Educating Humpty Dumpty: Statutory interpretation in the first year of Australian law

Journal article


Curró, Gina and Longo, Michael. (2014). Educating Humpty Dumpty: Statutory interpretation in the first year of Australian law. The Law Teacher. 48(3), pp. 321 - 345. https://doi.org/10.1080/03069400.2014.965953
AuthorsCurró, Gina and Longo, Michael
Abstract

In the Australian legal environment today the overwhelming importance of laws made by Parliament is obvious, yet many first year law programmes pay insufficient attention to the coordinated teaching of statutory interpretation (SI). This project formed part of a collaborative initiative between an educational developer and the coordinator of legal research methods (LRM) to introduce statutory interpretation into a first year unit of study. Our study used a qualitative research framework – a questionnaire was administered to students at two intervals throughout the first semester. In Week 3, 160 students participated in the questionnaire and at Week 4, a keystone module on statutory interpretation using a building block approach was introduced in LRM. Since the nature of assessment in LRM is largely reflection, this unit lent itself well to investigating the language and literacy challenges of statutory interpretation, in particular, to students monitoring their own progress in this regard. The overall aim of the project was to establish a framework for students to build on their knowledge and understanding of statutory interpretation throughout their undergraduate studies, and in the interests of improved learning and teaching outcomes, for staff to be able to document the changes in student thinking. This paper focuses on the preliminary stage of our investigation into the language and literacy challenges involved in introducing statutory interpretation into a first year unit of study.
I know of only one authority which might justify the suggested method of construction. “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.” “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master – that’s all.” (Alice Through the Looking Glass, c. vi.)
After all this long discussion, the question is whether the words “If a man has” can mean “If a man thinks he has.” I am of opinion that they cannot, and that the case should be decided accordingly. (Lord Atkin in Liversidge v Anderson [1942] AC 206)

Year2014
JournalThe Law Teacher
Journal citation48 (3), pp. 321 - 345
PublisherRoutledge
ISSN0306-9400
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1080/03069400.2014.965953
Scopus EID2-s2.0-84918498753
Page range321 - 345
Research GroupThomas More Law School
Publisher's version
File Access Level
Controlled
Place of publicationUnited Kingdom
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