James Dwyer

Visiting Professor of Law

Fall 2019

Biography

James G. Dwyer holds the Arthur B. Hanson chair at the William & Mary School of Law, where he teaches Family Law, Youth Law, Trusts & Estates, and Law & Social Justice and has three times received the university’s Plumeri Award For Faculty Excellence. He received his law degree from Yale Law School and a Ph.D. in political and moral philosophy from Stanford University. Professor Dwyer has authored a half dozen books and dozens of articles on child-welfare related topics, and he is the editor of the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Children and the Law. Before entering academia, he worked as a family court Law Guardian in New York State, in addition to spending three years as an associate in Washington, D.C. law firms.

James G. Dwyer & Shawn F. Peters, Homeschooling: The History and Philosophy of a Controversial Practice (2019).
Categories:
Family Law
Sub-Categories:
Children's Law & Welfare
,
Education Law
Type: Book
Abstract
In Homeschooling: The History and Philosophy of a Controversial Practice, James G. Dwyer and Shawn F. Peters examine homeschooling’s history, its methods, and the fundamental questions at the root of the heated debate over whether and how the state should oversee and regulate it. The authors trace the evolution of homeschooling and the law relating to it from before America’s founding to the present day. In the process they analyze the many arguments made for and against it, and set them in the context of larger questions about school and education. They then tackle the question of regulation, and they do so within a rigorous moral framework, one that is constructed from a clear-eyed assessment of what rights and duties children, parents, and the state each possess. Viewing the question through that lens allows Dwyer and Peters to even-handedly evaluate the competing arguments and ultimately generate policy prescriptions. Homeschooling is the definitive study of a vexed question, one that ultimately affects all citizens, regardless of their educational background.
James G. Dwyer, Liberal Child Welfare Policy and its Destruction of Black Lives (2018).
Categories:
Discrimination & Civil Rights
,
Family Law
Sub-Categories:
Race & Ethnicity
,
Poverty Law
,
Social Welfare Law
,
Children's Law & Welfare
Type: Book
Abstract
How can we end the inter-generational cycle of poverty and dysfunction in the US's urban ghettos? This ground-breaking and controversial book is the first to provide a child-centered perspective on the subject by combining a wealth of social science information with sophisticated normative analysis to support novel reforms―to child protection law and practice, family law, and zoning― that would quickly end that cycle. The rub is that the reforms needed would entail further suffering and loss of liberty for adults in these communities, and liberal advocacy organizations and academics are so adult-centered in their sympathies and thinking that they reflexively oppose any such measures. Liberals have instead promoted one ineffectual parent-focused program after another, in an ideologically-driven quest for the magic pill that can save both adults and children in these communities at the same time. This `insider critique’ of liberal child welfare policy reveals a dilemma that liberals have yet to face squarely: there is an ineradicable conflict of interests between many young children and their parents, especially in areas of concentrated poverty, and one must choose sides. It is a must read for legal academics, political scientists, urban policy experts, as well as professionals working in social work, law, education, urban planning, legislative offices, and administrative agencies.
James G. Dwyer, Moral Status and Human Life: The Case for Children's Superiority (2010).
Categories:
Family Law
Sub-Categories:
Children's Law & Welfare
Type: Book
Abstract
Are children of equal, lesser, or perhaps even greater moral importance than adults? This work of applied moral philosophy develops a comprehensive account of how adults as moral agents ascribe moral status to beings - ourselves and others - and on the basis of that account identifies multiple criteria for having moral status. It argues that proper application of those criteria should lead us to treat children as of greater moral importance than adults. This conclusion presents a basis for critiquing existing social practices, many of which implicitly presuppose that children occupy an inferior status, and for suggesting how government policy, law, and social life might be different if it reflected an assumption that children are actually of superior status.

Education History

Current Courses

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