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Ex-justice O’Connor gives schools poor civics marks

Associated Press / May 27, 2010

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NEW YORK — An “unintended consequence’’ of the No Child Left Behind initiative has been a decrease in civics knowledge, former Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O’Connor said yesterday, promoting computer games that try to make learning about government fun.

The federal education program appropriated funds “based on good test scores in math, science, and reading,’’ she said, but did not distribute money for history or civics.

She made the remarks at a conference where she was promoting iCivics.org, a website that targets middle-school students.

“Barely one-third of Americans can even name the three branches of government, much less say what they do,’’ O’Connor said.

“Less than one-fifth of high school seniors can explain how civic participation benefits our government. Less than that can say what the Declaration of Independence is, and it’s right there in the title. I’m worried,’’ she said.

Games on iCivics include “Do I Have A Right?’’, in which the player runs a firm specializing in constitutional law; “Executive Command,’’ which offers a chance to play president; “Supreme Decision,’’ about the Supreme Court; “Branches of Power,’’ which gives the player control of all three branches of government; and “LawCraft,’’ in which the player is a member of Congress.

The program is based at Georgetown University Law School. O’Connor is the project founder and leads the board of the nonprofit iCivics Inc., iCivics spokesman Jeffrey Curley said. The project began in 2007 and is in use at schools around the country, he said.

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