Friday, March 8th, 2013
Earlier this week, retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor appeared on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” show to discuss her ongoing work on civics and her newest book, Out of Order: Stories from the History of the Supreme Court. As we’ve noted before, after stepping down from the Supreme Court, O’Connor founded iCivics, an online learning platform that allows students to play games that focus on the three branches of government and the rights and responsibilities of citizens.
On the show, O’Connor explains:
I felt we had a serious gap in the education of young people. I felt we could start a website to teach about the judicial branch — that was my branch. And no sooner had we done that then I felt we had to address all three branches of government. It’s not enough to talk about the judicial. And so over the intervening years, we’ve developed that on [iCivics], and it’s really terrific. We have 19 games on it now, and an advisory group of teachers that tells us what the next substantive message is that should be incorporated into a game. And we’ve tried to follow that advice so that at the end of the day young people can show that they know what they need to know about our government.
O’Connor’s new book, Out of Order, focuses on the history of the Supreme Court and how, as the New York Times writes, it “evolved from such startingly humble and uncertain beginnings that it initially seemed like a jerry-built enterprise constructed on entirely ad hoc principles.”
Justice O’Connor writes that in its early years, the court “had no home, little money, and virtually no cases” — “it is a wonder it survived at all!” Indeed many aspects of the court were “shaped and developed little by little, year by year, person by person.” After all, Article III of the Constitution, which vested the “judicial Power of the United States” in “one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish,” left Congress with an awful lot of blanks to fill in.
John Jay, nominated by George Washington to be the first chief justice of the new court, resigned the post after six years to become governor of New York and spurned John Adams’s efforts to return him to the court, citing health problems and what he called the court’s lack of “energy, weight and dignity.” In his opinion, Justice O’Connor writes, “the Supreme Court would never amount to much.”