G4C2008: Sandra Day O’Connor keynote

From the Games for Change conference program: “Justice O’Connor is working on several projects to foster national dialogue about the judiciary in our system of government. She has brought together experts at Georgetown Law School and Arizona State University to create Our Courts, which will be an online interactive civics curriculum for middle school students.”

Bob Kerrey’s introduction: we must reinforce “both the ideas and the commitments necessary to make democracy work… Being critical is not critical thinking”

Sandra Day O'Connor“I’ve become increasingly concenred about vitriolic attacks… on judges — that judges are activist… Now I always thought that an activist judge is someone who gets up in the morning and go to work.” “Public education is the only long-term solution to preserving an independent judiciary and the system of government we have.”

“The politicians are slowly learning how to communicate with and inspire the next generation — not only through rallies, speeches… young people are getting engaged with civic life through the Internet… and through these mechanisms young people can have leadership roles through tools that belong to their generation. First we need to engage young people that government has real impact on their lives, and that they can have a real impact on government.”

Our Courts for 7-9 graders to engage with real legal issues and problems, and enable them to find solutions to tough problems, to step into the shoes of a legislator, executive, judge. Two parts to the website:

  1. Curriculum for classrooms. One unintended consequence of No Child Left Behind is that it has squeezed out civics education. The primary purpose of public schools in America is to help produce citizens who have the knowledge, skills, and values to sustain our republic as a nation, to keep our democratic form of government. Stimulate real thinking and debate and a commitment to civic engagement.
  2. For young people to use on their free time. Young people are inherently interested in fairness and justice. We just need to present this in the language and mechanisms. Working with Jim Gee to make this truly interactive, using young people’s interest in arguing and expression. Arguing real issues with the computer and each other, using real legal arguments.

In response to Reuters: “I don’t play video games… sorry!”

In response to the New York Times: By next fall, we’ll have the fundamental outlines on the website for teachers. By the following September we hope to have Jim Gee’s very engaging parts online. Example of gameplay: T-Shirts being passed around schools that raise First Amendment issues. “I’d love to put up something for the students about the Second Amendment issue that the Supreme Court is addressing this year. These are things that students can learn to be engaged in. We can provide them with the text from the Constitution, and the precedents, and they can make good arguments for both sides. It would be a vehicle for enabling students to understand what the Constitution is, how the courts have to interpret it from time to time, and to make up their minds on their own.”

“I think that the interactive media on computers serve us better because I’ve observed my own grandchildren. And they will sit in front of the computer screens and be engaged in it for a long time. And that tells me that it’s a good vehicle to use. I also believe that when we learn something, a principle or concept, by doing it, by having it happen to us, which you can do by the medium of a computer, you learn by doing, and I think you remember and understand it better.”

“It’s easier for the classroom teachers”