Film Documentary, Dr. Isidore Starr: Leading a Revolution in Civics
The documentary examines Dr. Starr’s contributions to law-related education, and the challenges he faced in promoting a curriculum that was engaging, novel, and controversial.
Principal Investigator: Dr. Wanda Cassidy
Co-Investigators: Margaret Fisher, Seattle University School of Law
Funding: American Bar Association, Division for Public Education; Centre for Education, Law and Society, SFU; Spencer Foundation; Street Law, Inc.; State Bar of Texas; and 18 individual donors from Canada and the United States
Additional Team Members: David Johnson and Brett Hansen, TVWashington
Isidore Starr, known as the father of law-related education in the US, significantly shaped the teaching of law and civics in American schools and internationally, through his work as a teacher, lawyer and professor. Dr. Starr’s work is still relevant, many decades after he first started teaching in the 1930s. He was 104 years young when this documentary was produced. Dr. Starr passed away in February 2018; this video was produced as a way to honour him and his work.
How This Project is Carried Out
This is the second film in the Centre for Education, Law and Society’s series on Issues of Law and Justice in Education. This project is a joint venture with Margaret Fisher, Seattle University School of Law and Director of Washington State’s law-related education program, and filmmakers David Johnson and Brett Hansen of TV Washington. Inteviews with Dr. Starr, Wanda Cassidy, and Margaret Fisher are interspersed with historical footage from Dr. Starr’s teaching days in the 1930s, the McCarthy era, and more current footage of how his ideas are used in schools.
Why This Project Matters
Civic education is critical to a young person’s education and should be an integral part of the K-12 curriculum. The pedagogy should incorporate controversial issues, case studies, mock trials and debates – which foster critical thinking and student engagement. Dr. Starr was an advocate of teaching controversial issues even during the repressed McCarthy era.
How This Project is Put into Action
Twenty-three donations were received from law-related education advocates and practitioners from the United States and Canada, to help with the film’s production. Many of these donations came from previous recipients of the Isidore Starr Award for Excellence in Law-related Education, an award given by the American Bar Association, Public Education Division.
The film premiered at the ABA, Law-related Education Conference, in Philadelphia in October 2015, to a standing ovation. Dr. Starr watched the film via video-conference at his home in Seattle and spoke to the audience following the showing.