David H. Souter, Retired Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.
Souter tells ABA Annual Meeting Open Assembly that civic education is critical to preserving an independent judiciary.
"We can not stand up for the judiciary by leaving two-thirds of America ignorant that there are three branches [of government]" Souter at 15:15/18:35
We the People
The primary goal of We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution (WTP) is to promote civic competence and responsibility among the nation’s elementary and secondary students. What makes the program so successful is the design of its instructional program, including its innovative culminating activity, which is a simulated congressional hearing in which students "testify" before a panel of judges. Students demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of constitutional principles and have opportunities to evaluate, take, and defend positions on relevant historical and contemporary issues.
The instructional program enhances students’ understanding of the institutions of American constitutional democracy. At the same time, students discover the contemporary relevance of the Constitution and Bill of Rights.
Indiana currently has one of the largest per capita programs in the nation, due to the support of its hundreds of volunteers which include attorneys, judges and members of the education community. The unique partnership between We the People and the attorneys of Indiana has allowed record-setting numbers of students and teachers to receive this important citizenship education program.
We the People: Project Citizen is a curricular program that promotes competent and responsible participation in local, state and federal government. The program is designed to help people learn how to monitor and influence public policy. In the process, participants develop support for democratic values and principles, tolerance, and feelings of political efficacy.
The Project Citizen curriculum guides students through the methods for changing public policy. Participants explore issues in their community that need improvement and propose a possible solution and action plan to get their policy adopted by the government. The students develop a class portfolio containing a display section and documentation section to display their work.
We the People (WTP) students who answered questions from a 2008 American National Election Studies (ANES) survey were found to have correctly answered questions about civic and political knowledge at a rate of 73%, versus 17% of adults and 8% of high school students.
A 2008-2009 survey of WTP alumni found that:
95% of alumni reported voting in 2008 in contrast to 73% of their adult peers in general U.S. population (18-37 years old).
76% of alumni said they had voted in all previous elections.
76% engaged in political discussions in an attempt to persuade the opinion of others.
56% contacted a government official regarding a public issue in the last twelve months.
46% have contributed money to or volunteered for election campaigns in political parties.
In the same survey of WTP alumni, they were compared to findings from Stealth Democracy (Hibbing Theiss-Morse)
86% of those strongly agreed with the notion that "elected officials should stop talking and just take action."
In contrast, only 20% of WTP alumni felt this way. The other 80% endorsed the statement "Elected officials need to deliberate to take action."
60% of the public agree that "What people call compromise in politics is really just selling out of one's principles."
In contrast, only 13% of WTP alumni felt this way. 83% endoresed the statement "Compromise is an important part of the democratic process even when principles are at stake."
When asked whether our government would be better off if decisions were (1) left up to "nonelected independent experts" or (2) to "politicians and the people:"
31% of the public selected leaving decisions up to "nonelected independent experts" and 69% selected "politicians and the people."
18% of WTP alumni selected "nonelected independent experts and 82% selected "politicians and the people."
In a 2006 study of middle and high school students, results found that students participating in Project Citizen increased their level of civic knowledge, improved their civic discourse skills, demonstrated better public policy problem-solving skills and improved their essay writing skills as compared to the control group.
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