Friday, September 13th, 2013
With Constitution Day fast approaching, several civic leaders have taken the opportunity to critically analyze the state of American civic education and stress the need for reform. William H. Sieben, president of the American Board of Trial Advocates, and Sandra Day O’Connor, former Supreme Court Justice and creator of iCivics, both argue that improved civic education is critical to the future of our nation.
Justice O’Connor, long an advocate of civic education, delivered the keynote address at the “Transforming America: Women and Leadership in the 21st Century” conference. O’Connor argued that America “suffers from an alarming degree of public ignorance,” that begins early in a child’s schooling and continues through college. O’Connor argued that learning about citizenship is as essential as learning arithmetic and that democracy “is not a spectator sport.” O’Connor said:
We have to ensure that our citizens are well informed and prepared to face tough challenges. If there is a single child not learning about civics or not being exposed to what they must do as citizens, then all our lives are poorer for that.
In an effort to complement schools’ civic education, O’Connor created the nonprofit iCivics in 2009, which uses video games and interactive activities to teach students about civics and active engagement.
In a newly-published op-ed, William H. Sieben, president of the American Board of Trial Advocates, echoed O’Connor’s sentiments and urged lawmakers to “re-engage our children in learning the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.” Surveying students’ knowledge about American history and governance, Sieben concludes that civic ignorance leads to apathy and disengagement. Sieben says:
Sadly, many young Americans know little about the Constitution, the government it created or the laws that govern their daily lives. And, what young people don’t understand, they do not value or work to protect. Young people don’t trust the political process they see in the media and have little knowledge of how to effect change. So, they simply don’t get involved.
As a result, the ABOTA has partnered with other civic education organizers to reach out to districts and lawmakers in an effort to promote civic education.