Critical Thinking?

Do we create the law in order to guide society onto a path, or do does the look at society, evaluate its affairs and change accordingly?

Whatever the answer is, the law remains an important part of our society, our daily interactions with one another in social, economic and political contexts.

In fact, I may even go as far as to say a fitting metaphor for the the law is that it is the shadow of every aspect of society.

One wishes to start a business selling luxury hand bags, fitting for the highest ranking moneyman’s wife and Hollywood. The law to the creation of such a handbag is that it would be immoral and unlawful to use human skin for the creation of that handbag. In commerce, a certain price is to be placed on that handbag, a certain price which is legally restricted from being too expensive and also, legally forbidden for its producer to lower the price to such an extent that it gives an unfair monopoly in the marketplace.

The law is the shadow to that handbag in many ways because a these laws will follow that handbag wherever it goes.

So it leaves me puzzled that in so many countries, specifically my country, South Africa – the law is not taught in schools at all until it is offered as a career option at tertiary level.

I am writing this article in the mist of a Jurisprudence assignment that I am working on. We study the likes of Hart and Fuller in their debates. We study the Karl Marx, Bentham and John Austin… And in an attempt to reach a point of decolonised education, they have added a very little section on African Jurisprudence and even Islamic Jurisprudence… Because we are “the rainbow nation” as you would know *wink*

However, there is currently a bit of unrest in the legal fraternity in South Africa. Legal practioners are complaining about the low standard of law graduates in the country and are demanding that the LLb degree, which is currently a four (4) year degree, be extended to five years in the hopes of improving on such issues.

Their main complaints seem to be the research and writing skills of these graduates, coupled with their ability for critical thinking, leading to problem solving.

I however, as a current law student in the country, find it obvious that there will be problems with regard to critical thinking after the completion of this degree that I am doing.

That is because the curriculum still relies heavily on an aspect of the system that I thought I would have left behind in high school. They are still very much concerned with testing the ability of students to memorize, swallow and regurgitate information that is studied in the tests.

I would understand this kind of thing with regard to the law of contract, procedure and evidence, to name a few examples. Bu it dissatisfies me greatly with regard to a module such as Jurisprudence.

In this time and age, South African law still needs to refer to Karl Marx and John Benham? I am appauled.

This shows that not enough has been done to encourage students to think critically. That when they read these theorists and jurists, they also activate their minds in order to formulate and create their own theories… Which would help to alliviate the problem of critical thinking, while also giving our country’s legal system something more closer to home as Jurisprudence for a law that is both fitting for our diverse society and relevant to students after the completion of the degree.

South Africa is a proud state of Constitutional supremacy. So why then is none of this constitution taught in the format twelve(12) years of school?

South Africa is the poster child of New democracy, of a forever changing and growing political system… Of restorative justice and practically a venture into the unknown…

So why isn’t this taught in those 12 years?

If not teaching these subjects, at least give the children some sort of teaching with regard to their basic human rights that are found in our Constitution, our Bill of rights.

Make these youths aware of its greatness as well as its weaknesses. Encourage them to learn the law so that they may become better law-abiding citizens, that they may gain an interest in eventually joining the legal field and improving the system.

But the fact that this is not the case makes me wonder that perhaps this is all the intention. Somebody is purposely keeping this opportunity away from the youth because, contrary to everything they say about inclusivity and decolonisation, they do not want to open this field to the masses.

They want you ordinary citizens to continue to see them as the higher powers, to continue to fear every time you walk into a court room, to actively feel your inferiority, because this business of the law is reserved for the “God chosen”… And everyone else must just repeat as we say.


As a side-note, consider how many people are at a disadvantage when they are faced with the might of the law and they have no knowledge, no background, only fear, and therefore, they are disadvantaged by the system.

Consider how many cases have probably happened similar to that which we find in the documentary “When they see us”… How many people plead guilty because they are so in the dark with regard to the law…

3 comments

  1. I read your insightful and well-articulated post with particular interest, as I have been teaching critical thinking at the college level for a number of years. In today’s world, critical thinking isn’t a luxury enjoyed by the elite–it’s a basic survival skill.

    Like

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