Gail S. Stephenson &
Linda C. Fowler
As I learn from you,
I guess you learn from me--although you're older---and white--and somewhat more free.
Langston Hughes, Theme for English B
• Required by ABA Standards 210 & 211 and
AALS Bylaws Sections 6-1(v) & 6-3(c)
Types of diversity among law students:
Sexual orientation
Socioeconomic background
What is a culturally and personally
relevant curriculum?
• A curriculum that is culturally relevant:
– provides instruction to students in a familiar
sociocultural context and builds upon their
diverse learning styles by integrating the
learner’s cultural content
– includes language, customs, social norms,
ways of doing and seeing things, methods of
learning, and considers how people relate to
• A curriculum that is personally relevant
– uses the student’s ability to connect the
course material to his prior experience
– connects the learning process to who they
are, what they care about, and how they
perceive and know
– is not tied simply to race or ethnicity
– considers learning styles and multiple
Why is a relevant curriculum
• Improves academic success
• Enhances relationship between educator
and student
• Empowers learners
• Provides equal learning opportunities
• Helps students prepare for practice in a
multiethnic and pluralistic society
Goals of a relevant curriculum
• Improve academic success through coursework
that emphasizes the human purpose of what is
being learned and its relationship to the
students’ personal experiences
• Create the most conducive learning environment
through trusting relationships between the
students and educators
• Create an empowering environment
• Give equal opportunities to learn
• Prepare students for practice
Designing a relevant curriculum
• Collaboration with colleagues
– Significant resource is fellow teachers,
particularly if one is new to a law school’s
culture – can learn about the students and
– Sharing teaching materials and writing
Designing a relevant curriculum
• Collaboration with students
– Autobiographical essays by students
– Questionnaires completed by students (see
sample questionnaire)
– Individual conferences with students, e.g., to
discuss writing projects or during office hours
Developing a relevant curriculum
• Discovering what was relevant to SULC
– Autobiographical essays revealed much
– Civil rights cases
– Familiar with south Louisiana culture
– Students developed their own relevant
Legal Analysis is like grilling steaks…
You need four elements…
The Grill
(Issue or facts)
• The Steaks
(The rule or law)
If you leave out the seasoning, it may look
• But this is what the taster will look like…
Other culturally relevant materials
• Food is big part of Louisiana culture
• Boudin (blood sausage) is popular Cajun
• Legal writing problem used Louisiana
statute that exempted establishments from
health inspection if it heats or prepares
boudin or sausage used for personal
Developing a personally relevant
curriculum at SULC
• Culturally relevant materials may also be
personally relevant—try using local cases
or cases involving local attorneys
• Incorporate current local events
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita
• Every student at SULC affected:
– Displaced, lost homes, lost jobs, or had friends and
family living with them
– Increased traffic in Baton Rouge and pressure on
infrastructure due to 230,000 evacuees
– This topic used to develop personally relevant
• Louisiana looting statute used for statutory analysis
• Fact pattern in post-hurricane Louisiana involving looting,
burglary, and theft laws
Non-traditional students
• Evening program at SULC has many nontraditional students
• Often older and have or had another career
• Areas of law personally relevant to those with
prior career:
– Torts (negligence, product and vicarious liability)
– Workers’ compensation
– Employment law
• May also be familiar with family law through
personal experience
Other personally relevant materials
• Discharge in bankruptcy of federallyguaranteed student loans
– Students showed particular interest in this
topic and expressed strong opinions
regarding the debtor’s situation (some for and
others against the debtor)
• Discrimination cases (e.g., age, sex, race,
Learning styles and
multiple intelligences
• Another consideration for relevant curricula
• Visual learners: use classroom screen and
board, handouts, and postings to class website
• Aural learners: lectures, classroom discussion,
small group work, and review sessions with
teaching assistant
• Writing learners: drafting exercises, both during
and outside class
• Physical activity learners: role-playing, practice
oral arguments in class
Learning styles and
multiple intelligences (cont’d)
• Using different modalities is also helpful in
introducing new information. Examples:
• Legal citation: ALWD readings, lectures,
practice citation quizzes on class website
individually and with teaching assistant,
quiz given in class
• Analysis of legal issues: lecture, individual
research, drafting outline of argument, inclass group work, role-playing
Developing relevant curricula
at your school
• Identify culture of your students and what
may be personally relevant, using:
– Records or admissions
– Autobiographical essay
– Questionnaire (see sample)
– Conferences with students
– Assignments completed by students
– Mission of your law school
– Newspapers
Timeline for developing a relevant
curriculum at your school
• BEFORE THE SEMESTER: Major assignments
can be drafted using information from previous
students, records and admissions, and your
school’s mission.
• DURING THE SEMESTER, using current
students’ info:
– Major assignments’ details, e.g., ethnic or racial
identity of parties or location of event could be added
– Relevant analogies used in class and smaller
assignments could be drafted
Miller v. Amusement Enterprises, Inc.,
259 F.Supp. 523 (E.D. La. 1965),
rev’d en banc, 394 F.2d 342 (5th Cir. 1968).
• Baton Rouge from 1960s where black children
were denied access to an amusement park
called Fun Fair Park
• Federal district court ruled in favor of the
amusement park and presented dry version of
the events
• U.S. Fifth Circuit reversed trial court on
rehearing en banc, giving longer version of the
facts that starkly contrasted with trial court
Fun Fair Park was the only amusement park for kids in the
Baton Rouge area in the 1960s and ’70s.
The Miller case led to the integration of Fun Fair Park. These photos
are from 1977.
Fun Fair Park continued to be a popular
place for Baton Rouge kids in the 1980s.
Compare and contrast
• Fun Fair Park is an
amusement park owned
and operated by the
defendant. . . .
[D]efendant operates
thereon a number of
mechanical rides for the
amusement of children.
• Fun Fair operates eleven
major mechanical rides for
children, namely, the Train
Ride, Roto-Whip, Ferris
Wheel, Zoom Ride, Roller
Coaster, Bumper Car Ride,
Swinging Jim, Caterpillar
Ride, Boat Ride, Track
Turnpike, and Merry goround. . . . Located on the
premises is a small
concession stand from
which refreshments such as
cold drinks, hot dogs,
popcorn, cotton candy,
snow cones, ice cream,
assorted sandwiches and
coffee may be purchased.
Compare and contrast
• Mrs. Patricia B. Miller,
took her two children
to Fun Fair Park,
intending to use the
ice skating facilities
which were then in
• Mrs. Miller, in
response to Fun
Fair's advertisement
that ‘Everybody
come,’ took her two
children, Daniel age
12 and Denise age 9,
to the park to ice
Compare and contrast
• [U]pon learning that both
of the children were
Negroes, the attendant
retrieved the skates and
informed the plaintiffs that
the facilities of Fun Fair
Park were privately
owned and were open for
use by white people only.
• The manager snatched the
skates off the counter and
announced to Mrs. Miller
that Fun Fair did not ‘serve
colored’. The people
standing in line waiting to
rent skates began to
giggle, and Denise,
frightened and
disappointed at not being
allowed to skate, started
crying. As Denise stood
there crying others in line
appeared to be amused.
Mrs. Miller and her
children quickly left the
Johnnie Jones, Jr., a 1953 graduate of SULC, represented
the Millers. Mr. Jones still practices in Baton Rouge.
Walker v. City of Birmingham,
388 U.S. 307 (1967)
• Justice Stewart’s majority
• Some 300 or 400 people from
among the onlookers followed
in a crowd that occupied the
entire width of the street and
overflowed onto the sidewalks.
Violence occurred. Members of
the crowd threw rocks that
injured a newspaperman and
damaged a police motorcycle.
• Justice Brennan’s dissent:
• The participants in both
parades were in every way
orderly; the only episode of
violence, according a police
inspector, was rock throwing
by three onlookers on Easter
Sunday, after petitioners were
arrested; the three rock
throwers were immediately
taken into custody by the
• Not difficult or time consuming
• Important in establishing rapport with
students and in finding the best way to
reach them and stimulate their interest in