Friday, May 4, 2012
This morning's panels at the 2012 Conference of Religiously Affiliated Law Schools at Touro Law School continued the spirited and engaged discussions that I reported on yesterday. Again, bravo and thanks to Touro, Dean Raful (whose engagement in and support for this enterprise was evident by his participation in every facet of the program), and Sam Levine for the energy and careful thought he put into organizing the program.
MOJ'er Fr. Arujo gave his typically thoughtful remarks on bringing religion into the classroom, and I'm sure he can summarize his remarks, and the exchange on his panel, better than I could. I'd like to talk a bit about the first panel. Susan Fortney of Hofstra, playing the role of clean-up summarizer, noted the importance of the personal narratives all of the speakers offered in engaging students in considering the place of faith in teaching ethics in the classroom. Indeed, the consensus that seemed to emerge from the individual panelists' presentations was that a personal connection to whatever the topic being taught is can often give the teacher a way to present faith as a legitimate consideration in a inviting way that does not foster a sense of exclusion on the part of students who might not share that same faith conviction. Each of these panelists, in their own ways, illustrated, I think, the power of what Marc DeGirolami characterized (and defended) as the third possible meaning of 'being compromised' by one's faith tradition, in his post earlier this morning "On being compromised." (Sorry, I still can't figure out how to do hyperlinks when posting from an I-pad.)
John Nagle shared some of the poignant story that he told in the article "Biodiversity and Mom",30 Ecology L.Q. 1000 (2003) about his mother's diagnosis of ovarian cancer, which introduced him to the potentially therapeutic properties of a substance extracted from the Pacific Yew tree. This tree had been the subject of an effort to get it listed as an endangered species. Though the drug developed with that extract did not work for John's mom, this personal experience put the religious motivations for the fight for biodiversity into a frame that John could apply in the classroom. He quoted the Ogden Nash riddle: "God in his wisdom made the fly/ And then forgot to tell us why." It seems to me that this little riddle could be a useful motto not just for thinking about interspecies biodiversity, but also for just about every legal issue that has anything to do with that amorphous and elusive concept of 'human dignity.'