Source: (2013) Contemporary Justice Review. 16(1):70-90.
Much introductory material on restorative justice presents the subject from an idealistic point of view, in which assertions of its ethical superiority and advantages over retributive justice systems frequently go unchallenged. In New Zealand, this problem is particularly pronounced, as there is often a naÃ¯ve acceptance that restorative justice is more culturally appropriate for offenders and victims with indigenous backgrounds. This article argues for a more nuanced approach to the teaching of restorative justice, using critical investigation of claims concerning its efficacy and examination of its problems in order to explore its promises and realities. One possibility for such an approach is the use of the Socratic Method, a teaching method with a demonstrated ability to engage students and foster critical thinking, but one that has also received criticism for its ability to intimidate and demean students. This method is widely used in law schools, but much less so in the social sciences. This article explores the use of this method in a New Zealand university class on restorative justice, examining both student perceptions of the use of the Socratic Method, as well as the efficacy of this approach in terms of knowledge retention and critical engagement. (authors’ abstract)