Enhancing critical thinking and international comparative approaches to constitutional law education in Australia

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Although legal academics tend to think of constitutional law education as a process that commencesat University, its foundations are based on background knowledge acquired by students at school.The current school civics curriculum, Discovering Democracy, gives students little groundingin broad concepts such as the meaning of representation, the relationship between the individualand society and theories of government. The result is that students coming to University bringlimited contextual knowledge that would assist them in their learning. Furthermore, the fact thatconstitutional law is compressed into a single semester at most Law Schools, means that theteaching of foundational topics, such as constitutional history and concepts such as democracy,representation and freedom 'and in particular, the contested nature of those concepts ' receivelittle space in the curriculum. The consequence is that we produce graduates who are wellequippedto apply the technicalities of the Constitution, but who have had little opportunity toengage in critical thinking about it, and who accept its current form as a given. This has broadersocietal implications, in that it contributes to the general conservatism of Australian societyin relation to constitutional reform. This paper explores these issues, with a particular focuson two specific areas of our Constitution ' electoral representation, and legislative scrutiny ofthe executive. The author urges Law Schools to expand the space allocated to constitutionallaw in the curriculum so that students take a foundational subject in constitutional law theorybefore studying the Constitution itself (where that is not already the case) and to incorporateinto the curriculum international comparative material against which students can critique ourinstitutions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of the Australasian Law Teachers Association
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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