Diversity and Learning: Imagining a Pedagogy of Difference


The diversity of law school faculties and student bodies has become the focus of intense discussion and debate. Most of the attention to date has been paid to the introduction of diversity: admitting students from groups traditionally underrepresented in the profession, and hiring and tenuring faculty from these underrepresented groups. Undeniably, more and more women, people of color, lesbians and gay men, and people from economically disadvantaged backgrounds are entering law school, and there is better representation of these groups on law faculties. Yet these changes have not generally been accompanied by alterations in the curriculum. Genuine diversity requires more than just changes in the make-up of the community; it requires a new order so that the traditional roles of power and authority and the overriding vision of the institution do not remain the same.

Too often, the operating assumption has been that all students who are given an equal opportunity to gain a legal education will succeed in direct proportion to their ability. Admitting a diverse group of students without making changes in the law school curriculum has been considered sufficient to make up for the past exclusion of certain groups. But just as adding more women’s bathrooms fails to make a formerly all-male school truly co-ed, so too merely assuming that students from these previously underrepresented groups will assimilate themselves into the existing system is insufficient to create true diversity. Diversity requires accepting and appreciating difference, including differences in learning needs. When difference is ignored or belittled, students who see themselves as different become alienated.

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