Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Sandra Day O'Connor

This evening I had the privilege of attending a dinner with Justice Sandra Day O'Connor (first female on the U.S. Supreme Court who retired in 2006) being the honored guest.  Justice O'Connor, since her retirement in 2006, has become a major advocate for a renewal of civic education and has been a key collaborator on the website www.iCivics.org which seeks to engage students learning through technology.

Tonight I was the guest of Global Health Inc., one of the sponsors of the of the event.  I am so appreciative to them, and their representative Faith Nix, for this special opportunity.  Also, I want to thank Robert Romines and Terri Robinette from the Moore Public Schools administration team for recommending me for this opportunity.

While not always agreeing with her judicial decisions, Justice O'Connor is one of those American government and history icons who I have looked up to for many years.  To be in the physical living presence of such an icon is a treat in an of itself.  And to have her champion civic education, a cause very near to my heart, made the evening even more special.

The theme of her presentation was that American public education has experienced a significant shift from what she believes was its core mission.  While initially developing within the Puritan societies of colonial Massachusetts, the significant focus of state-funded public education dates to the 1820s.  The core mission of public education, according to Justice O'Connor, was to help a country with a rather diverse population learn to become participatory citizens.  From my own understanding of reforms led by Horace Mann, and eventually John Dewey, combined with the emphasis of the Jacksonian era on the "common man" and the expansion of democracy, Justice O'Connor's claim seems plausible.  She contends that the emphasis of public education shifted away from civic education toward a focus on math and science (many political historians often link this transition to the Soviet launch of Sputnik).  While she is not trying to marginalize the importance of math and science, she does champion the need for an increased presence of civic education with our public schools.

The Teachers for Global Classrooms program which I am in would take this emphasis to an additional step of education being focused on international civic competence: the diverse peoples of Earth must learn about each other and ways to productively interact with each other.

So, with this spirit of helping to renew civic education's place within our schools, I ask that you journey with me as we roam the roads that lead to a better education for all of our students...no matter how remote those roads of reform may seem.


  1. Sounds like a cool event, David! I like your phrase "international civic competence." And the goal of diverse people learning to interact productively is a nice, pithy way to articulate the purpose of a globalized learning. Well said!

    1. Thank you Tina! I can't take full credit for my phrasing choices. I used phrasing that Justice O'Connor presented in her speech and tweeked it to fit global education.