.... But the liberal students did not necessarily find reassurance. “For people who thought they were getting a doctrinal, rah-rah experience, it wasn’t that kind of class,” said D. Daniel Sokol, a former student who now teaches law at the University of Florida at Gainesville.
For one thing, Mr. Obama’s courses chronicled the failure of liberal policies and court-led efforts at social change: the Reconstruction-era amendments that were rendered meaningless by a century of resistance, the way the triumph of Brown gave way to fights over busing, the voting rights laws that crowded blacks into as few districts as possible. He was wary of noble theories, students say; instead, they call Mr. Obama a contextualist, willing to look past legal niceties to get results.
For another, Mr. Obama liked to provoke. He wanted his charges to try arguing that life was better under segregation, that black people were better athletes than white ones. “I remember thinking, ‘You’re offending my liberal instincts,’ ” Mary Ellen Callahan, now a privacy lawyer in Washington, recalled.
Jul 30, 2008
The audacity of disagreement
From the NYT today: