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KPBS Evening Edition

Sandra Day O'Connor: Teaching Civics Imperative To Country's Future

Sandra Day O'Connor

Retired United States Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor told KPBS Television's "Evening Edition" she can teach students how the U.S. government works in an hour a week using a video game.

O'Connor, the first woman appointed to the court, served from 1981 to 2006. She said students no longer learn civics in public schools, which she sees as a big problem.

"For years public schools taught civics, they thought that was imperative, that that's why we have schools," she said. "In recent years, more states have stopped teaching civics at all."


"Frankly, it is imperative that every generation of young people learn how our government works, and how they as citizens are part of it and can make it work for them, too," she added.

So in 2009 O'Connor founded iCivics, an organization that creates educational video games and teaching materials to be used in classrooms.

"I only need about an hour, an hour will do for me, and I can teach them how our government works," she said.

O'Connor also told KPBS about the excitement she feels to see three women on the Supreme Court. She said having more women justices hasn't changed the court's decisions, but it has changed the public perception of the court.

"It matters for women to see that women are well represented on the court," she said.


She added that justices pay "almost zero" attention to media reports and pundits.

"They aren't deciding cases based on media reports or opinions expressed by analysts," she said.

Instead, O'Connor said the justices decide based on precedent, language of the statutes and the court's long history of cases.

"They are not reading media reports to make decisions," she said. "In fact they avoid them."