State Justice Bradley offers lessons in government in SuperiorYouth at the Boys & Girls Club in Superior get a special lesson in citizenship Monday.
By: Shelley Nelson, Superior Telegram
Youth at the Boys & Girls Club in Superior get a special lesson in citizenship Monday.
Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Ann Walsh Bradley will be at the club at the Virginia Deetz Community Center, 710 Catlin Ave., at 2 p.m.
Bradley, a high school teacher before she went to law school, plans to deliver a civics lesson and promote civics education.
“I really believe in education,” Bradley said. I look at our educational institutions today and I, in many ways, applaud them. We’re focused on students who are educated and ready for the workplace. But one of things we have been not focused on — and I’m afraid maybe to our peril — is civics education.”
She said while schools are preparing students for the future, one of the things schools aren’t doing is preparing students for citizenship.
“To have an effective democracy — you only do that by knowing your rights and responsibilities,” Bradley said.
The goal of education in civics and government is informed, responsible participation in political life by competent citizens committed to the fundamental values and principles of American constitutional democracy, according to the Center for Civics Education.
“In many schools, that’s no longer being taught,” said Bradley, state co-chair for iCivics.
The program is an online educational gaming website founded by retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor to reinvigorate civics education in the United States.
Bradley plans to use resources at www.iCivics.org, including the game Supreme Decision to help explain how judges make decisions, explore the 1st Amendment and the concept of judicial review.
“The youth of Superior and all those who belong to the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Northland will benefit from the lessons and resources that can be found on iCivics,” Bradley said.
In addition to the fun and educational games, iCivics provides free lesson plans and teacher guides to help promote understanding of the Constitution, the democratic process and each branch of government.
“I feel passionately that students have to understand our system of government,” Bradley said. “As a justice and a member of the legal community, I find these invaluable tools that will help improve understanding the courts and our form of government.”
In a survey conducted in late 1997 by the National Constitution Center, more than 90 percent of Americans agreed “the U.S. Constitution is important to me” and “I’m proud of the U.S. Constitution.” However, surveys show people lack knowledge of how the document impacts their daily lives. For example, only 6 percent could name all four rights guaranteed by the 1st Amendment; 62 percent cannot name all three branches of the federal government; 35 percent believe the Constitution mandates English as the official language; and more than half of Americans don’t know the number of senators, according to the Center for Civics Education.
In Supreme Decision, players help cast the deciding vote in a Supreme Court case. At stake in the game is the suspension of Ben Brewer who wore his favor band t-shirt to school against dress policy. Players help the final justice make up her mind and influence the outcome of the case.
Supreme Decision is one in a series of nine lessons that iCivics has customized for Boys & Girls Clubs throughout the United States. In all, iCivics has produced 18 educational video games as well as accompanying teaching materials to become the nation’s most comprehensive, standards-aligned civics curriculum that is available freely on the web.
“There was a recent poll and only one-third of those polled could name the three branches of government, let alone what they could do,” Bradley said. “More people can name the judges on American Idol than can name the chief justice of the United States Supreme Court, John Roberts.”
Bradley, who plans to travel to Boys & Girls Clubs throughout the state this summer to share the lessons iCivics offers, said this is going to be a fun, but important venture.
Superior is the first stop in that effort.
“We take our form of government for granted,” Bradley said. “To sustain it takes some focus.”