Justice O’Connor discussed her groundbreaking work to advance civics education in Florida across several platforms, including a successful venture developing cutting-edge, digital civics games for young students. She was joined by former Florida governor and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham and immediate past-president of the ABA Stephen Zack. The event was held at the University Auditorium. This program was co-sponsored by the Bob Graham Center for Public Service and ACCENT.
In 2006, Graham and former Congressman Lou Frey, launched a pioneering effort to improve civics education in Florida. O’Connor joined their effort and in 2010, the Justice Sandra Day O'Connor Civics Education Act was passed into law. This piece of legislation requires that beginning in 2012-13 Florida middle school students must take one semester of civics. The new law also requires civics-related content be taught in the language arts curriculum of all grade levels beginning with the 2011-12 school year.
As part of these efforts, O’Connor has been a key promoter of iCivics, a web-based project that uses game play to teach middle school students about civic engagement. The online games, which can be accessed at http://www.icivics.org/, are built around issues like the national budget and explore how the three branches of government function in a democracy. O’Connor became involved with the iCivics project because of her concern that civics education was faltering due to poor materials and support in many classrooms across the nation.
“We got public schools in this country to begin with because of the concern about the need to teach young people how to be good citizens,” O’Connor told PBS last year. “In recent years, the schools have stopped teaching [civics] and it’s unfortunate. Half the states no longer make it a requirement to get out of high school, if you can believe it. It’s really a remarkable withdrawal from the very purpose we had originally for public schools.”
Sandra Day O’Connor had served in a variety of legal, legislative and executive posts in Europe, California and Arizona before President Ronald Reagan nominated her to the Supreme Court. She took her seat Sept. 25, 1981. She retired from the Supreme Court on Jan. 31, 2006.
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