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Teaching International Law  

Robert J. Beck and Henry F. Carey

International law is the set of rules generally regarded and accepted as binding in relations between states and nations. International law serves as a framework for the practice of stable and organized international relations. Unlike state-based legal systems, international law primarily applies to countries instead of private citizens. The international law course offers a unique opportunity for students to engage in classroom debate on crucial topics, including the genocide in Darfur, the Israeli–Palestinian issue, and peace processes in Sri Lanka. The international law course is vital in addressing paradigmatic viewpoints on international law applicability and whether the law matters in terms of using force to resolve conflicts. A well-designed international law course can help students to appreciate their preconceptions and biases and to develop a more nuanced and critical sense of legality. In teaching undergraduates, the primary goals are to prepare students for more specialized training while also providing an advanced understanding of civic rights, responsibilities, and duties. Within undergraduate courses in international law, the teacher can introduce the idea that multiple systems of law not only exist but also interact with each other. Significantly, asking students to write and think about international law in the context of politics and a domestic legal system can demonstrate the general limits of all laws to provide solutions to intricate policy problems. Once the fundamental subject matter and associated reading assignments have been determined, instructors typically develop their syllabi, which may cover various topics such as interdisciplinary methods, international law theory, cultural relativism, formality versus informality, identity politics, law and economics/public choice, feminism, legal realism, and reformism/modernism.