Reading Boyer’s Scholarship of engagement (1) last night I thought “Is PLE a form of engaged scholarship? Could it be?”
Boyer argued for a closer link between American universities and the socio-political problems of the day. He felt that such a link had been an element of higher education in the USA from the beginning, and had rather faded in favour of an inward looking research and teaching mission. A ‘scholarship of engagement’ would be a corrective to this.
Many forms of legal research are engaged in this way, looking to bring the insights of research into solving problems in the legal system. In so far as it brings university students into the domain of a social problem, PLE is a form of engaged teaching. There is a great deal of such activity, especially in the form of StreetLaw projects, and recently Birkbeck has launched a PLE module. (2)
Students benefit from such opportunities and even where PLE is not the primary aim (as in law clinics) some form of education often takes place.
To be engaged scholarship, however, I think PLE would require the involvement of academics in the provision of PLE. There is some of this – legal blogging particular- but nothing systematic. Might we see a professor for the public understanding of law? (3) A series of lectures at Christmas? Why don’t we?
With that in mind, my thesis may now move from looking at “barriers to law school involvement in PLE” to looking at “barriers to law academics’ involvement in PLE.”
(3) As discussed by Graeme Broadbent at CLE 2015 http://www.nlscle.org.uk/conference/access-to-justice-and-legal-education-june-2015/