1 October 2014

'Human Rights in the UK Media: Representation and Reality'

The University of Liverpool hosted a seminar entitled, ‘Human Rights in the UK Media: Representation and Reality’. The event’s speakers circled the same topic. But it became clear as debate flared and evolved that human rights support cannot be assumed. This post discusses some themes that emerged throughout the day. I apologise in advance to the speakers I do not mention. I aim to return to the topic, at which point I will try to include those now left out. Of the speakers I do mention, I apologise if my paraphrasing misinterprets: feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.

As a final introductory caveat, I have struggled with referencing because I do not have a text from which to cite. I have tried to rephrase my notes and thoughts to avoid plagiarism. And where possible I have provided link to the blogs of those speakers who uploaded their work post-seminar. Currently it is otherwise impossible to check whether I have echoed a speaker’s words exactly. Please inform me if credit is required for a particular sentence.

12 September 2014

Compassionate Border Policies

This post offers a short commentary on ’Protection in Europe for refugees from Syria’. Cynthia Orchard and Andrew Miller wrote the paper, which is the Forced Migration Policy Briefing 10, as part of Oxford University’s Refugee Studies Centre. The paper criticises Europe’s generally inadequate response to the Syrian conflict (excepting Germany’s admirable solution). The paper’s criticisms evolve from a systematic, Europe-wide analysis and UK case study. After that evaluation, the brief proposes reform-guidelines. Orchard and Miller presented the paper (alongside Professor Roger Zetter) on 10 September 2014 and I refer to that presentation throughout.

3 May 2014

Basic-Socratic Learning Models

The category, ‘basic-socratic leaning models’, is almost entirely fabricated to provide a place for all those themes and ideas that do not fit into enquiry-based (EBL) or problem-based (PBL) learning. In this post, it should become clear that in some respects, a basic-socratic education is similar to problem-question-based curricula (see previous post, section 3.2). Basic-socratic techniques can work in concert with superior, enquiry-based learning paradigms. Whether readers consider the idea implied or ignored, I will discuss that relationship explicitly in a future post.

26 April 2014

Problem-Based Learning

Law can be taught with problem-based learning. Students may be given scenarios with legal implications and asked to produce solutions. Although there are prescribed techniques and standard approaches, this model offers the scope for individual learners to use their own research and answering methods. The key distinction with enquiry-based learning is the giving of a set problem. In later posts I explore how inventive students may combat even this mild rigidity. But in this post I simply explore two forms of problem-based learning.

19 April 2014

Enquiry-Based Learning

I begin with a statement about autonomy’s place in education: it is suggested that
intrinsic motivation is sustained by satisfaction of the basic psychological needs for autonomy and competence. (…) [S]tudents tend to learn better and are more creative when intrinsically motivated, particularly on tasks requiring conceptual understanding.1
Creativity is difficult to teach.2 Whatever facilitates student autonomy, in part due to its positive affect on creativity, is therefore valuable in the classroom. As enquiry-based learning (EBL) is designed to give students choices, EBL should be considered for its use in learning--whether by auto-didacticism, through an institution, or a in a mixture of the two. That application is central to this series on pedagogy. This post, which discusses EBL in legal education, is the first substantive essay in that series.

12 April 2014

Introduction to Open Education

This post is an introduction to some thoughts on enquiry-based learning (EBL). I intend to write a series on EBL’s primary structures, benefits and disadvantages, and EBL’s potential use in legal education and independent learning per se. This post considers some issues that may be inherent in my approach. In the posts that follow, I frame EBL against a background of competing pedagogies that I (re)arrange specifically in the light of EBL.

The concept of 'open education' relates to the student's breadth of choice in the substantive materials studied and the methods used to study them. This idea becomes more obvious in my posts that explore EBL's details and opposition.

5 April 2014

Act Now!

In a confused flurry of russian-doll references, I quote James Thurber, whom Patrick Dunleavy quotes from Lewis Minkin:
”Don’t get it right, get it written”*
This is good advice. I explore it in this post.

29 March 2014

Reflective Blogging

The internet is a fast, noisy realm. To be heard is a challenge when so many online publications compete for attention--and these distractions multiply every second. Blogging provides the platform for a voice. Consistent blogging demands that writers keep up and learn either to cope with mistakes, never to err, or to revisit previous texts if accuracy is an issue.

All writing compromises between an idea’s perfect expression and what ends up recorded on the page with the words that do not stick to the tip of one’s tongue. In legal writing, accuracy is important. Legal blogging fuses both these issues and presents a choice: (i) post often to be heard; or (ii) post only when a text is finished and accurate, but risk never posting at all. In this post I discuss this potentially crippling problem with regard to Patrick Dunleavy’s Authoring a PhD: How to plan, draft, write and finish a doctoral thesis or dissertation.

23 March 2014

The Blogging Lull Ends

Although the date written above this post is 23 March 2014, I write and publish it on 24 July 2014. The wrong date is listed because I decided to publish chronologically all the work I produced during my hiatus between 19 March 2014 and 24 July 2014. This post explains my break and my decision. To forewarn substantive-content hunters, there isn’t much in this post, which is more about honesty than anything else.

19 March 2014

A Western-Minded Easterner

The Road to Reckoning by Robert Lautner (pp 240, Harper Collins 2014)

This review contains spoilers. As the book is superb, I recommend you do not read my review unless the summary in the following paragraph really sounds like it is not your thing.*

The Road to Reckoning by Robert Lautner follows a young boy through Eastern USA early in the nineteenth century. That boy, Tom Walker, is written with remarkable characterisation. He sets off on a journey with his father to sell the latest Colt gun. Their purposes are simple: escape from New York’s economic and health problems; and get rich at the same time. Tom becomes stranded. He must try to recruit a travelling Texan Ranger, the only man capable of helping Tom return home.

15 March 2014

Novel Philosophy and Correlative Justification

The Art of the Novel by Milan Kundera (pp 167, revised edn, Faber and Faber 1999)

This is a book for readers who like the shapes words make on paper. I am the opposite. I like to write because I enjoy the ink’s crawl onto the paper. When I read I hope writers deleted from their final draft whatever they wrote under similar hypnosis. The Art of the Novel reads as if Milan Kundera did not do that here; as if he left pretty-shaped words and paragraphs because without them he would not have filled a book.

12 March 2014

The Bell Tolls Disappointment

For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway (pp 490, Vintage 2005)

This might be the most tedious book I ever read. That is a pity because it is written well, according to all the stylistic rules. The problem is the story; it is a short story with one conceit and one interesting plot line, stretched to almost five hundred pages. Worse, that plot is introduced early, with nothing till its conclusion but meandering prose, repetitive scenes, and bland, flat personalities. The main plot engages. Whatever. Hundreds of pages that avoid that plot and even ancillary lines is a mistake. Intermittent goals and their catharsis might have saved the story. Without them, the narrative simply bores.

5 March 2014

Russian Pressure

Ivanoff: A play by Anton Chekhov (1887)

This review contains spoilers. Massive spoilers.

Anton Chekhov was a Russian playwright. He lived from 1860 to 1904. In that short time he wrote many plays and short stories--the success of which continued after his death. He is hailed as a dramatic genius. His work is a catalyst for criticism and debate. I use this review as an opportunity to evaluate the way Chekhov ended Acts to propel narratives in his plays.

1 March 2014

Still Vibrant at Forty-Six: Fuller's Anatomy

Anatomy of the Law by Lon L Fuller (pp 174, Penguin 1971)

Anatomy of the Law is a mere 174 pages but every leaf, except a few for miscellany, is packed with tight analysis. It is a little book with a lot to say. Although this review does not compare Lon Fuller’s with other legal philosophy, this work sits with the best--a tiny titan in a vigorously strong class.

25 February 2014

Baked History: The Terracotta Army, A Review

The Terracotta Army: China's First Emperor and the Birth of a Nation by John Man (pp 380, Bantam 2008)

John Man records a journey to modern Asia, explores a historical-site-cum-tourist-attraction, and adventures through China's history to educate readers in customs, glories, and warring machinations. The topic demands a varied content. Man devises a structure to meet that need. This elevates what could have been a dry chronicle to a distilled and fruitful presentation.

22 February 2014

Post Office: A Review

Post Office by Charles Bukowski (Niall Griffiths introduction, pp 160, Virgin Books 2009)

Charles Bukowski's work is semi-autobiographical. He writes about Henry “Hank” Chinaski, who relives Bukowski’s experiences. His style is raw, crisp, and realist, which ensures it does not matter if some scenes are fabricated.

This review examines Bukowski’s style and the observations he makes through Hank’s perspective. While I try to avoid spoilers, I quote and discuss the protagonist’s behaviour.

19 February 2014

I Am Number Four: Reviewed for the Critics

I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore (pp 400, Penguin 2011)

Controversy surrounds this book. 'Pittacus Lore' is the named author but is a pseudonym for a quasi-collaboration between Jobie Hughes, a writer, and James Frey, a writer-publisher-cum-marketing-department-superhero. Frey is accused of exploitative contracting (though his products, nevertheless, sell). To discredit the work on that basis discredits the author. To criticise I Am Number Four due to what Frey may or may not have done is misguided. Notwithstanding much of the internet criticism against Frey is speculative, question-begging, and ill-informed heroism, even if Frey’s critics were more rigorous, Frey’s reputation is not at stake. That is, the book is Hughes’ work and it is Hughes’ skill that should be scrutinised--not the publisher.

15 February 2014

Six Influential Non-Fiction Books

Recently I have used Goodreads to organise my reading habits. I browsed the site and found a list of Most Influential Books, which users can add to. The listopia criteria are quite personal: select ‘[b]ooks that have most opened your mind to new ideas or ways of thinking’. I explained there, and copy here, why and how each addition influenced me. In no particular order, the following lists six books that I can identify as having shaped and informed my thinking.

12 February 2014

The Haunted Craft

Lockwood & Co: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud (pp 464, Doubleday 2013)*

There is so much in this novel to acclaim. Several devices Stroud uses deserve exposition. This review aims to satisfy both.

8 February 2014

Words for Writing: Indeed

In the right circumstances, 'indeed' can change a text's pace because it indicates the forthcoming prose's format and content. This short post explores those circumstances and possibilities.

5 February 2014

Political Silliness Exposed

Last week I wrote that it is silly to debate the UK's position in the European legal infrastructure in political party-driven terms--whether as a member of the European Union or a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR/ECtHR/Strasbourg). In this post I begin with a quote from Lon Fuller's Anatomy of the Law to explain the cause of that silliness.

1 February 2014

Law's Spooky Narrative

He always received his guests in the same living room where I'd had my interview, probably because its friendly sofas and displays of oriental ghost-catchers provided an appropriate atmosphere for discussions that bridged the banal and the strange. (Jonathan Stroud, The Screaming Staircase (Doubleday 2013) p 117)

Law students are guests until fully initiated. Realistically, this might not occur--at least in student-perceptions--until after graduation with the ancillary recognition of ability. University can intimidate. The jargon, detail, pressure, the intelligence of peers and teachers, the imposing façades and absence of a single, accessible, approachable person who represents the university. Just like the manufactured aura in the quote above, narrative might help law students relax in law school's alien, stressful environment.

29 January 2014

The Judge and the Novelist

Aspects of the Novel compiles lectures delivered by EM Forster arranged as a conversational-styled monograph. The result is informative and witty. Chapter six begins with an epigram that may help explain the judicial duty. So next, that extract is quoted and afterwards annotated.

25 January 2014

Mezopotamya v Turkey: Strasbourg's Defence Against Abusive Government

Two applicants alleged breaches of various rights enshrined in the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms 1950 (ECHR). The European Court of Human Rights (Strasbourg or ECtHR) decided only the second applicant's ECHR Article 10 right to freedom of expression was violated. The second applicant (Mesopotamia) was a publishing company. Mesopotamia was dissolved by a domestic Turkish civil court and its property was seized pursuant to a prosecution in a domestic Turkish criminal court.

This post analyses Strasbourg's reasons for holding that Turkey violated Article 10. First I exposit the ECtHR's process. Second I analyse Turkey's procedural irregularities. Third, I compare these against and with the dissenting opinion. Finally, I explain my reasons for supporting the majority opinion.

22 January 2014

A List of Law Essay Ingredients

This posts collects several of my articles on writing law essays. Each of these offers some observations on writing about law in university. In my writing schedule, though, weeks pass between similar ideas. This post therefore aims to present my ideas about legal writing ingredients in an order that may improve their coherence.

18 January 2014

How to Plan and Write a Law Essay: Bentham's Lessons


In this post I expand upon PS Atiyah's exposition of Jeremy Bentham's method. Disregarding criticism of Bentham's utilitarianism, I focus on the technique that law students may derive from Bentham's work. This post therefore offers advice for planning essays, by explaining how to collect and write an essay's constituent parts, which can then be rearranged to create the final product.

15 January 2014

Edited Judgmental Appendix

In 'V v Judgments' I wrote about a quaint legal tradition. At the time I vaguely recalled passing a similar remark elsewhere but could not find the reference. After a few months of searching, I re-read an old book, and the text reappeared!

That book is Lon Fuller's Anatomy of the Law, and the following quotes are from page 11, under the heading, 'Law as a dimension of human life' (p 10). This post splits, edits, and comments on his analysis, to help justify the need to use legal language to students.

11 January 2014

Law Sounds and Philosophy

This post is a playful attempt to explain how to use philosophy to illuminate and elucidate legal problems. Philosophy, here, should be broadly interpreted: at least to include legal theory. For any readers who arrived here in search for music, check out Daylight Robbery Records and listen as you read.

8 January 2014

Wodehouse: Two Blandings and Comments

This post comments on two Blandings novels by PG Wodehouse--my first addition to a proposed 'Reading List'. I planned to title this post 'Whorehouse and the Fresh Uncle'. But two letters from accuracy is difficult to explain as a mistake when the words aren't proper homonyms. Moreover, it seemed a little crass so soon after James Avery's passing. For those who don't know, Avery played Will Smith's Uncle Phil in 'The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air'.

4 January 2014

Exit Reading List

The 'Reading List' page on this site currently lists the books in a to-read pile by my bed and a completed stack next to it. The list is always incomplete because I read materials faster than I update the record. This post explains why the 'Reading List' page in its current form is a pointless task, then outlines changes to improve my project.

1 January 2014

Misled Pretentiousness

The previous post, 'Spirits and Legal Articulation', leads to a problem that I cannot yet solve: law requires a technically defined and precise lexicon, which leads some to claim that law must deny certain relationships with non-legal writing. Law's technicality, however, does not mean, beyond the required lexicon, that all common usages must be excluded. Contrarily, lay-phrases and popular language constructions may render legal writing more fluent and readable. (This is not a call for clichés.) This post considers the false opposition attributed to legal and non-legal writing styles.