Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Ex-Justice O'Connor urges Florida legislators to promote civics education

Retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor addresses legislators.

Associated Press

Retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor addresses legislators.

TALLAHASSEE — Far more Americans can name the judges on American Idol than can name the three branches of government, retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor told Florida's legislators Tuesday in a push for increased civics education.

"Statistics show there is a strong correlation between ignorance and distrust of our government," she said. "We must take action to reverse the trend of removing civics from our schools before this cynicism begins to suffocate our democracy."

O'Connor, 79, is touring the country to promote a Web-based civics instruction program called Our Courts (

"Today civics, government and American history are being pushed out of the classroom and the results are as dismal as they are unsurprising," O'Connor said, adding that nearly half of states no longer require civics and American history and that surveys show that three-quarters of Americans cannot distinguish the difference between a judge and a legislator.

"They believe that judges are politicians in robes," she said.

But as O'Connor lauded Florida for helping lead the way, questions loomed about a stalled civics bill in the House. The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Charles McBurney, calls for a civics assessment test in middle school.

The Jacksonville Republican said he has no idea why it was tabled in the PreK-12 Appropriations Committee. "I hope it's just a technical (glitch)," McBurney said.

The committee chairwoman, Rep. Anitere Flores of Miami, said there was concern about a fiscal implications (few new spending measures are being approved in the tight budget year) but that is being worked out.

"Listening to Justice O'Connor's message today we know the importance of civics," Flores said.

O'Connor was nominated to the Supreme Court in 1981 by President Ronald Reagan, becoming the first female justice on the high court.

Ex-Justice O'Connor urges Florida legislators to promote civics education 04/07/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 8, 2009 9:17am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Amid FBI probe of Tallahassee, Gillum says GOP trying to 'put as much dirt on me as they can'


    Tallahassee mayor and candidate for governor Andrew Gillum might like his supporters to think a federal investigation into development deals in his city is political – but …

    Andrew Gillum
  2. Tampa pedestrian struck, killed near Temple Terrace


    A Tampa woman was killed Saturday night after she was hit by a car while walking near Temple Terrace.

  3. Snell to rejoin rotation Wednesday



  4. Illegal sign patrol on a mission to clean up Hillsborough streets

    Human Interest

    BRANDON --Jim Reed, rifling through the back of his Nissan Pathfinder, picks out a sign.

     Citizen volunteers, Reed and Bill Staley take down illegal roadside signs for county code enforcement.  CHARLIE KAIJO   |   Times
  5. Video: Crowd catches teen falling from Six Flags ride


    QUEENSBURY, N.Y. — A teenager fell about 25 feet (about 8 meters) from a stopped gondola ride at an upstate New York amusement park Saturday night, tumbling into a crowd of park guests and employees gathered below to catch her before she hit the ground.

    A teenager fell from a stopped gondola ride at Six Flags in upstate New York. [FACEBOOK VIA LOREN LENT]