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Arizona schools focus on civics for inaugural Sandra Day O’Connor day

Arizona judge Sandra Day O'Connor at her confirmation as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States before the Senate Judiciary Committee, USA, September 1981. On the left is Barry Goldwater, the US Senator from Arizona. O'Connor is the first woman to serve on the Court. (Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

PHOENIX – On the 39th anniversary of the day Sandra Day O’Connor was sworn in as the nation’s first female Supreme Court justice, schools in the state where she grew up commemorated the inaugural civics day in her honor Friday.

Sandra Day O’Connor Civics Celebration Day was observed for the first time in Arizona while the second female Supreme Court justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, was lying in state at the U.S. Capitol.

On March 24, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed legislation establishing every Sept. 25 as day for schools to put a primary focus on civics instruction. It will be observed on the following Monday when Sept. 25 falls on a weekend.

Ducey’s office issued a press release listing the following examples of schoolwork tailored to Civics Celebration Day:

Tanque Verde High School teachers are offering a wide variety of games, projects and assignments that include ways to learn about local elections, tests on civic knowledge, lessons on how to become civically engaged and much more.

Madison Highland Prep teachers are explaining to students Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s public service to our state and nation as well as the importance of civic responsibility. They will use online tools so students can engage with the activities and learn more about civics.

CASA Academy in Phoenix is utilizing a video of Sandra Day O’Connor and age-appropriate discussions and activities to teach students about civics.

Legacy Traditional Schools are providing students videos, lessons and activities that cover the foundations of government, civil rights, the Constitution, the branches of government and much more.

Ducey also wrote a column Friday for the National Review with the headline “Bring Civics Back to the Classroom.”

In it, he lamented that “Survey after survey shows that Americans have a dismally poor understanding of the founding principles underpinning our nation.”

He cited research showing that only 25% of Americans can name the three branches of U.S. government, 70% don’t know “that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land” and nearly two-thirds of young adults don’t know that 6 million Jews were killed during the Holocaust.

“For elected officials, education leaders, parents, and concerned citizens everywhere, these statistics should be a call to action,” Ducey wrote. “Our democracy depends on an engaged and informed citizenry. We need a swift intervention — which begins with the family and is solidified in the classroom.”

Despite the discouraging research, Ducey concluded that there was reason to be hopeful.

“We can rise to the challenge and meet this moment with the same innovation and resolve that have characterized the American experiment for the past nearly 250 years,” he wrote. “Indeed, it is our generational responsibility. And it begins with the family and is solidified in the classroom.”

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