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Could You Have Passed Barack Obama's Law Class At U. Of C.?

By Sam Cholke | April 5, 2016 5:37am | Updated on April 7, 2016 8:46am
 Barack Obama is returning on Thursday to U. of C., where he once taught and may be compelled to have a pop quiz.
Barack Obama is returning on Thursday to U. of C., where he once taught and may be compelled to have a pop quiz.
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File Photo Obama For America

HYDE PARK — President Barack Obama is returning to the University of Chicago’s Law School, where he was once a lecturer, on Thursday, and it’s time to study up just in case there’s a pop quiz.

Obama will be at the Law School on Thursday morning to talk about the U.S. Supreme Court and his pick of Merrick Garland to fill the vacancy left by Justice Antonin Scalia.

Obama was a well-liked lecturer at the Law School from 1992-2004 whose exams were at times as funny as they were mind-numbingly complex.

In student evaluations maintained by the university since Obama left when he was elected to the U.S. Senate, he was given near perfect marks by students for being an interesting teacher who was good at challenging students and addressing dissenting viewpoints constructively.

Reporter Sam Cholke talks about the teaching style of President Obama.

“I loved teaching,” Obama told the Sun-Times in 2007. “But when the opportunity came [to run for U.S. Senate] I took it. I think some of the public speaking skills I developed in the classroom — stay on your toes; don't make my answers too long — I'm using on the campaign trail.”

Obama’s essay exams for Race and the Law, Constitutional Law and other classes are still online and are often take a serious look at Chicago and the country’s problems thinly veiled behind humor.

One question puts students in the position of a legal advisor to Arnold Whatzanager, the governor of Utopia.

“Not only does the job entail substantial responsibilities, but you are a big fan of the former movie-star, and have seen all of his movies multiple times,” Obama writes before diving into questions about the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause.

The earliest exams from 1996 and 1997 frequently imagine a newly installed black mayor in imagined cities like Wazoo or Splitsville.

Students are asked to examine the legal standings for the new mayor’s plans to tackle racism and corruption in the cities, which often share similarities with Chicago, like a federal consent decree against the fire department or school system for discrimination.

He also asks whether a school set up to teach mostly male black students through black history and culture could survive a challenge in the courts. He frequently invokes in vitro fertilization in his hypotheticals and focuses heavily on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people while making medical and family planning decisions.

Obama was never much for the university’s Socratic approach to teaching and calling randomly on students in an effort to catch them off guard, but he also hasn’t been back to the Law School in a very long time.

It might be worth studying up, just it case it finally clicks for him and he starts quizzing people on Thursday.

Read through the full exams and Obama’s own thoughts on his questions below.

Obama Exam 1996

Obama 1996 Exam Answers

Obama's 1997 Exam

Obama 1997 Exam Answers

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