iCivics Hosts "Educating for Democracy in a Digital Age"

March 23, 2011

Sandra Day O'Connor and Arne Duncan to Keynote Conference

Washington, DC, March 23 – iCivics, in partnership with the Aspen Institute, the MacArthur Foundation, and Georgetown Law, will host a major conference on civic education and engagement, “Educating for Democracy in a Digital Age.” Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will be the keynote speakers. The conference takes place March 29 at Georgetown Law and will highlight recent innovations in civic programming, including the free, interactive, online curriculum iCivics.org.  Justice O’Connor has worked to develop iCivics since 2007, and the program now reaches more than one million students throughout the country each year. 

Conference panelists and moderators will include digital pioneers and education policymakers from across the country, including Harvard Education professor Howard Gardner and former California Secretary of Educator Bonnie Reiss.  Secretary Duncan will recognize the winners of the first Malcolm Wilkey prize, to be awarded by Justice O'Connor, to four DC area middle school students who created projects about their own civic heroes.

“We are at a critical juncture in this nation’s history and divisive political rhetoric threatens to drown out rational dialogue and debate,” said Justice O’Connor. “The situation demands engagement, a shared understanding of our history, and a collaborative commitment to our future.”

And yet, when it comes to civic knowledge and skills, our students are failing behind.  On the last nationwide civics assessment, more than two-thirds of students scored below proficiency. The civic achievement gap between students from a disadvantaged background and their more well-off peers is equally troubling. From the fourth grade to the twelfth, poor students score significantly worse on the nation-wide civics test than their middle-class and wealthy counterparts. Unfortunately, these same populations are likely to face the most civic problems - crime, drugs, failing schools, and the cycle of poverty. In other words, these are the communities that most need civic engagement.

Digital media is transforming how young people learn, socialize, and participate in their communities. “The digital generation has led the way in using social networking tools to share information, organize, and express opinions,” said Justice O’Connor.  The Conference will consider how new technology, innovative programming, and smart policy can be harnessed to meet the needs of the digital generation.

Registration will begin at 8am at the Hart Auditorium, McDonough Hall, Georgetown University Law Center, 600 New Jersey Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20001.  The complete day’s program is available at www.icivics.org/conference

The event is open press.  Press inquiries should be directed to Jeff Curley at (202) 729-8144 or jeff.curley@icivics.org.

About iCivics

iCivics is a web-based education project designed to teach students civics and inspire them to be active participants in our democracy. iCivics is the vision of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who is concerned that students are not getting the information and tools they need for civic participation, and that civics teachers need better materials and support. More information is at www.icivics.org/.

About the Aspen Institute

The Aspen Institute mission is twofold: to foster values-based leadership, encouraging individuals to reflect on the ideals and ideas that define a good society, and to provide a neutral and balanced venue for discussing and acting on critical issues. The Aspen Institute does this primarily in four ways: seminars, young-leader fellowships around the globe, policy programs, and public conferences and events. The Institute is based in Washington, DC; Aspen, Colorado; and on the Wye River on Maryland's Eastern Shore. It also has an international network of partners.

About the MacArthur Foundation

The MacArthur Foundation supports creative people and effective institutions committed to building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. In addition to selecting the MacArthur Fellows, the Foundation works to defend human rights, advance global conservation and security, make cities better places, and understand how technology is affecting children and society. MacArthur’s digital media and learning initiative aims to determine how digital media are changing the way young people learn, play, socialize and participate in civic life. More information is at www.macfound.org/learning



Jeff J. Curley

(202) 729-8144