Teaching Law at West Point

By Wallace, David; Welton, Mark | Academic Exchange Quarterly, Summer 2004 | Go to article overview

Teaching Law at West Point


Wallace, David, Welton, Mark, Academic Exchange Quarterly


Abstract

As the nature of military missions changes, both the law curriculum and the law faculty's teaching methods at the U.S. Military Academy must adapt to meet both the professional and academic needs of cadets. We have addressed the former by balancing the courses in the legal studies program according to their dominant academic or professional orientation, and the latter by introducing a "diversity" teaching method, adapted from a proposed approach to first-year law school instruction, to develop the critical thinking skills required of Army officers.

Introduction

Law has been taught at the United States Military Academy at West Point for over 180 years. Like all academic disciplines at the Academy, its purpose is help achieve an overarching goal: "to enable its graduates to anticipate and to respond effectively to the uncertainties of a changing technological, social, political, and economic world" (Office of the Dean, n.d., 6). In the past decade, the academic curriculum, along with the physical and military components of the four-year education and training program at West Point, have changed significantly in order better to achieve this purpose. No longer required to follow an almost exclusively engineering curriculum, cadets must now balance their four-year course load equally between mathematics, sciences, and engineering courses on the one hand, and the humanities and social sciences on the other. More recently, besides the required thirty-one "core" courses that all cadets must take, cadets are now able to pursue academic majors, including (since 1999) law and legal studies.

A challenge faced by the Department of Law since then has been how best to design an undergraduate program and teach the subject of law to the roughly one thousand cadets each year who take the one core course in law--Constitutional and Military Law--and to the sixty cadets who choose each year to major in law. On the one hand, these cadets are college undergraduates. Most will not become lawyers, but an understanding of law and its role in the nation and the world, as well as the analytical and communication skills derived from the study of law, are important assets for leaders in any field, including military leaders. On the other hand, as future Army officers, cadets need the professional knowledge and skills necessary to perform the numerous legal tasks required of military officers. These include decision-making responsibility in areas such military justice, environmental law and regulations, labor law, government procurement, and international law.

The legal studies program must therefore address both the "academic" and the "professional" aspects of teaching law to cadets that are implicit in the Academy's overarching academic goal. As used here, the term "academic" refers to courses that have an orientation towards the theoretical understanding of law and its function in societies, while the term "professional" refers to courses that are oriented towards knowledge that is practically applicable to the military profession. Of course, the terms are relative; all law courses taught at West Point contain to some degree both an academic and a professional orientation.

This article explains how the Department seeks to meet this dual requirement. It first describes the Department's academic program, including courses and summer internships. It then examines the composition of the faculty and how legal subjects are taught to cadets. In both sections it identifies some problems and issues that must be addressed. It concludes that the Department's program design is intentionally structured to balance the academic and professional requirements of the academic goal, while adoption of a diversity model seems likely to improve the effectiveness of teaching the courses that comprise the program

The Academic Program in Law

The program in law consists of the core course taken by all cadets in their senior year (Constitutional and Military Law), and a major in law and legal studies consisting of ten courses. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Teaching Law at West Point
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.