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November 2, 2008

O'Conner on the Crisis in K-12 Civics Education

Chloe White:

A survey shows more young people today can name the Three Stooges than the three branches of government, former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor told a packed auditorium Friday at the University of Tennessee. Civic education has "really lost ground" in the United States, and "unless we do something to reverse that disturbing trend, the joke may be on us," O'Connor said at the 1,000-seat Cox Auditorium at the UT Alumni Memorial Building.

O'Connor was at UT to celebrate the opening of the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy.

"Only an educated citizen can ensure our nation's commitment to liberty is upheld. If we fail to educate young people to be active and informed participants at all levels, our democracy will fail," said O'Connor, the first woman on the nation's high court.

She spoke about the need for civic education, citing three problems with what she calls "civic illiberty": the lack of time schools spend teaching civics; a static approach to civic education; and the lack of modern teaching methods such as computer programs in teaching civics.

"Creating engaged and active citizens is too important a priority to shortchange in curriculum planning in schools," she said.

O'Connor, 78, is co-chairwoman of the National Advisory Council of the Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools, a group with which the Baker Center works. The campaign promotes civic education and provides K-12 curriculum.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at November 2, 2008 3:44 AM
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