3 The Units of Wu
This week we had a fact pattern in which the mother of a minor, by the name of Wu, died. Who was to be appointed guardian? The choices were a biological sister who had never known Wu, or the “Units of Wu.” None of us knew what the “Units of Wu” were, but the very phrase sounded sinister, so we decided to go with the sister.
Class always began in the same way. The professor consulted his student list. “Po-ta-lee-vo!” he barked. And then, “Answer my question!”
“Uh…the sister?” I offered.
The professor, who truly relished his role as devil’s advocate, looked stricken. “You do not trust the Units of Wu to care for young Wu?!” he asked, aghast. I shook my head. He repeated the question, this time addressing the class. Someone shrugged. He smiled as he always did when he knew he had us.
He was well aware that we would have no idea who the “Units of Wu” were. He had designed the question that way. His questions were meant to expose us to Chinese culture as well as law. I think he also enjoyed creating controversy, which is exactly what he did when he suggested that the people in the late mother’s work unit (the “Units of Wu”) might be better guardians than the absentee sister. He no doubt knew that we Western students would be suspicious of the idea of a work unit, and he wanted to force us to articulate why. The class was incredibly valuable because the professor insisted that we examine our own perceptions.