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California State University, Dominguez Hills
Department of Sociology

The Stanley Mosk Undergraduate Moot Court Competition

by Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata
Part of Teaching Series
Copyright: June 2000, Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata. "Fair Use" encouraged.
  • Introduction
  • Notes from Lilith Paper on Teaching

      On Saturday, August 5, jeanne wrote:

      Incorporate material on excluded identities and structural violence. Love may fit in here, also, particularly Frueh's work on older women as excluded.

      On Tuesday, August 1, jeanne wrote:

      Want to link moot court growth and development to the new forum we are creating for such discsussions: Link Theory, Policy, and Society - Hoppe's paper, Notess' comments, Notess' paper, contact Dwight Roth. Illustrate the importance of such a forum to inclusiveness of those who otherwise have no point of entry to academic discourse. This might keep us honest in the speaking of English - check cultural theorists dictionary on importance of readability - notes in back.

      Moot court grew both with my career, and with students' more sophisticated aspirations. Relate that growth to need for discourse, and the extent to which discourse principles still exist in courts of law. Moot court let me see how to transfer.

    • On Thursday, June 15, jeanne wrote:
    • Hi, Susan and everybody. I am developing what I hope is a template for process texts. I've been trying all along to write them as though they were traditional papers. I think now that was the wrong approach. I think it's perfectly OK to talk to all of you in these pieces, because I often want a response, and it relates to what we're all doing.

      For example, today I want to tell you about yesterday's workshop. It was wonderful. Everyone there wanted to learn, and tried very hard. But it was horribly depressing for me. And I think that reaction was very much a violent response (violence turned towards self instead of others) to the structural violence of the California State University system. Only this morning, as I talked it over with Susan, was I able to link this to our concern with teaching mutuality and peace, and the ways in which we have used Moot Court to do that.

      Relational links: workshop set up as a well-defined goal, with objectives, instruction, and as an absolutely closed system.

      • Moot court always remained an open system with us, and students came to recognize the value of the open system and mutuality, like cream puffs from the judges. that was where we tested our "archaic thinking" theories.

      • Meaning of "Do you wish to add an exercise?" No, I wish to challenge the structural violence built into the entire project. = Alienation. Conflict: It was great, but I still want to challenge the foundation. This morning, Susan, talking to you, I realized that I knew precisely how I wanted to challenge it - the controlling power of not telling us the answers is structurally violent!!! The controlling pattern of forcing comments or contributions into the pre-planned structure is exclusion of any other pattern. And there is no room I have been able to find in the system for cross fertilization at the pattern level.

      • Non-violent response: May we engage in substantive discussion? I HATE behavioral objectives: limiting boundaries. Frames, Shapiro and the boundaries of frames and the rectangular picture plane). We are asking to break out of the frame. To write over, to write through, to play. I am reacting with violence to a structurally violent group formation which is functioning as a non-learning sub-system. It has means of adding on new rules, of evaluating new rules (read contributions), and it categorizes validity claims by whether or not they fit the system rules. That is Habermas' definition of non-learning. So our claim to be heard goes unheard, and we respond with anger to doors always closed in our faces. Probably the wrong doors, but one becomes desperate when all the entries are blocked! The workshop would be the level of entry for participation. The door was not slammed, but it was gently and firmly closed. Death knell. This must be fairly accurately my perception, because I feel the anger all over again.

      The story: for those of you who weren't there:

      Expectations and reality. . . . Buscaglia: "Have no expectations."

    • On Tuesday, June 13, jeanne wrote:
    • Terms: democratic education, power, equality, legitimation, civic involvement, civic engagement, race, gender, and community

      • Expanding the moot court law school model:

        • competition - but research pre-done, focus on oral argument
          Jimmy and the candy pulled from his pocket,
          my original aim to give them a concrete understanding of what a record is

        • competition interfered with the concrete learning - they were fascinated by the legal argumentation to the understanding on a basic level

        • Conclusion: concrete is the role of undergraduate model

      • Interest in reducing competitiveness period. Not a corporate bottom-line model.

        • Adverarial vs. mutuality approach: steps in:

          • Task level within competence - not looking for stars

          • GeorgeAnn and I in competition - one of my law school stories on moving to mutuality

          • Writing brief overnight for Jessup competition - I didn't know we were supposed to compete. Difference in schools' perceptions of what it is, competition.

          • Community vs. elite objectives: academic discourse and collegial relationships or the Olympic games

          • Climate of learning (Earl V. Pullias) interdependent with style and objectives. (Remind jeanne to get Allan's input from '88 on this.)

          • Story with Judge Irma Brown and the one finalist who panicked.

            Shana's story of panic, and the distance we've come in three years with mutuality.

        Description from this first piece:

        It's hot. I'm tired. This won't be polished, but I'm going to start this piece for those of you who want to write with us on this one. I guess it's almost as hard to start a process text as a traditional one, but this is no time to shy away.

        I started this process by checking out Division 10, Undergraduate Education, for terms current in the political science association on these issues. That's the list above. I think I threw in legitimation, because I felt the need for it, if we're taking the Habermasian approach, which I think I need to do.

        Then I moved to the main idea I would like to get across. People talk about undergraduate education as though it is a "thing" out there. It's not. Today, it generally is the label given to grades 13-16 inclusive. The Stanley Mosk Moot Court was never designed for a section of the escalator on our way to law school or the hereafter. It more properly fits with civic responsibility, creation of a climate of learning, creation of a virtual community of scholars and colleagues (meaning the students as well as the professorial staff), and particularly praxis which grows from the values which underlie Habermasian discourse. Like Habermas, I see the acquisition of discourse skills as essential to liberty. I used to think I could ascribe those skills to a liberal arts education. But for reasons which stem from our Amsterdam paper, I no longer believe that an accurate label. Liberal arts education, as I see it debated today no longer fits the category I'm searching for. Living together, in relative peace, through supporting the values of listening to all validty claims in good faith, fits better in my mind to Habermasian discourse and legitimation.

        These were the underlying values which led us to institute moot court. They have colored the success and the development of this moot court into a virtual academic community that brings political engagement and the restructuring of community into the classroom, where public discourse can and does take place.

        I don't think I've expressed the idea clearly yet, but a belief in public discourse as an essential tool worked interdependently with many other factors, including the traditional law school moot court, to create the path that we followed. I didn't plan it; Susan didn't plan it; we didn't even do precisely the same things at the two universities. We couldn't. We were thousands of miles apart, with little face-to-face time. Yet we came to the same place. We each fully understand what we are doing and have done. This may be a process text; but this moot court was a process program. We believe that process is integral both to its success as a competition, and to its success at moving beyond that stage into a meaningful forum for political engagement and civic responsibility.

        Thursday I'll try to get to the stories, and describe the phases listed above. I promise. jeanne

        Notes Transferred from Lilith Paper

        • Moot Court Undergraduate - learned criticsim
        • Shift from debate to advocacy
        • Shift from legal precedent to reasoned precedent
        • Shift from competition to collaboration
        • Shift from database search to critical reasoning
        • Shift from performance to public discourse

        What both of us prize most in teaching is effective academic discourse with our students. At the commuter college there is rarely enough time for that. So we used our website, Dear Habermas, to put up enough written material that students who missed a class have notes to refer to. They don't have to ask if we said anything important while they were gone. That assures us that they get the right information. And frees our class time for discussions

        They also need to know how much they know against a standard we have set of what one should know when the course is completed. For this we offer on the site Pass? or Prepared