Curriculum Guide · Courses
Civil Rights Policy Seminar
Professor Charles Abernathy
J.D. Seminar 094 | 3 credit hours
The modern consensus on civil rights goals and policy developed soon after World War II, and most current civil rights statutes trace their intellectual heritage to social science research from that era. The purpose of this seminar is to take a fresh look at statutory-based, nonconstitutional civil rights policy, with an openness to defining and proposing solutions to new civil rights problems that may arise in the years 2020-50. In working toward this goal, the reading focuses on social science materials in three principal areas. First, we examine some traditional civil rights legislation to determine if the approaches chosen have been successes or failures as measured by social science tools, thus enabling students to develop an independent position free from the restraints of conventional wisdom. Second, we examine the nature of three traditional categories of civil rights concern – race, sex, and sexual orientation, using materials designed to stimulate participants to reconceive the very nature of these categorical topics and the meaning of “discrimination.” Third, and last, we examine the policy tradeoffs that may be required of successful civil rights legislation in the future, jettisoning the label “rights” and studying concepts of social transfer of costs. How did previous generations decide civil rights issues that to them were novel and difficult? How can the next generation do the same for whatever issues it will face, issues for which there exists no conventional wisdom to follow? (This seminar is structured for inquiry and angst rather than exposition. Students with fixed viewpoints seeking only litigation tools should not seek to enroll. Those enrolling should bring their experience to class but also be prepared to reexamine fundamental factual and philosophical assumptions.)
The seminar will meet double-time for the first five weeks of the semester and only a few times thereafter for presentation of papers.