Sandra Day O’Connor preaches civics in Philadelphia

A former U.S. Supreme Court Justice came to Philadelphia’s National Constitution Center today to discuss the role of civics education.

Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor touted her web-based civic education project, iCivics.  She said it’s designed to give young people the tools to actively participate in our democracy. “Only one quarter of students show any kind of proficiency of knowledge in civics.  Only seven percent of 8th graders can identify the three branches of government,” said O’Connor.  “Now doesn’t that shock you?  It does me!  I mean that’s about as fundamental as it gets!”O’Connor said Philadelphia is a natural place to promote this.”The framers who sat right over there–across the mall here–did an incredible job sitting in that little Independence Hall in the heat of the summer,” she said.  “They produced something that has worked beautifully for us and we have to continue it and we have to bring Civics education back to our schools.”O’Connor admited that as a student in Texas she thought civics was dull.

A report released by the National Conference on Citizenship finds that states with higher levels of civic engagement are more resilient in an economic downturn.  National Conference on Citizenship Executive Director David Smith said as people volunteer, they acquire skills and strengthen social networks.  That in turn can he says help them find jobs.

“There are immediate actions that each of us can take but to restore a culture of civic health, we need to restore the civic mission of schools,” said Smith.  “We all know that getting out there, attending a neighborhood meeting, registering to vote, or simply discussing politics, is a good thing.  But now it appears that it’s essential.”Smith said while Americans hope for progress in Washington this fall, people should “ask not what the economy can do for them, but what they can do for the economy.”

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