ERIC Identifier: ED390779
Publication Date: 1995-10-00
Author: Leming, Robert S.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse for
Social Studies/Social Science Education Bloomington IN., Adjunct ERIC
Clearinghouse for Law-Related Education Bloomington IN., American Bar
Association Chicago IL. National Law-Related Education Resource Center.
Essentials of Law-Related Education. ERIC Digest.
ESSENTIALS OF LAW-RELATED EDUCATION: A GUIDE FOR PRACTITIONERS AND
POLICYMAKERS is a statement of the goals and content of law-related education
(LRE). Developed by the American Bar Association's Special Committee on Youth
Education for Citizenship in 1995, ESSENTIALS OF LAW-RELATED EDUCATION
concentrates on four areas: (1) subject matter and concepts; (2) instructional
strategies and contexts; (3) skills; and (4) attitudes, beliefs, and values.
Together, they provide K-12 students with active learning experiences that
enhance their ability to explore rights and responsibilities under the law,
confront and resolve disputes, and discuss and analyze public issues. This
digest summarizes the original ESSENTIALS document.
LRE has been defined as "education to equip nonlawyers with knowledge and
skills pertaining to the law, the legal process, and the legal system, and the
fundamental principles and values on which these are based" (Law-Related
Education Act of 1978). LRE is typically understood to foster the knowledge,
skills, and values that students need to function effectively in our
pluralistic, democratic society based on the rule of law. Law-related educators
strive to develop the active citizens our society requires: those who can
understand, live in, and contribute positively to the civic communities to which
Law saturates our lives irrespective of age or setting. Consequently, LRE
focuses on real issues that affect real people in real situations. Through LRE,
educators seek to elucidate essential concepts--including law, power, justice,
liberty, and equality--fundamental to our constitutional democracy and to the
structure and functioning of other societies. LRE enables educators to teach how
the law and legal issues are essential to the functioning of politics, culture,
and society. In so doing, it explores how the law affects students and how they,
in turn, can affect the law. LRE strives to illuminate the substantive and
procedural values underlying our legal system, fostering the formation of
beliefs and attitudes that support such values.
WHAT SUBJECT MATTER IS ESSENTIAL?
Concepts central to LRE
include law, justice, power, equality, property, and liberty. Through LRE,
teachers can teach what abstract concepts such as "liberty" actually mean
through examination of specific contexts and practices. For example, they can
help students understand "liberty" by giving them opportunities to learn about
liberties guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution. With that knowledge, students
can become aware that such liberties can still be the source for continuing
controversies in contemporary society, such as when individual liberties
conflict with majority values or public policy priorities.
The relationship between citizen and society is essential to LRE, which
should illustrate significant connections between students and larger
communities, such as town, nation, and world. Some law-related educators might
focus primarily on law that affects the daily lives of all people, including
criminal and civil law. Others might concentrate on fundamental legal concepts
and principles, including their origins, evolution, and contemporary influence
and impact. Still others might stress the application of LRE principles and
skills in specific real-world situations, both personal and civic. LRE
instruction should recognize that government use of power and authority can
bring both order and the risk of abuse. Law-related educators might help
students understand that the Constitution limits governmental power by
separating, and sharing it. Educators might also ask students to ponder the
relationship between power and law, considering such topics as civil
disobedience, conscientious objection, capital punishment, and victimless
LRE emphasizes the role of due process of law as essential to justice in our
system of governance. Teachers might focus on justice through civil, criminal,
and juvenile law, or through such topics as mercy killing or cruel and unusual
punishment. In dealing with equality, teachers might have students study issues
of racial or gender discrimination, voting rights, or affirmative action. In so
doing, students will be able to reflect on the difference between equal
opportunity as a constitutional ideal and as a day-to-day reality.
HOW AND WHERE SHOULD LRE BE TAUGHT?
should require students to participate actively in their own learning. For
instance, by using role play in the classroom, teachers can encourage students
to voice diverse opinions about legal issues. By having students compare and
contrast several court decisions on one issue, teachers can encourage students
to address judicial decisions in historical context, assess the role of
precedent, and comprehend the nature of historical and social change. In helping
students stage mock trials, teachers can enable students to experience the
The classroom that best fosters LRE is student focused. The ideal LRE
classroom acts as a forum where students can freely discuss conflicting ideas.
In drawing such ideas from a cross-section of subjects, teachers give students a
taste of the complexity of legal issues. LRE classrooms should have diverse,
high-quality resources that provide students with the information they need
while conveying the fact that different people can legitimately and reasonably
have different opinions and perspectives on issues. Enlisting LRE professionals
(lawyers, law-enforcement professionals, judges, scholars, for example) from the
community as human resources for in-class and out-of-class instruction is an
essential means by which LRE meets students' needs in these respects.
LRE does not need to be restricted to one class, course, or subject area. The
constellation of values, knowledge, and skills that comprise LRE can be woven
throughout the school curriculum beginning in the primary grades. Effective LRE
programs should consist of carefully planned, integrated, sequenced, and
cumulative instructional experiences. For instance, beginning with the early
grades, LRE might emphasize fundamental concepts and values such as justice,
liberty, and equality. In later grades, such concepts and values can be
addressed through examination of more complex issues and dimensions of our
shared constitutional ideals, and their national and global implications.
WHAT SKILLS SHOULD LRE FOSTER?
Law-related educators should
help students develop the skills needed to acquire information about the role of
law in constitutional democracies and other societies and how it is connected to
their lives; how they can communicate their ideas, beliefs, and opinions about
the law and legal issues; and how they can actively and constructively
participate in group or broader civic affairs. Thinking skills developed in LRE
include analyzing and interpreting judicial opinions and other legal documents;
developing a capacity for understanding when and how laws apply to specific fact
situations; critically assessing laws and legal issues; and developing a
capacity for understanding and evaluating controversies and conflicts arising
from legal issues. LRE also develops students' communication and social
participation skills, including persuading others regarding beliefs and actions
related to the law; participating collectively in making rules and setting
goals; building consensus through deliberation, negotiation, compromise, and
conflict resolution; and working cooperatively to make decisions and take
actions concerning hypothetical or actual legal and law-related social issues.
WHAT ATTITUDES, BELIEFS, AND VALUES SHOULD LRE FOSTER?
does more than provide students with information about the law and legal issues
while developing essential skills. It also cultivates certain attitudes,
beliefs, and values in students as both essential preconditions for, and
outcomes of, students' understanding in LRE. These essential attitudes, beliefs,
and values include a commitment to constitutional democracy; dedication to the
ideal of justice in society; informed, active, and responsible participation in
civic life; respect for the fundamental dignity and rights of humans; and
appreciation for legitimately resolving societal conflicts and differences. LRE
helps students understand both how law reflects and shapes collective values,
beliefs, and dispositions and, in turn, how collective values, beliefs, and
dispositions reflect and shape law. In so doing, LRE also helps students
understand how law can and has promoted social cohesion and effected social
HOW CAN YOU OBTAIN "ESSENTIALS OF LAW-RELATED
ESSENTIALS OF LAW-RELATED EDUCATION can be obtained by writing
to the ABA/YEFC, 541 North Fairbanks Court, Chicago, IL 60611-3314 or by calling
312/988-5735. The price per copy is $3.00 + $2.00 s/h; orders should be prepaid.
REFERENCES AND ERIC RESOURCES
The following list of
resources includes references used to prepare this Digest. The items followed by
an ED number are available in microfiche and/or paper copies from the ERIC
Document Reproduction Service (EDRS). For information about prices, contact
EDRS, 7420 Fullerton Road, Suite 110, Springfield, Virginia 22153-2852;
telephone numbers are 703/ 440-1400 and 800/443-3742. Entries followed by an EJ
number, annotated monthly in CURRENT INDEX TO JOURNALS IN EDUCATION (CIJE), are
not available through EDRS. However, they can be located in the journal sections
of most larger libraries by using the bibliographic information provided,
requested through Interlibrary Loan, or ordered from the UMI reprint service.
Anderson, Charlotte C., and Mabel C. McKinney-Browning. "What Principals
Should Know About Law-Related Education." PRINCIPAL 61 (January 1982): 42-46. EJ
Anderson, Charlotte C., and David Naylor, eds. LAW-RELATED EDUCATION AND THE
PRESERVICE TEACHER. Chicago: American Bar Association, 1991. ED 342 698.
FINAL REPORT OF THE U.S. OFFICE OF EDUCATION STUDY GROUP ON LAW-RELATED EDUCATION. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1979. ED 175 737.
Leming, Robert S., and James Downey, eds. RESOURCES FOR LAW-RELATED
EDUCATION. Bloomington, IN: ERIC Clearinghouse for Social Studies/Social Science
Education and the American Bar Association, 1995. ED 388 534. (This publication
includes the full text of ESSENTIALS OF LAW-RELATED EDUCATION).
McKinney-Browning, Mabel C. "Law-Related Education Programs, Process, and
Promise." THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF SOCIAL EDUCATION 2 (Autumn 1987): 7-14.
EJ 371 230.