After nearly three decades on the nation’s highest court, retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor is now lending her time and expertise to a national campaign to strengthen civics education in public schools.
Justice O’Connor, the first woman to be appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, is a co-chair of the new National Advisory Council for the Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools, unveiled here last week. She is joined by co-chair Roy Romer, the superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District and a former governor of Colorado.
Civics education promoters have expressed concern that the expansion of reading and mathematics instruction in many schools is taking time away from history, civics, and government classes.
“This knowledge about how we function in a democracy is not handed down through the gene pool. We have to teach it,” Justice O’Connor said at a press conference. Current debates over immigration laws and the war in Iraq have allowed students to see democratic principles in action, she added.
“We have so many issues facing us today that provide opportunities to engage students” in lessons about the democratic process, she said.
Mr. Romer acknowledged that the pressure of recent state and federal policies to boost student achievement in reading and math has threatened to “crowd out” civics lessons and other subjects. But he said that he and other Los Angeles administrators have been trying to find ways to incorporate civics content into the language arts curriculum.
The Washington-based Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools, a coalition of advocacy groups, has awarded grants to 18 states to promote policies aimed at improving civic learning in schools.