When some of Alan Stone’s colleagues learn that he is teaching a seminar on film at HLS, they wonder, frankly, what the heck he is doing. Students, however, know exactly what he is doing, Stone says. And they like it.
Stone, who has taught the class for five years, decided to respond to the “why are you teaching that at Harvard Law School guffaws” with an article in the Legal Studies Forum. He contends that the class, Law, Psychology, and Morality: An Exploration Through Film, provides students with something too often missing from a law school education: the chance to talk about each other’s ideas. “Having taught at Harvard Law School for more than thirty years,” writes Stone, “I can say that in no other course or seminar that I have taught have my students been so enabled to demonstrate their intellectual talents and creative abilities.”
Students blossom in class, according to Stone, because it is conducted on their turf. In contrast to the Socratic method often used in law class, teaching a popular medium like film inspires an egalitarian dialogue, he writes, not “150 beginners playing chess with a master who knows every possible move.” Through film, Stone argues, students tackle issues of justice and morality that motivated them to attend law school. Most important, the class “engages students who have become alienated from the law school classroom.”
As HLS launches a strategic plan that emphasizes a better school experience, Stone believes he has already found one way to nurture the psyche of the students. For the professor of law and psychiatry, that’s no laughing matter.