This year, George Mason Law School inaugurated a new, required first-year course, The Founders' Constitution, which serves as a prerequisite to the required course in Constitutional Law. A new website for the course explains:
Law school curricular development requires making guesses about the future of legal practice, but that should not mean constantly chasing the latest trend. Too much focus on the latest hot specialty runs the risk of short-changing students' appreciation of the permanent things in our legal culture. George Mason's faculty considers it crucial for students to know something about the Constitution and its creation before they attempt to understand what the Supreme Court has had to say about it. Supreme Court case law, not the Constitution itself, is what Constitutional Law courses are conventionally about.
The Founders' Constitution course will require students to read a large number of important original legal sources familiar to the founding generation, ranging from Magna Carta and the English Bill of Rights to the Federalist (and Anti-Federalist) Papers, along with constitutional debates at the Philadelphia Convention and in the First Congress. While a few law schools offer narrowly-focused elective classes dealing with constitutional history, none has a comprehensive, required course comparable to The Founders' Constitution. The course, offered for the first time in spring 2008, is a prerequisite to Constitutional Law.
Judges come and go, along with elected officials, but the Constitution endures. It is essential that future lawyers have a fundamental understanding of this central governing document.
More information about the course, including a model syllabus, is available at its website.