Sandra Day O'Connor Talks Civics In Chicago

05/20/2010 03:20 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Lonna Saunders HuffPost Eyes&Ears Local

With more Americans able to name the judges on "American Idol" than those of the nine justices on the U.S. Supreme Court, retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor told a Chicago audience Wednesday that there needs to be more emphasis on civics in government courses in the U.S. school system.

O'Connor, speaking at a Chicago Bar Association luncheon, also said that 80 percent of Americans would flunk the citizenship test given to immigrants, and blamed that on the lack required civics in government courses at high schools.

O'Connor is pushing to bring required civics in government courses back to the nation's classrooms through her "teacher friendly" website, The site is designed for "eager to learn" middle schoolers because, she said, that is the age "when the light bulb goes on."

Unlike high school students, O'Connor said, younger learners have not yet become "jaded teenagers."

O'Connor, who worked in all three branches of Arizona's state government before President Reagan appointed her as the first female justice on the U.S. Supreme Court in 1981, said that barely one third of Americans can name all three branches of government.

Calling the U.S. school system the country's biggest bureaucracy, O'Connor said she hopes grass roots support will put civics courses back on the "required courses" list for high schools nationwide.

The former justice would not take questions from reporters following the event but said she planned to return to Arizona, where she would look into the state's new immigration law. She made no comment about the law itself.