Former Justice Pushing for More Civics, Less 'American Idol'

Sandra Day O'Connorr is pushing civics education through online games for kids.

March 4, 2009— -- Call it a civics makeover -- that's what former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wants for the nation's schools where students know more about reality TV than their government.

"Only a third of Americans can name the three branches of government. That's scary," O'Connor told "Good Morning America" today. "But 75 percent of kids can tell you 'American Idol' judges."

O'Connor, the nation's first female justice, pointed out that with between the push for better math and science scores and the No Child Left Behind Act, states have stopped making civic lessons a requirement, leaving many kids without the knowledge they need to take an active role in democracy.

She developed a kid-friendly Web site, Our Courts, in hopes of catching the kids after school when they're already playing games on the computer.

It's not a dry lecture -- children can play games and become a "Guardian of Law" who spreads "the rule of law to a fictional world," according to the site.

O'Connor said that it's imperative children, as citizens, understand how their government works and how they can participate.

And it's not about simple memorization, she said; they need to understand what they learn.

"That's the idea of this Web site," she said. "Play games that will teach."

For teachers, the site provides information for building curriculums and teaching civics.

O'Connor, who stepped down from the Supreme Court in 2006, said she gets a lot of thoughtful questions during her travels around the country, including what her hardest case was. And they often want to know if the justices fought.

"No, very respectful," she said. "Disagree agreeably, know you're going to have disagreements."

Life After Justice

O'Connor said she's been so busy, she hasn't missed sitting on the bench -- most of the time.

She did, however, have lunch with Chief Justice John Roberts after the flub heard 'round the world when he administered a flawed oath of office to President Obama.

It obviously wasn't something he wanted to happen, she said, adding that the incident did cause her to chuckle a bit.

But Roberts, she said, just "got a little tangled, though it couldn't matter less."

Other than her Web site and devotion to education, O'Connor has also spoken out about her husband's fight with Alzheimer's and hopes the nation will give the disease she calls "miserable" more attention.

"He doesn't always recognize me," she said, but added that he was content. "He knows I'm someone he knows."