Film Documentary, Dr. Isidore Starr: Leading a Revolution in Civics

To examine Dr. Starr's teaching of how law-related education is conceptualized and implemented, and how these teachings still impact us today. 

Principal Investigator: Dr. Wanda Cassidy
Co-Investigators: Margaret Fisher, Seattle University School of Law; Ozlem Sensoy, SFU
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

What's Proposed

A film documentary on Dr. Isidore Starr, known as the father of law-related education. Dr. Starr significantly shaped the teaching of law and civics in American schools and internationally, through his work as a teacher, lawyer and professor. Dr. Starr is now 104 years young, and still impacting how law-related education is conceptualized and implemented.  

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. I am working with Margaret Fisher, Seattle University School of Law and Director of Washington State’s law-related education program, and with filmmakers David Johnson and Brett Hansen of TV Washington. Dr. Starr has been interviewed and filmed, along with interviews with Cassidy and Fisher.  These interviews are interspersed with historical footage from Dr. Starr’s teaching days beginning in the 1930s, the challenges provoked by the McCarthy era, and more current footage of how his ideas have been implemented into schools. 

Why This Project Matters

Law-related, civic education is still critical to a young person’s education and should be highlighted in the K-12 curriculum.  Further, the pedagogy should focus on 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 award winners 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.

Where to Learn More