Equipping Students to Tackle the World's Big Questions

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One of the best things about Luther is that we have the freedom to dream up new projects and programs that respond to the interests of our students and the needs of the larger world. Over the last several years, faculty from the philosophy, political science, and economics programs have been creating a new major designed to engage students in the important work of imagining a better society. And now, I am happy to say, Luther’s Board of Regents recently approved the fruits of that labor, a new major we are calling “law and values.”

The law and values major is a collaboration between several disciplines that is intended for students who want to dig into big questions of policy, law, and the common good. If students better understand how legal, political, and economic institutions interact, and if they have the ethical tools to think about what is meant by a “good society,” then they’ll be better prepared for leadership positions in law, business, politics, civil service, or non-profits.

An Established Premise Yet Distinctly Luther

There has long been an intellectual kinship between economics, political science, and philosophy. The first program in philosophy, politics, and economics (PPE) was started at Oxford University in 1920 and has become known as the degree of Britain’s prime ministers. PPE programs similar to Oxford’s have since spread around the world, and although the law and values program at Luther shares its history with those majors, we set out to design a program that has a distinct Luther personality.

What we came up with was a major that includes foundation courses in ethics, global politics, and economics. There are two integration courses, Law and the Quest for Justice and a Law and Values Seminar, that are intended to help students make connections across disciplines. Finally, students will choose electives that align with their interests from a menu of courses in normative systems, legal and political systems, and economic systems. Courses on topics such as Politics and Religion, Constitutional Law, and Development Economics will help students gain a deeper understanding of how institutions are shaped and provide opportunities for students to apply what they have learned.

Supporting Our Mission

While designing the major we were mindful of Luther’s mission statement, which commits us to “a way of learning that moves us beyond immediate interests and present knowledge into a larger world—an education that disciplines minds and develops whole persons equipped to understand and confront a changing society.” The multidisciplinary approach of law and values will give students a richer understanding of the world's big questions–much like being able to see more of an object when you shine lights on it from several different angles. Is our legal system just? Do markets reduce or increase poverty? Is democracy the best form of government? Should we strive for equality and, if so, equality of what? These are the types of questions law and values majors may face. Further, we do not think it is enough to have just a theoretical understanding of social challenges unless students also have the practical skills to do something about them, so we will emphasize practical skills such as creative problem solving, persuasive argument, and effective communication throughout the major. In the end, we believe law and values majors will be well equipped to both understand and confront the world’s challenges.

An Ideal Fit

We look forward to the opportunities for collaboration this new major will create. Many students are likely to find that a law and values major is a great complement to their other academic interests. Partnerships with Luther centers, such as the Center for Ethics and Public Engagement, have the potential to generate new ideas that will enrich the intellectual life of the campus. Finally, with all of the Luther alumni working in law, politics, and policy, we hope to be able to bring many of them back to campus to share their experiences with our students.

The law and values major will kick off in the fall of 2022. If you want to see more about what this new program has to offer, check out the Law and Values website.

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