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Teaching “Con Law” in an Era of Academic Decline

February 14, 2016

In the “old days,” every Department of Political Science offered an introduction to Constitutional Law. Many took the course because they were “pre-law” and expected to go to law school. For those of us who entered grad school to study political theory, “Con Law” was the closest to political philosophy as you could find outside a “theory” course. And most of us made “Con Law” one of the areas in which we were examined in “orals” and we could expect to teach Constitutional Law in our first teaching positions.

Many of us taught at Liberal Arts colleges where we had three “preps” every semester and we found that preparing to teach Constitutional Law took lots of preparation.  We often taught that course only every other year and we had to review all the Supreme Court opinions that had been written since we last taught that course. I did that five times over the ten years I taught Con Law I & II and, each time, I was enriched by the experience.

Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito were my favorites and I was present when Scalia and Alito gave public lectures. My one regret is that Con Law cannot be taught at a distance. It relies on personal and immediate interaction between an instructor and students.

John Marshall and the Foundations of American Nationalism

Some of us have tried, however, and Dr. William Miller’s course on the Marshall Court  at Marymount University in Virginia is one of the best.

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