Teaching International Law
- Robert J. BeckRobert J. BeckDepartment of Political Science, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
- and Henry F. CareyHenry F. CareyDepartment of Political Science, Georgia State University
The international law (IL) course offers a unique opportunity for students to engage in classroom debate on crucial topics ranging from the genocide in Darfur, the Israeli–Palestinian issue, or peace processes in Sri Lanka. A well-designed IL course can help students to appreciate their own preconceptions and biases and to develop a more nuanced and critical sense of legality. During the Cold War, IL became increasingly marginalized as a result of the perceived failure of international institutions to avert World War II and the concurrent ascent of realism as IR’s predominant theoretical paradigm. Over the past two decades, however, as IL’s profile has soared considerably, political scientists and students have taken a renewed interest in the subject. Today, IL teaching/study remains popular in law schools. As a general practice, most instructors of IL, both in law schools or undergraduate institutions, begin their course designs by selecting readings on basic legal concepts and principles. Once the basic subject matter and associated reading assignments have been determined, instructors typically move on to develop their syllabi, which may cover a variety of topics such as interdisciplinary methods, IL theory, cultural relativism, formality vs informality, identity politics, law and economics/public choice, feminism, legal realism, and reformism/modernism. There are several innovative approaches for teaching IL, including moot courts, debates, simulations, clinical learning, internships, legal research training, and technology-enhanced teaching. Another important component of IL courses is assessment of learning outcomes, and a typical approach is to administer end-of-semester essay-based examinations.