Retired Justice’s Focus Now on Civic Education Project

By Mark Walsh — April 04, 2008 2 min read
“If we look at the adult population, whatever civics education people got in the past didn’t seem to stick.” Sandra Day O'Connor Retired Justice U.S. Supreme Court

Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor says that federal mandates are squeezing some subjects out of the curriculum, and she is working on a project that has a goal of restoring one of them: civics education.

“One of the unintended consequences of the No Child Left Behind Act is that our schools have less time to focus on other subjects,” Justice O’Connor told several thousand attendees here at the annual convention of the National School Boards Association.

Justice O’Connor, who turned 78 in March, stepped down from the high court in January 2006 after more than 24 years of service. She told participants about the many projects she has been working on in “retirement,” such as pushing for higher pay for judges, advocating the elimination of elected state judiciaries, and helping former Soviet republics establish their judicial systems.

“I will make it my primary focus now to work on civics education in America,” she said. “We have some work to do.”

She cited surveys showing that fewer than one-third of American adults can name the three branches of the federal government, and she lamented that most know the judging panel on “American Idol,” but fewer than one in 10 can name U.S. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.

“If we look at the adult population, whatever civics education people got in the past didn’t seem to stick,” Justice O’Connor said.

In her March 29 speech, she told the NSBA members about the Our Courts project, a civics education initiative being developed by the Sandra Day O’Connor college of law and the college of teacher education and leadership at Arizona State University in Tempe, along with the Sandra Day O’Connor Project on the Judiciary at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington.

The Web site for the project, www.ourcourts.org, says it is developing online, problem-based civics learning tools for the digital generation. Teachers, content specialists, and technology experts met for two major sessions last year to begin developing a database of lessons that will include text, video, audio, and flash animation, the site says.

The Web-based curriculum will be available free to students and teachers, and it should be ready by next fall, Justice O’Connor said.

She said she is encouraged that the 2008 presidential campaign appears to be inspiring teenagers and young adults to become engaged in politics. But the schools still need to do more, she added.

“It is absolutely essential that we make sure civics is not squeezed out of our classrooms,” Justice O’Connor said. “To me, it shocks my conscience that students would find civics dry or boring. It is about who we are as citizens.”

A version of this article appeared in the April 09, 2008 edition of Education Week as Principals’ Group Updates Standards for Leadership

Let us know what you think!

We’re looking for feedback on our new site to make sure we continue to provide you the best experience.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Future of Work Webinar
Digital Literacy Strategies to Promote Equity
Our new world has only increased our students’ dependence on technology. This makes digital literacy no longer a “nice to have” but a “need to have.” How do we ensure that every student can navigate
Content provided by Learning.com
Mathematics Online Summit Teaching Math in a Pandemic
Attend this online summit to ask questions about how COVID-19 has affected achievement, instruction, assessment, and engagement in math.
School & District Management Webinar Examining the Evidence: Catching Kids Up at a Distance
As districts, schools, and families navigate a new normal following the abrupt end of in-person schooling this spring, students’ learning opportunities vary enormously across the nation. Access to devices and broadband internet and a secure

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Speech Therapists
Lancaster, PA, US
Lancaster Lebanon IU 13
Elementary Teacher
Madison, Wisconsin
One City Schools
Elementary Teacher - Scholars Academy
Madison, Wisconsin
One City Schools

Read Next

Federal Biden Picks San Diego Superintendent for Deputy Education Secretary
San Diego Superintendent Cindy Marten was a classroom teacher for 17 years before she became a school and district administrator.
2 min read
Image of the White House seal
Bet Noire/Getty
Federal Biden Calls for $130 Billion in New K-12 Relief, Scaled Up Testing, Vaccination Efforts
President-elect Joe Biden proposed new aid for schools as part of a broader COVID-19 relief plan, which will require congressional approval.
5 min read
First-grade teacher Megan Garner-Jones, left, and Principal Cynthia Eisner silent clap for their students participating remotely and in-person at School 16, in Yonkers, N.Y., on Oct. 20, 2020.
First-grade teacher Megan Garner-Jones, left, and Principal Cynthia Eisner silent clap for their students participating remotely and in-person at School 16, in Yonkers, N.Y.
Mary Altaffer/AP
Federal Who Is Miguel Cardona? Education Secretary Pick Has Roots in Classroom, Principal's Office
Many who've worked with Joe Biden's pick for education secretary say he's ready for what would be a giant step up.
15 min read
Miguel Cardona, first-time teacher, in his fourth-grade classroom at Israel Putnam School in Meriden, Ct. in August of 1998.
Miguel Cardona, chosen to lead the U.S. Department of Education, photographed in his 4th-grade classroom at Israel Putnam School in Meriden, Conn., in 1998.
Courtesy of the Record-Journal
Federal Obama Education Staff Involved in Race to the Top, Civil Rights Join Biden's White House
Both Catherine Lhamon and Carmel Martin will serve on President-elect Joe Biden's Domestic Policy Council.
4 min read