Oklahoma City University has become the first university in the state to partner with a national organization that is seeking to promote civic literacy in middle school and high school classrooms.
The organization, called iCivics, was started by former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. OCU President Robert Henry, a former federal judge, agrees with Justice O’Connor’s opinion that young students should have a better understanding about how the U.S. government works.
“In order to have a free and open democracy, it’s important that the public understands how our system of government works,” Henry said. “The best place to start that education is with young students in hopes that they’ll stay engaged in the process through adulthood, when they’re tasked with choosing our nation’s leaders.”
Henry pointed out that 71 percent of Americans failed a basic civics literacy quiz conducted by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute in 2008. The average score was 49 percent, and college graduates fared only slightly better with a 57 percent average score.
“More people know who the contestants are on ‘American Idol’ than they do their representatives in Congress. A democracy is in jeopardy when its people fail to participate, and iCivics has a brilliant, non-partisan plan to help encourage participation through education,” Henry added.
The iCivics organization’s website features games and graphics directed toward middle and high school-aged students. Individual state coordinators are seeking partners to help promote education, and Oklahoma’s coordinators found a willing participant in the OCU History and Political Science departments. Oklahoma Supreme Court Chief Justice Steven W. Taylor is the state co-coordinator with Amy Fischer.
“Chief Justice Taylor joins the chief justices of many states in this role, and we are particularly proud to have someone of his integrity and knowledge serving in this capacity,” Fischer said.
The university plans to host training events to help local teachers learn how to use iCivics in their classrooms. There will also be special events throughout the year including Constitution Day celebrations to promote civic literacy. The projects will qualify for credit in OCU’s service-learning program, giving the college students an additional reason to get involved.
For more information about iCivics visit the website www.icivics.org.