Op-ed, Sept. 2011
Focus on Civics Education on Constitution Day
Do you know more than an 8th grader? How many of us could master the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) required curriculum? Remember the significance of Marbury v. Madison? McCulloch v. Maryland? Gibbons v. Ogden? These are just a few of the landmark court decisions that 8th grade social studies students must know to be successful in preparing to meet the new TEKS standards.
Civics education ensures and fosters engaged citizens who understand our democracy and the liberties the rule of law protects. Receiving a comprehensive groundwork in civics is essential to producing the next generation of responsible, engaged citizens. To accomplish this, we need to connect with students via technology in an entertaining and thought-provoking manner.
We must also ensure that our teachers have a full array of educational resources available to help them prepare our children for the future. A major initiative during my tenure as president of the State Bar of Texas this year is working with the State Bar Law Related Education Department on Oyez, Oyez, Oh Yay! Civics Resources for Texas Students and Teachers – an interactive, web-based project to assist Texas teachers and middle and high school students in preparing for the new TEKS standards in the areas of government, history, citizenship and culture.
The project will soon be launched on www.texasbar.com and will include links to case summaries, videos, and curriculum materials and strategies for teachers. It also includes a State Bar-produced DVD featuring five seminal U.S. Supreme Court cases, with remarks from former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace B. Jefferson. It is our hope that the available resources will provide our teachers with the tools they need to shape our state’s next generation of civic leaders.
Constitution Day was created in December 2004 by legislation introduced by the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia. The legislation requires any educational institution receiving federal funding to implement an educational program about the Constitution on Sept. 17, to commemorate the signing of the Constitution in 1787.
Students at all levels throughout the country will celebrate Constitution Day. It’s a good time for all Americans to pause and learn more about the rule of law and how that concept is embodied in the Constitution. It is the basis for our government and ensures that we, as citizens, hold accountable our elected representatives for upholding our system of laws and protecting our liberties. As American citizens, we not only enjoy rights and freedoms, but we have a responsibility to ensure that the system of checks and balances and the separation of powers inherent in our great democracy live on. And that those principles live on in the generations to come.
For additional resources produced by the State Bar Law Related Education Department, including interactive games, visit www.texaslre.org.
Bob Black is president of the State Bar of Texas. He is managing shareholder of MehaffyWeber, a law firm with offices in Houston and Beaumont.