March 4, 2004

"From a progressive viewpoint." I wondered a few days ago about how or whether a lawprof asked to speak to the American Constitution Society as opposed to the Federalist Society about a new Supreme Court case ought to tailor her presentation in some particular way. I was asked by ACS to speak about Locke v. Davey, which I did yesterday, having prepared essentially the same talk I would have given to the Federalists except with some differences about how to draw the audience into the issues. I was a bit surprised in the preliminary portion of the meeting, which was administrative and organizational, that the audience was told that the ACS presents speakers who talk about law "from a progressive viewpoint."

Well, I thought, when you asked me to speak and I inquired whether there was any particular way I ought to think about addressing the group, I was told there was not. If I had been asked if I would like to talk to to the group about Locke v. Davey "from a progressive viewpoint," I would have said no. If I had been told in answer to my inquiry that I should know the audience would be expecting to hear a presentation "from a progressive viewpoint," I would have said: maybe you should look for someone else, I don't want to disappoint them, but I'd be happy to talk about Locke v. Davey in a way that takes account of the fact that the audience is composed of persons with progressive viewpoints who like to hear about provocative issues that they will want to think more about.

I can't help suspecting that students just assume a professor will be speaking "from a progressive viewpoint"!

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