June 7, 2001
Vol. 20 No. 18

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    David Currie, the Edward H. Levi Distinguished Service Professor in the Law School

    By Peter Schuler
    News Office

    “First of all, you’ve got to love it,” said David Currie, the Edward H. Levi Distinguished Service Professor, about teaching in the University Law School. The Law Student Association recently recognized his passion for teaching and honored him with its Graduating Students’ Award for Teaching Excellence.

    “One of the reasons I love it is the intellectual challenge. You deal with all these wonderful puzzles. And our students are smart and diligent people and very good sources of ideas.”

    Currie taught Constitutional Law, a seminar in Constitutional History and Property Law, this year. Constitutional law has been his principal area of research and scholarship, but he has taught numerous other legal subjects in the 39 years he has served on the University faculty.

    Though he enjoys the seminars he conducts, he clearly is most at home in a large classroom. “I think 90 is the ideal class size. I know some of my colleagues prefer smaller classes, but I believe you need a critical mass. With 90 students, there is bound to be someone who has something interesting to say that I haven’t thought of.”

    For many years, Currie has participated in amateur theatrical productions, including Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, and he believes his stage experience makes him a better teacher. “Teaching really is a dramatic exercise. You cannot just go in there armed with your material and assume it’s going to carry itself. You have to interest them, make them curious, surprise them, and even say things that are outrageous at times.”

    The Socratic method works well for Currie. “It’s a waste of people’s time to give speeches rather than ask questions, especially if it’s something I’ve written about. They can read about Marbury Madison in a book in 30 minutes, and it takes three or four days the Socratic way. But I take them through my own thought process, make them apply what they have learned and then make it their own.”

    Currie earned an A.B. at the University in 1957 and an L.L.B. from Harvard Law School in 1960. He then served as a clerk to federal Judge Henry Friendly and Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter.