The traditional required first-year law school curriculum transmits powerful hidden messages. The hidden messages contained within this required core tell students what is most important for all lawyers to know. I am going to suggest a proposed required first year curriculum as a heuristic model for examining hidden messages in curricula generally. The proposed curriculum tells students from the day they receive their registration packets that issues of justice, truth, equality and freedom are important to all lawyers. By the organization of the curriculum, we tell them that these values (or their absence) animate doctrine and process, rather than the reverse. The organization of the traditional curriculum emphasizes particularized substantive content more than processes of reasoning, argumentation and law-making; classifications of legal thought more than the values contained within it; and abstractions more than practical lawyering skills. Does my proposal contain hidden messages? Of course it does. All curricula do, because they make choices about what is important. The question is not whether a curriculum can be devised that is neutral and does not convey messages, but what messages do you as law faculty want to convey about lawyering and the law to your first-year students, and what ought to be required learning for people who will be the lawyers of the future?


The Justice Mission of American Law Schools