Sandra Day O’Connor’s third act.
Sandra Day O’Connor was the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States. She began her career as a lawyer, then served for 25 years as a Supreme Court Justice and retired in 2006. Her third act was to found iCivics, an educational website providing creative and effective tools for teachers nationwide on the subject of civic engagement.
The retired Supreme Court Justice thinks that civics should be taught again in middle schools nationwide. She wants the next generations of U.S. citizens to become engaged and understand our political system. At the age of 82 she decided to take action, and she founded iCivics in 2008. It is a non-profit that is supported by private donations and grants. In 2012 iCivics had 5,000 registered teachers nationwide and in 2017 there are 160,000.
iCivics was developed by Sandra Day O’Connor in partnership with Georgetown University Law School and Arizona State University. The current governing board includes Justice O’Connor and Justice Sonia Sotomayor. O’Connor originally conceived of the idea to correct what she felt was a misunderstanding of our justice system in America. At an annual conference in 2007 she said “two-thirds of Americans know at least one of the judges on the Fox TV show ‘American Idol,’ but less than 1 in 10 can name the chief justice of the United States Supreme Court.”
Teaching knowledge of civics to young people to cultivate informed citizens helps them understand that they will grow up someday and be in charge. iCivics is reaching 5 million students annually. The iCivics teaching method uses games that the students play on the theory that digital tools are the most effective and current way of reaching students. There are twenty role-playing games that put students in the action. A significant number of students play the games at school and then play them again at home. They become engaged, and in doing so learn how the branches of government actually work.
The games teach about: Activism, arguing court cases, our branches of government, voting, individual rights, immigration, representation, and thirteen more topics. Over 50% of social studies teachers are currently using iCivics in their classrooms.
Studies have shown that students with exposure to a civics education are more likely to:
Have political opinions
Understand campaign issues
Know basic facts about the United States political system