task of nurturing and developing students’ intellectual capacities, reasoning capacities, and capacities for appreciating ideas and the pursuit of knowledge. They do not value intellectual curiosity as an end in itself, or as its being instrumental for the practice of law.  Instead, the anti-intellectual traditionalists see law schools as engaged in the narrower pursuit of producing individuals capable of performing a range of specific lawyering tasks. 

Consequently, in its assessment of legal education, law schools, law students, and entry-level lawyers, the anti-intellectual tradition does not include the value of the study of jurisprudence, logic, philosophy, politics, sociology, history, literature, the classics, etc.12  They ask, ‘how can exposure during law school to philosophy, history, literature, or the classics prepare law students Larry and Mary to be better tax lawyers, or bankruptcy lawyers, or family lawyers?’  The anti- intellectual traditionalists conclude that these subjects will not prepare Larry and Mary for the practice of law.  ‘What practical skills will these provide Larry and Mary?’  The anti-intellectual traditionalists respond that these subjects provide no practical skills to Larry and Mary. 

The result?  The creation of many competent practitioners perhaps,13 but few of whom are well- educated, well-rounded, and intellectually curious lawyers (and human beings).14  Law as a discipline, law as a profession, lawyers themselves, and society as a whole, suffer from being dominated by individuals and institutions devaluing the importance of being well-educated, well-rounded, and intellectually curious.  We live in an increasingly complex world.  Any profession dominated by people lacking the broader perspective, lacking the broader interdisciplinary knowledge base, and lacking the broader intellectual curiosity will be less able to identify and address the challenges and problems of such a world….”.

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