"... rather than, you know, an authoritative text, it all makes sense. And there’s no real need to know or care about the words in the text, since it means whatever you want it to mean at the moment."
Says Glenn Reynolds, linking to my post on Coons, O’Donnell, and the Separation of Church and State.
A word needs to be said about the mocking laughter that instantly erupted from the law students in the audience. Presumably, that sound meant we are smart and you are dumb. Where did they learn to treat a guest at their law school — Widener Law School — with such disrespect? They hooted O'Donnell down, and she never got a chance to explain her point. What does that say about the climate for debate in law schools? Not only did they feel energized to squelch the guest they politically opposed, but they felt sure of their own understanding of the law.
I've been studying law myself since 1978, and I still puzzle over things and try to work my way through problems. If a speaker at my school makes a statement that sounds outlandish to me — me with 32 years of studying law — I may display a puzzled expression or a smile, but I hear the person out and entertain the possibility that he has a point and that even if the point is wrong, I will have learned some new perspective on the ways of being wrong or how another human being's mind works. I try to create that atmosphere in the classroom.
What is the atmosphere at Widener? Is there no intellectual curiosity? No love of debate? No grasp of how complex constitutional law problems can be?
ADDED: Here's the video: