I have some questions about teaching US law at the undergraduate level (not in law school). Are those appropriate here?

I haven't fully formulated any of my questions yet (I need to make sure they are answerable, and not primarily opinion-based), but at the moment I'm contemplating issues related to teaching the basics of free expression in a one-shot class discussion. I took an entire semester-long course on the topic in law school, and am looking for guidance on boiling it down for both non-legal professors and their students. Recommendations for resources would also be welcome, although I'm not sure that's ever on-topic on Stack Exchange.

For background, this lesson will be taught in 1st year seminars by faculty from various academic departments of a private college. The class will be approximately two hours long, must also cover the institution's policies on civil discourse. I'm part of a group working up a lesson plan and instructor's guide for the session. However, I think my question(s) about the 1st Amendment could probably be phrased to be useful for anyone wanting to introduce laypersons to the topic.

I may also have questions in the future about teaching my own, full-length undergraduate law classes; these might be more focused on actual pedagogy of teaching law.

2 Answers 2


In principle, such questions could be on topic here, but perhaps it would be best to sift through the off-topic areas first. Law SE is about what the law is, so it's not about how best to explain the law, nor is it about (politically) justifying particular laws. I also do not think that Academia SE would be appropriate, since ASE is not about practical area-specific pedagogy (it's mostly about the sociopolitics, ethics, and law of academia).

What would be on topic would be questions that provide the legal bulk that you yourself have to boil down for the class. In the context of teaching a course on language and law, I had to bone up on First Amendment related case law, and going into the project I didn't know squat, nor was there anyplace useful that I could turn to in order to, for example, learn what the main limits are on "free speech" in the US (fraud, defamation, perjury & lying to officials, commercial advertising – formerly illegal for attorneys, corporate political donations of a type – formerly illegal, copyright infringement, sedition, cussing, threats & incitement).

I don't think it would be suitable to ask "How do fraud, defamation, perjury & lying to officials, commercial advertising, corporate political donations, copyright infringement, sedition, cussing, and threats & incitement relate to the First Amendment" (too broad), but these are all issues that impinge on the First Amendment and help to sharpen students' understanding of what exactly the amendment protects (and doesn't protect). This would certainly be an appropriate forum to ask about case law and statutes pertaining to any of those areas. Obviously, a 2-hour snippet doesn't allow much depth.

A request for educational resources would not be on topic, but a request for "statutes and leading case law" would be.

  • Thanks, that sounds like a great approach for when I'm putting together my own full-length course on a new (for me) topic. My current charge includes tasks like define "free speech" for students in 3–4 bullet points (!), so my questions would be more like this one from the Computer Science Educators beta; it sounds like that kind of question would not be on-topic here. (I don't suppose there's a legal educators stack in the works?)
    – 1006a
    Jun 22, 2017 at 18:08
  • Sound bites! "You have the right to express any idea you want; You do not have to provide a forum for viewpoints that you disagree with; The government must be neutral as to viewpoint".
    – user6726
    Jun 22, 2017 at 19:17
  • The philosophy and politics stacks are both appropriate for asking questions about jurisprudence and "why is the law like this" questions respectively
    – Dale M Mod
    Jul 5, 2017 at 7:50

Based on your current description this doesn't sound particularly on-topic at Law.SE, but to the extent the questions fit the Stack Exchange model they strike me as well suited to Academia.SE.

  • My issue is that it's about the specifics of 1st Amendment law, which generally isn't a specialty of the folks there. (If I was confident that all US academics had a firm grounding in the topic, I wouldn't need to write the guide; but I've had faculty colleagues insist that private entities and even individuals are bound by the 1st Amendment, for example.)
    – 1006a
    Jun 21, 2017 at 1:40
  • While Academia is good for how to teach generally, this is only a "maybe" in the original question and comes as an afterthought. It's not good for what to teach or how to teach specific, so recommending it here is a little misleading as currently written. Perhaps disambiguate which type(s) of question this response applies to?
    – user4657
    Jan 21, 2018 at 1:41

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