Addressing bias in legal education to promote justice part 1
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Addressing Bias in Legal Education to Promote Justice Part 1. Ved Kumari – India Amari Omaka - Nigeria. What is bias. Simply put, bias is a preconceived opinion that prevents a person from objective judgment An act of prejudice Being partial. Bias as human tendency.

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Addressing Bias in Legal Education to Promote Justice Part 1

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Addressing bias in legal education to promote justice part 1

Addressing Bias in Legal Education to Promote Justice Part 1

Ved Kumari – India

Amari Omaka - Nigeria


What is bias

What is bias

  • Simply put, bias is a preconceived opinion that prevents a person from objective judgment

  • An act of prejudice

  • Being partial


Bias as human tendency

Bias as human tendency

  • Bias is natural to all human beings.

  • It results from natural inclination of exercising power over what is right or wrong.

  • It is therefore utopian to think of eliminating bias in judgment.


Bias minimisation

Bias minimisation

  • Bias minimisation is a concept that balances the reality of bias and the havoc it can cause if not controlled.

  • In our context, it is conscious efforts made by law teachers to evolve a teaching curriculum and methodology that reduces bias in law teaching


Gains of bias minimisation curriculum for law students

Gains of bias minimisation curriculum for law students:

  • Self-confidence

  • Self-identity

  • Constructive knowledge development

  • Rational thinking

  • Globalised worldview

  • Empathic interaction with people from diverse backgrounds;

  • Critical thinking, values and judgement

  • Ability to stand up for him or herself and for others


Who is a good law teacher

Who is a good law teacher?

  • There are five schools of thought:

  • If one favoured a doctrinal approach –emphasising intellectual rigour and authority– the good law teacher was the brilliant legal specialist with comprehensive knowledge of the law

  • If one favoured a vocational approach –emphasising employability as an outcome of legal education – the good law teacher was the lecturer who knew how the law ‘really’ works


Who is a good law teacher1

3. If one favoured a liberal approach –emphasising individual freedom and informed rationality – the good law teacher was the teacher who inspired a student’s interest in lifelong learning.

4. If one favoured a deviant or critical approach – undermining the status quo and questioning the undisclosed political positions, gender biases, and power relations – the good law teacher was the passionate critic or the charismatic rebel who inspired insubordination and subversion.

Who is a good law teacher?


Who is a good law teacher2

Who is a good law teacher?

5. If one favoured open mindedness in research and endorsing CLE method- emphasising skill development, personal reasoning, teamwork, without right or wrong answers, but modifying opinions in the context of general class views – the good law teacher was the teacher who inspired a student in becoming themselves and better citizens in pursuit of social justice


Addressing bias in legal education to promote justice part 1

Error in definition

  • Unfortunately, none of these classifications of who a good law teacher is, used ethical standards to measure the goodness or badness of a law teacher.

  • Apart from partially the liberal and clinical legal educator, none of these classifications of who a good law teacher is used ethical standards to measure.

  • In other words, these schools did not think that the teacher who is conscious of bias minimisation was material to who a good teacher is


Addressing bias in legal education to promote justice part 1

The power of the law school teacher

  • The pedagogicalism[1], as general tertiary teaching method, is an expression of power of the teacher within the law school.

  • It is a means by which the ‘good teacher’ is accorded status: one with the privilege, autonomy and power to influence students in the law school.

  • 1] Coined for Australian law teaching, modelled by Dr James Nick John James. See The Propagation of Pedagogicalism in Australian Legal Education" [2004] UQLRS 3; (2004) 27 (1) University of New South Wales Law Journal, 147-169, Last Updated: 7 May 2009


Addressing bias in legal education to promote justice part 1

The power of the law school teacher

  • If pedagogicalism as presently practiced in many law schools, is a standard, then the issue of bias minimisation is a fowl cry.

  • The law teacher simply brings his/her biases on crime, sex, gender, colour, religion, philosophy, politics and life generally to influence his/her students who are potential judges.

  • Those whom the teacher likes for whatever reasons receives pleasant questions in class, commended most, and gets better grades after exams. While the “indecent” girl receives hard assignments, booed at wrong answers, and her script poorly marked.


Addressing bias in legal education to promote justice part 1

Dangers of biased pedagogy

  • The lawyer-turned judge taught, or indoctrinated, by a law teacher who hates capitalism, as an economic ideology would easily convict any rich person who appears in his/her court for presupposed making his money by exploiting the poor.


Addressing bias in legal education to promote justice part 1

Sharing my personal experiences

  • I have had an experience with a teacher who detests any student studying art subjects in my secondary school. The effect lingers in my life, career and mind till date.

  • I also know a university lecturer who believes that pre-marital sex is ideal and that sex is a daily exercise for all. He teaches that to his students in sex education classes and a girl close to me has had his carrier marred by practising what the professor indoctrinated her with.

  • I have appeared before a judge who convicts any person appearing before him on a charge of rape, because her daughter had suffered that fate in the hand of gangsters.

  • I personally declined presiding over divorce proceedings as magistrate because core Christian faith is against it. However, my approach was always to use mediation and other ADR methods to reconcile the parties.

  • Query: Imagine if all the dramatis personae here are law teachers with the “Pedagogicalism power” to influence like the sex education teacher above, what would happen to innocent litigants in their courts?


Addressing bias in legal education to promote justice part 1

Think about this!

Imagine if all the dramatis personae here are law teachers with the “Pedagogicalism power” to influence like the sex education teacher above, what would happen to innocent litigants in their courts?


Addressing bias in legal education to promote justice part 1

Recommendations:

How to ensure that the teacher’s bias does not affect the results of students who may have different ideological placement

  • Allow students to easily express their mind and opinion

  • Teach the law as it is, not how you think it should be

  • Be open minded and shun personal idiosyncrasies

  • Have a positive attitude to issues and various phenomenon


Addressing bias in legal education to promote justice part 1

Recommendations:

How to ensure that the teacher’s bias does not affect the results of students who may have different ideological placement

  • 5. Recognize your students’ diverse perceptions of life, race, colour, crime, morality, religion etc.

  • 6. Don’t yell at your students

  • 7. Don’t easily criticize/condemn students

  • 8. Don’t basically shut them off from a true dialogue


Addressing bias in legal education to promote justice part 1

Recommendations:

How to ensure that the teacher’s bias does not affect the results of students who may have different ideological placement

9. Don’t have an already made opinion to sum up with.

E.g.

“By and large, Islam is a violent religion and prone to crimes of terror”


Addressing bias in legal education to promote justice part 1

Recommendations:

How to ensure that the teacher’s bias does not affect the results of students who may have different ideological placement

10. In any contentious matter, put your self on the other side of the divide, and see if they are any senses in what the other person/student is saying. You may be amazed, there would be!


Addressing bias in legal education to promote justice part 1

Conclusion

  • A belief in the value of human diversity and the fair treatment of all people is a prerequisite for doing anti-bias work as a law teacher.

  • When law teachers become committed to minimizing bias, the profession would have sound image and unbiased judges would better serve humanity.

  • In jurisdictions where judges may be appointed straight out of law schools, as in India, the law school teacher should focus on judicial skills with bias minimisation methods as crucial to the judicial system.


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