Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Too Many Young Americans Lack the Fundamental Knowledge Concerning How Our Democracy Works ... Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor Offers a Simple Solution

Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor became so concerned that young Americans lacked the preparation to be active and informed citizens that she decided to do something about it. So she created web based iCivics, inc. in order to empower teachers and prepare the next generation of students to become knowledgeable and engaged citizens.

The referenced website is, and it's a fun, informative and educational experience available to all ages. I recommend that you take some time to familiarize yourself with its many attributes and then check to see if the schools in your area are using this outstanding and free award winning teaching tool.

Teaching Better Civics for Better Citizens is subtitled 'American students are alarmingly unfamiliar with the essential elements of democracy:'

"The results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) . . . revealed that our country’s eighth-graders aren’t just failing at civics and history. They fundamentally do not understand our democratic system of government . . . .

The scores from the test known as the Nation’s Report Card show that only 18% of the students are proficient in history, and less than a quarter are proficient in civics. For example, fewer than one-third of students tested knew that “the government of the United States should be a democracy” is a political belief shared by most people in this country.

Education policy leaders have correctly recognized the importance of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) to prepare children for the jobs of the future, and to enable the U.S. to compete in the 21st-century marketplace. The NAEP tells us that if schools ignore civics and social studies, they risk excluding students forever from American democracy. While we fully support the vast resources committed to promote STEM subjects, we seriously question the cost of doing so at the expense of the humanities.

Civic education cannot be an afterthought. Citizenship is a skill that must be taught over time with the same devotion we give to reading, math and the pursuit of scientific knowledge. . . .

More civics courses alone is not the answer. Civics education itself needs an overhaul that makes it relevant to digital learners. This is why we have joined forces to create games and digital content that meet students where they are—online and gaming—and help them create a sort of “muscle memory” for citizenship. We want to give students an immersive civic-education experience that inspires them to learn how to use the legal system, the legislature and the electoral process to solve problems in their communities and effectively communicate with their government.

As the next election nears, it’s not enough to have young people read about elections in history books. Digital games such as “Win the White House,” a product of the Web-based nonprofit education project founded by Justice O’Connor, put students inside a virtual election. They can learn how to navigate the process and experience its complexities in a way that is fun and engaging and on their terms.

Nationally, more than 72,000 teachers have created accounts with iCivics, giving digital civic education to more than 7.5 million students. It is now used by more than half the nation’s middle-school social-studies teachers, and that is cause for celebration. The question is how to reach the other half. . . .

Citizenship begins long before students can vote. Civic education will help them exercise their vote, and participate in our democracy, in an informed manner. The NAEP results indicate that it’s not the students who are failing to learn, but we who are failing to teach them.

Ms. O’Connor, a retired U.S. Supreme Court justice, is the founder of iCivics, a nonprofit company producing digital civics curriculum for schools. Mr. Glenn is a former astronaut and former Democratic U.S. senator from Ohio (1974-99)."

Summing Up

The U.S. occupies a special place of distinction as a unique shaper of human history.

And We the People have long been blessed with abundant opportunities and have been fortunate to live in 'the land of the free and the home of the brave.'

As a diversified group of Americans, we worship many religions, our racial mix is varied, we represent differing political views on many different issues, and we are of different sexes across all age groups.

But all that said, we have something in common which is vastly more important than all of the foregoing combined; we're each free and opportunity rich citizens of the greatest nation in the history of the world.

We really should learn more about this great and unique country of ours.

And former Supreme Court of the United States Justice O'Connor has made that possible, and even fun, for anybody willing to take the time to do so.

That should include all of us --- young, old and in-between. It's a shared responsibility and civic duty of each and every American.

That's my take.

Thanks. Bob.

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