iCivics and the IADC

By Urquhart, Quentin F., Jr. | Defense Counsel Journal, July 2013 | Go to article overview

iCivics and the IADC


Urquhart, Quentin F., Jr., Defense Counsel Journal


At our Midyear Meeting in 2010, the IADC was honored to have as its Foundation Forum Speaker United States Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. While everyone in attendance was enthralled with Justice O'Connor's comments about her amazing career as a lawyer and the importance of judicial independence, her talk also served another important purpose. Just a few months earlier, she had launched a new initiative called "Our Courts" aimed at reversing middle school students' declining knowledge about our judicial system. She made us all aware that civics was no longer being taught in many schools across the country and that students were not being educated about how our system of justice actually worked. This neglect was reflected in a study by the National Assessment of Education Progress showing that only 22 percent of eighth graders were proficient in civics.

Justice O'Connor passionately argued during her presentation that securing our democracy requires actively teaching the next generation to understand and respect our system of governance. Her initiative, which was soon expanded to include education about all three branches of government, later became known as iCivics. The Foundation of the IADC identified iCivics as a very worthy cause and provided some of the initial financial support to help get the fledgling program off the ground. In addition, many IADC members volunteered to become state coordinators to help get iCivics incorporated into local school systems. In 2011, we hosted the first state coordinator meeting which was attended by educators and several Chief Justices who had agreed to serve as State Chairs for iCivics.

So what is iCivics? Justice O'Connor's vision is to provide students and their teachers with resources that would make learning civics both fun and engaging. Realizing that an ordinary teaching approach was not going to be particularly effective in today's electronically connected world, iCivics has been centered around providing students with on-line video games that can be accessed at any time and played for free. A few weeks ago I went on-line and played "Do I Have a Right?" where I headed up a law firm specializing in constitutional law. I scored points by correctly matching potential clients with the lawyers in my office who had specific expertise in preserving specific constitutional guarantees such as freedom of speech and the right to bear arms. It was really a lot of fun, and I soon found myself trying to increase my score so that I could hire even more lawyers!

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