An old friend and a new project brought U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor to Baylor this week.
O’Connor’s long history with Baylor President Ken Starr is the common bond. The first female Supreme Court judge in U.S. history was Starr’s guest Monday afternoon in his continuing interview series, “On Topic with Ken Starr.” A packed Waco Hall crowd of faculty, staff, students and Waco residents listened to O’Connor share stories from her career for more than an hour. (Watch full video of the event here, or click here for a photo gallery from the Justice’s visit to Waco.)
O’Connor focused much of the conversation on her efforts to improve civic education. The Justice founded an online curriculum called iCivics in 2009 that uses games to introduce students, particularly those in the middle grades, to civic principles and ideas. (I checked the site out yesterday afternoon, and I must confess I got caught up in playing the games for more than an hour.)
Thanks to President Starr’s friendship with Justice O’Connor, Baylor was appointed last year to study the success of iCivics. Baylor Law School developed a model for using law students to lead iCivics activities in local classrooms, while the Baylor School of Education has analyzed the effectiveness of the program. A series of lesson plans developed by Baylor law students, graduate education students and undergraduate interns together make up the Baylor Model, which has been designed to be easily replicated in cities across the country. (Read more about that process here, or watch this video on the iCivics partnership between Baylor and Waco ISD.)
O’Connor is in Waco for three days to see the Baylor Model for iCivics firsthand. “I was thrilled, frankly, that Baylor, with the help of your president here, agreed that [the university] would help us evaluate iCivics,” O’Connor said Monday. “It’s been a huge help. My goal is to get people all across this country better educated in how our government works. When we got public schools in America, it was with the argument that … we have to teach it to all of our citizens, that they are part of it and how this government works.”
Sic ’em, Justice O’Connor!