Law-Related Education History
The first National Law-Related Education Leadership Conference was held in Chicago, in 1978. It grew out of increasing interest in reforming social studies and civics education, and the Law-Related Education Act of 1978, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education.
What is Law-Related Education?
According to the Law-Related Education Act of 1978, Law-related education is “education to equip nonlawyers with the knowledge and skills pertaining to the law, the legal process, and the legal system, and fundamental principles and values on which these are based.” It is education about the rights and responsibilities of citizens in our constitution democracy; it is education about the role of law in the democratic adventure; and it is education about how the rule of law protects our freedoms.
Where is Law-Related Education?
It is in classrooms—both elementary and secondary—but it is also found in after-school programs, in community settings, and in juvenile justice facilities and programs. In schools and classrooms, it defines teaching units in government, history, civics, and economics. Law-related education also engages young people in such special events as mock trial competitions, youth summits, youth and moot courts. In juvenile justice settings, LRE classes are sometimes provided to assist at-risk youth with citizenship and living within the law as alternatives to going to court or jail time.
What content is identified with law-related education?
Law-related education can encompass the most important legal cases of the last 250 years, teach concepts and attributes of constitutionalism in the United States and other countries, and explore and engender tolerance for the ideals and practices of justice in different societies. It helps students understand the role of law and the courts today by giving students a glimpse of the inner workings of the legal system through exchanges and interaction with lawyers, judges, and law-enforcement officials.
What does research tell us about law-related education?
Research shows key links between civic knowledge and citizen behavior:
- Civic knowledge helps citizens understand their interests as individuals and as members of groups;
- Civic knowledge increases the consistency of views across issues and across time;
- Unless possess a basic level of civic knowledge—especially concerning political institutions and processes—it is difficult for them to understand political events or to integrate new information into an existing framework;
- General civic knowledge can alter our views on specific public issues;
- The more knowledge citizens have of civic affairs, the less likely they are to experience a generalized mistrust of, or alienation from, public life;
- Civic knowledge promotes support for democratic values; and
- Civic knowledge promotes political participation (Galston, 2001).