This week I had my first classes at the China University of Political Science and Law (CUPL). CUPL probably has more students interested in Environmental Law than any other law school in China. This is in large measure the result of Professor Wang Canfa teaching there. He is the founder and director of the Center for Legal Assistance to Pollution Victims (CLAPV). I am teaching two classes at CUPL - Environmental Law, which meets for three hours on Monday afternoons, and Comparative Law, which meets for two hours on Thursday mornings. I am focusing on comparative environmental law in the latter class and using it to introduce the students to the concept of global environmental law.
There are 45 students in my Environmental Law class and 25 students in my Comparative Law class. As I do in my classes at Maryland, I start the first class by filming the students introducing themselves. I use the video to make individual photos of each students. This allows me use iPhoto to construct a digital seating chart, with the audio available to ensure that I can pronounce each name correctly. I then create a slideshow of the class to test myself on how well I remember each student’s names. I show the slideshow to the students at the beginning of the second last.
This practice has proven particularly valuable here in China where the names are somewhat harder for me to remember given my relative lack of familiarity with Chinese names and the fact that there are six Wangs in my Environmental Law class. It also elicited a particularly warm response from the Chinese students who frequently have classes where they sit passively as the professor lectures at them without making much effort to engage them. I posted the raw videos of the students online so that the students could view them. The Environmental Law class video is online at: http://gallery.mac.com/rperci#100102. The video of my Comparative Law class is online at: http://gallery.mac.com/rperci#100110.
I was impressed with the quality of the English spoken by many of my students, though I am following the advice of former Fulbrighters in trying to speak as slowly as possible. I also was impressed with the high level of interest in environmental law expressed by students in both classes. Class discussions of environmental issues leave me with the impression that there is less understanding of the threat of global warming here than among my Maryland students, perhaps because basic pollution problems pose a much more immediate challenge in China. There also seems to be much greater concern among my Chinese students about job prospects in the environmental field. While my Maryland students generally can be confident about their job prospects in the environmental field, many of the Chinese students are making a leap of faith that jobs will materialize in the future in a field that is just developing.