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Should the Basics of Law Be Taught in High School? (As an Elective)


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Should high schoolers have a basic knowledge of law? I think so. Not that it should be required, but there should be a class for it. I would hate to go to law school only to realize that I don't like it.

Round 1
There are a few classes that teach some basic law if you count learning the amendments in history, and debate, which is an elective that schools have that can sorta prepare you for lawyering. 
I can only vouch for my personal experience in my own high school, but if there can be a class for "World of Conspiracy Theory," or "Equine Sciences," I think that there can be an elective for law. If schools already have this and I'm just unaware, then all the better.

Roughly a third of college students change their major within three years and before getting a degree. [1] This means that money and scholarships are being wasted on courses that are never finished. I don't have a specific statistic on law students, but the information is still relevant.
A prevalent reason for this is that high school graduates are not well informed about their major before they choose it.

Law school is even worse. Because you have to go to a specific law school, rather than learn law at a normal college, there is no option of changing your major. Instead, you have to drop out. And the law school dropout rates range up into the 20%, though more expensive schools like Harvard necessarily have much lower rates. [2]

The point is that too many students walk in blind and don't like what they see. This is part of the reason for student loan debts, which affect 70% of college graduates. [3] 

A solution I propose is to more thoroughly inform high school students of their courses of study before they choose their major. I might be doing a debate about that later on. 
A basic law elective class is a step in the right direction.

I would argue that a basic knowledge of the law and its proceedings should be taught as a mandatory thing for a quarter or two. It is the duty of American citizens to be informed about the process of government, and the judicial branch is part of this. 

In addition, it is inevitable that you would go into court for something or other, be it a traffic violation, speeding ticket, DUI, or a criminal charge. Knowing how to conduct yourself and how the case/verdict will happen will be helpful in the long run, especially if you know your rights. Or if you're a model citizen or have mandatory jury duty, it is still crucial to know how the law operates in enforcement and on a court scale. 

Government classes are often taught, and it is mandatory for the school I attend. But the classes don't focus as heavily on the Supreme Court and lower courts as it does the legislative and executive branch. Everyone focuses on the President when, in fact, the Supreme Court has just as much influence.


  • Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), which began the "separate but equal" doctrine
  • Roe v. Wade (1973), establishing that right to privacy extends to abortions
  • Tinker v. Des Moines (1969), asserting that students have free speech in schools
  • Marbury v. Madison (1803), extending the Supreme Court's power
In my opinion, having a good knowledge of the law is imperative in being a good American citizen. It is the obligation of the American citizens to know about the government, on a small and large scale. 
Round 2
Ah. You're saying that a basic law should be required, not an elective.

Well, at my school, there are required credits, such as P.E. and Health that you have to take, even though they're "electives."

This is different from math, English, science, and history because they're not "Core Classes." 

I don't oppose law as a required "elective." I was only thinking about preparing for law school when I made this debate, but it also makes sense that a degree of legal understanding is part of having good citizenship.

So I think that law should be a required elective. I know that in my description that I said "Not that it should be required," but I wasn't considering normal obligations in court.

I might also propose the law class being put under the same credit as Government classes so that students can pick between the two, but really they should take both.
Firstly, I would like to correct my statement "Or if you're a model citizen or have mandatory jury duty, it is still crucial to know how the law operates in enforcement and on a court scale." I meant "Even if" for the model citizen comment and I apologize if it was unclear. Continuing.

  1. I would not say that the Government and law classes should be interchangeable, as they focus on different things. I'd also state that Government and law would be "core classes", because, once again, it is the duty of the American citizen to know about their government and the due process of law, as well as their rights (see here, apologies for the website format).
  2. Instead of teaching us about the mitochondria for the 17th time in a row, we could learn something useful if the law class is obligatory. (I'm dead serious about this, there is too much reviewing of material.)
  3. Required credits can take place over any year. For example, at my school, it is required we have at least one P.E. credit in order to graduate. But if you have a class that takes place over a quarter in a certain year, like Health in junior, it could make things much smoother. 
Round 3
I was only suggesting that they might implement it that way. Other classes have been like that at my school, like taking a foreign language and Journalism each counted as a Communications credit. It wasn't personally something I supported.

Fair point, but perhaps a question for another debate.

Fair and relevant.
But they call them Core Classes because you take them every year. Science, history, English, and math.
It would still be considered a required elective because it wouldn't do that. It would be like health: important knowledge, but not something you need to spend four years on.
1. Noted. 

2. True, but it's something that needs to be talked about anyway.

3. I accept your point. 

I would like to point out that if you're making the decision to go to law school, then it would be in your best interest to research law. I personally want to become a CTI in the Navy and get a Ph.D. in ornithology (the study of birds, hence my profile picture) so I can be a falconer. In order to completely see all my options, I've got to research. See what the requirements are. Besides, there are no classes for the foreign language I want to learn (Russian). There's no class exclusively about birds. Sometimes schools don't provide all the options. So find them yourself.