At the closing keynote of the Games For Change conference, retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor discussed her collaboration with Prof. James Paul Gee and other game and education leaders from Georgetown Law School to create Our Courts, an upcoming online civics learning program for middle school students.
Justice O’Connor was the first female Supreme Court Justice of the United States, serving as an Associate Justice beginning in 1981 and for nearly 25 years until she retired from the bench in January 2006.
The Our Courts project is meant to foster national dialogue about the judiciary in our system of government and inspire young people to be better educated about American government and more involved in civic life.
“The better educated our citizens are, the better equipped they will be to preserve the government we have,” said Justice O’Connor. “Knowledge about government is not handed down through the gene pool!”
Our Courts will have two components, said O’Connor: a curriculum portion that educators can use, and another part young people can use in their free time to argue and discuss real judicial problems. The need for such a project has become even stronger in recent years, she added, since the No Child Left Behind Act “squeezed out civics education” from public education.
“I’m encouraged when I see young people active in political campaigns,” said O’Connor of the upcoming general election. “That is exciting news, and part of what’s happening is the politicians are slowly learning how to communicate with and inspire the next generation.”
She added, “Young people are beginning to get engaged in civil life through the internet, through their computer screens,” at the same time that the older generation is learning they can reach youth this way, too.
“Much more than that can be done. First, we can engage our young people, get them listening, by showing them that government has a real impact on their lives and that they can have a real impact on government,” she said. Young people can be reached through tools that they are comfortable with “– namely, a computer screen.”