Civics Education Expert Comments on Sandra Day O'Connor's Legacy, Inspiration

  • Following a 2012 presentation, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor (left) offered her personal thanks to Baylor School of Education faculty members Brooke Blevins (middle) and Karon LeCompte (right) for their study the first independently conducted research project in the nation of iCivics. (Robert Rogers/Baylor Marketing & Communications)
  • Brooke Blevins, Ph.D., associate professor of social studies education and associate chair of the department of curriculum and instruction in Baylor's School of Education. (Baylor Marketing & Communications)
Oct. 24, 2018

O’Connor’s creation of iCivics ‘was the catalyst for much of my work in civics education,’ says Brooke Blevins

WACO, Texas (Oct. 24, 2018) – This week, the nation heard from former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman to serve on the nation’s highest court, that she is officially stepping away from public life due to health reasons.

In her letter to the nation, O’Connor shared about her commitment to civics education and, specifically, the creation of iCivics – free online interactive games and curriculum designed to teach the core principles of civics to middle and high school students.

Brooke Blevins, Ph.D., serves as associate professor of social studies education and associate chair of the department of curriculum and instruction in Baylor’s School of Education. She and Karon LeCompte, Ph.D., associate professor of curriculum and instruction, conducted the first independent research study of iCivics effectiveness. Blevins and LeCompte also launched iEngage Summer Civics Institute, which is supported by a grant from the Hatton W. Sumners Foundation. The researchers were honored by O’Connor for their research and commitment to iCivics and civics education.

Dr. Blevins wrote the following when she learned of Justice O’Connor’s announcement:

We are saddened to learn about the news that Justice Sandra Day O’Connor is stepping away from public life due to her health. Justice O’Connor is undoubtedly one of the most profound figures in our country—a boundary-breaking woman who fought tirelessly to encourage collaboration, democratic discourse, and working toward the common good. Her legacy is one that has had a deep impact on my own life, my academic pursuits and the Baylor community as a whole.

Justice O’Connor’s efforts to start iCivics, an online civics education platform that provides interactive games and curriculum designed to help students learn about the core principles of democracy in an engaging and relevant manner, was the catalyst for much of (the Baylor School of Education’s and) my own work in civics education.

In 2012, my colleague, Dr. Karon LeCompte, and I had the privilege of conducting the first independent research study examining the effectiveness of iCivics on students’ civic knowledge, skills and dispositions. Working with more than 300 students in Waco ISD and Midway ISD, we implemented a six-week unit using iCivics games and curriculum. In April of that year, we had the honor of presenting our encouraging findings to Justice O’Connor in a community symposium in which she also honored Waco area students, teachers and district administrators.

It was from the inspiring work of Justice O’Connor and iCivics that our work in civics education at Baylor University has continued, including the creation of the Baylor University iEngage Summer Civics Institute—a program designed to take the principles learned in iCivics and put them into action in the community. As Justice O’Connor has said time and time again, “It’s not enough to understand; you’ve got to do something.”

Justice O’Connor’s efforts to reinvigorate civics education, re-engage young people in civic life and ensure the future of our democracy are enduring and inspiring for all of us. These efforts to reform and reinvigorate civics education are ongoing and in need of our support and resources.

As she noted in her final letter, “It is my great hope that our nation will commit to educating our youth about civics, and to helping young people understand their crucial role as informed, active citizens in our nation.” This is why the Baylor University School of Education is committed to pioneering innovative approaches and research in civics education.

We are grateful for the work of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and her light that shines bright throughout our world.

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