Academic journal article Albany Law Review

Panel Discussion: Civic Education

Academic journal article Albany Law Review

Panel Discussion: Civic Education

Article excerpt

ASSOCIATE ATTORNEY GENERAL RAYMOND C. FISHER(**): As the American Bar Association survey indicates, the level of education in this country about our governmental and our justice system is appallingly bad. Those of us who have been educated over the years can reflect on our own educations and draw our own conclusions about how good these educations were and where we think they might have been improved. One statistic that I took particular note of in the survey was that very few people really knew what the three branches of government were. Those that did, knew least about what I consider, obviously, the most important branch, the Executive Branch. So, therefore, I challenge this group and lawyers and judges to do the right thing and make sure that the citizens of our country know more about the Executive Branch!

I think, from my own experience, that the challenge that lies before us as adult citizens, lawyers, judges, and those of us working in the government in various capacities, is important and is serious. Therefore, even though we are the last on the program agenda for these two days, I think our mission is no less important because now we are really addressing the issue of how are we going to deal with public attitudes, because the other point in the survey is that most people, young people and adults alike, get their information about our form of government, our institutions of government, through their schooling.

We are now going to hear from a very distinguished panel, starting with Chuck Quigley, who is the executive director for the Center for Civic Education. I'm going to briefly introduce everybody. Chuck Quigley will speak on his paper, which is entitled Civic Education: Recent History, Current Status, and the Future. I highly commend it to you. Todd Clark, a good friend of mine, [is] a former colleague from the Constitutional Rights Foundation [CRF], of which you will hear more. Todd is the executive director of CRF in Los Angeles. Jean Craven is the director of curriculum and instruction for the Albuquerque Public Schools. That school system serves 80,000 students in 120 schools. Michael Hartoonian, is director of the Center for Economic Education and is a professor of education at the University of Minnesota. Linda McNeil is currently co-director of the Rice University Center for Education and is also an associate professor of Education at Rice. Chuck Tampio is vice president for programs at the Close Up Foundation, which is a nonprofit and nonpartisan civic education organization, and it is well-known for the various groups of students that it brings to Washington, D.C.

[Charles N. Quigley's remarks, occurring at this point in the conference, have been deleted. Instead, an edited version of Mr. Quigley's presentation appears above at page 1425.]

ASSOCIATE ATTORNEY GENERAL FISHER: We now have some comments. We have actually previewed some of these, so I won't pretend surprise. I'm going to ask Linda [McNeil] and Michael [Hartoonian] to address one of the issues that Chuck [Quigley] raised, which is the demand by the public of civic education, the driving need for it, and the concept of standardization, and then perhaps they'll raise the issue of tests. Linda [McNeil], why don't you start with your experience in Texas, and then we'll have Michael [Hartoonian] follow up.

DR. LINDA McNEIL: It is really a pleasure to be here with attorneys and judges and to have this chance to have a conversation with you about this issue of what our kids are learning. I was especially grateful to Judge McBeth this morning because what she said about who we are now and who our children are was stated very eloquently and very powerfully. She knows a school with 102 home languages. In the main district in the city of Houston, we have 150 home languages. I doubt if we can all name them, [with] subdialects and subgroups from all over the world. These are the children in our schools; [we have] a long history of Hispanic, Black, and Anglo student populations. …

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