“A Living, Working Faith”: Remembering Our Colleague Derrick A. Bell, Jr. as Teacher


In Constitutional Conflicts: The Perils and Rewards of Pioneering in the Law School Classroom, Derrick Bell described his innovative text and “participatory“ approach to course design that placed students in the role of advocates, judges, op-ed writers, and, ultimately, teachers of the materials.  By foregrounding the role of students and decentering the teacher in the classroom phase of the course, Professor Bell created a structure based on the “Paolo Freire ideal: that students become teachers and teachers become students.”  Using this passage as a lens, Professor McArdle reflects on the implications of Professor Bell’s radically imaginative ideas about law school pedagogy.  She argues that Professor Bell’s participatory approach to the classroom, exam design, and grading informs a pedagogy grounded in an abiding faith in students’ capacities as agents, as active participants in their own learning. Professor Bell’s ideas were not only radical but prescient: his teaching practice anticipated the recommendations of the Carnegie Report and others that law schools adopt a more integrated approach to pedagogy and avoid exclusive reliance on Socratic dialogue as the method for developing students’ cognitive capacity, lawyering skill, and ethical sense.

Professor McArdle has co-edited, and is a contributor to, the anthologies Uniform Behavior: Police Localism and National Politics (Palgrave Macmillan, 2006) and Zero Tolerance: Quality of Life and the New Police Brutality in New York City (NYU Press, 2001).  She writes in the areas of urban and community studies and pedagogy, and teaches courses on lawyering, land use, and judicial discourse. Before joining the CUNY Law faculty in 2001, she taught in and was faculty coordinator for the Lawyering Program at the New York University (NYU) School of Law, and coordinator for the NYU Lawyering Theory Workshop.  She has been a Senior Assistant County Attorney for Westchester County, Counsel to the Mount Vernon Urban Renewal Agency, and worked as a criminal defense lawyer and in general litigation at a community-based law practice.  She holds a Ph.D. in American Studies and a J.D. from NYU, and an LL.M. and M.A. from Columbia University.