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4 Berkeley Women's L.J. 326 (1988-1990)
The Classroom Climate: Encouraging Student Involvement

handle is hein.journals/berkwolj4 and id is 334 raw text is: The Classroom Climate:
Encouraging Student Involvement
Stephanie M. Wildmant
When I was invited to be a panelist at the 20th National Women
and the Law Conference to speak about the Classroom Climate, I
recalled how nervous I had been in 1975 when I was first invited to speak
at the 6th National Conference. I was nervous, not because I didn't
know my subject matter, but because it has been hard for me to speak in
front of large groups since my own experience in law school. Now,
almost fifteen years later, it's still difficult for me to talk in front of peo-
ple, but it is a lot easier.'
Why start with true confessions, especially when it's not considered
professional to reveal weakness or self-doubt? Feminist methodology
teaches us that the personal, real life experience of women is the lens
through which we view social-political life.2 Therefore, since the topic
classroom climate raises issues about silence in the law school classroom,
I wanted to begin with my experience with legal discourse and my own
roots as a silent woman.
Why are so many women silent in class?3 Silence is connected to
two particular phenomena: prior acculturation to silence and the
t Professor of Law, University of San Francisco School of Law, Visiting Professor, 1989-90,
Hastings College of the Law; J.D. Stanford Law School, 1973; A.B. Stanford University, 1970.
The author would like to thank Dolores Donovan and Trina Grillo for their continued colle-
gial encouragement and Leslie Espinoza and Jean Love, participants on the Classroom Cli-
mate panel at the 20th National Conference on Women and the Law, April 1, 1989,
Oakland, California, where an earlier version of this paper was first presented. The author
would also like to thank Susan Lee Lubeck, Stanford Law School, class of 1989, foroutstand-
ing research assistance and support.
It has not always been hard for me to speak in front of groups, even though I am a quiet
person. As a junior high school and high school student, I was often a candidate for student
government office. In college I was a verbal participant in seminar classes. But something
happened in law school, and talking became very hard. Other women have described a similar
declining progression in their verbal agility, in which law school marked the beginning of the
decline. See Weiss and Melling, The Legal Education of Twenty Women, 40 STAN. L. REV.
1299 (1988).
2 C. MACKINNON, Feminism, Marxism, and the State: An Agenda for Theory, 7 SIGNs 515,
534-39 (1982). See also Littleton, Feminist Jurisprudence- The Difference Method Makes
(Book Review), 41 STAN. L. REV. 751 (1989).
3 Men, of course, may also be silent in class. Nonetheless, anecdotal evidence suggests that it is
more often women than men who are silent in law school classes. To the extent that a man is


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