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May 20, 2009


Debra J. Gammons

Justice Souter, like many before him, makes a crucial point about the lack of civic education in our country. As an attorney, I volunteer in schools and work with middle and high school students. I also taught a gifted and talented class in South Carolina (Governor's School at the College of Charleston) and would give my Law and Society students a quiz at the beginning of the term to measure their basic understanding of government and law. All of my students in the 17 years that I taught could name the three branches of government but not all of them knew that theoretically all branches have equal power. Only two or three each term could name three Justices on the United States Supreme Court; only one or two could name the freedoms of the First Amendment. I am sure that the results I saw would be the same in all of our States. The solution is for attorneys to continue volunteering with Mock Trials and Youth Court and working with our schools. We can push School Boards to make Civic Education and Government required courses but, ultimately, the School Boards make the decision. We - attorneys - need to work with our communities if we want to see positive changes. We cannot wait for someone else to educate our society about government and law. Let us set the record straight.

voice of freedom

Souter may have identified the problem but without a solution, he is guilty of expanding the problem: lack of depth of understanding.

Sticking up for a judiciary just because they are a judiciary is no better than supporting a king just because he is a king.

When the judiciary applies foreign laws based on their whims rather than the laws the the land, they should be impeached, not protected from political attack.

Another error the Justice makes is that the SCOTUS is not political. It has and always will be political. The brilliant solution of the Founding Fathers is that it is designed to resist the whims of the People by taking a long time to change. Not subject to election, the Court is designed to resist the exuberance of House and POTUS.


Justice Souter is not the first to say it, but a transcript of his speech might be a good read.

Tom Berry

David Souter is right. We have to revamp our education system to center on teaching the role of government at every level, so that our society will be prepared to govern, be governed, and serve in the fullest regard as a citizen. We also have to teach the fullest applications of the Antitrust laws, so that corporations will not continue to exercise unconscionable control over our government, and other governments.

Keith Dimond

A new Age of Reason would be nice. As it is, too many of the people in charge (and electing those who end up "in charge") are going by gut and gratification. Not reason.

And media misinformation rules.

Justice Souter reportedly spoke of learning of democracy at town meetings. Democracy. Not "constitutionally limited republic" or "principles of sustainable liberty."

Even the allegedly educated, as we see in this example by a retiring Supreme Court justice, seem not to grasp the difference.


I have to agree wholeheartedly. Many people do not understand even the basics of private vs. public property, let alone any of the finer points of a citizen's responsibilities.

Somebody must like it this way, but if we're going to fight the ignorance, it's going to have to be a grass-roots effort.


Souter is indeed right on the mark. No civics are required now in a number of states, mine included. What I find amusing is the comment "thats the way the republicans want it" made by a earlier poster. with a single exception all the educators I know are democrats, not republicans. Well at any rate the dems have a chance to correct this republican lets see if they do it.

Jared Jacobs

Seems to me that Marbury v. Madison determined that the Supreme Court may exercise its right to judicial review, not FDR.

Jon Perry

I have to concur (no pun intended) with Justice Souter's assessment. I cannot begin to count the number of times I have noticed everything from "News Reports" to Television Pundits to online commentary and even elected representatives (who seem to be either ignorant themselves or preying on and using the ignorance of their constituents for political gain) making ridiculous statements and claims about the way "things are" in the United States. This ignorance (sometimes willful) manifests itself in everything from a professed belief that in our "Democracy" a simple majority vote should decide all issues, to claims regarding the uses (and abuses) of the court system in perpetuating "un-democratic" actions. Apparently the U.S. Constitution, only exists to vindicate the rights of whoever at that moment feels theirs have been violated, while it's those "Activist Judges legislating from the Bench" when it is used to protect those of persons with whom we disagree. That's not even considering that it actually spells out the framework for our Federal Government.

This ignorance is often magnified by the double edged sword of the internet. While providing a cheap and easy way for anyone to share their ideas and hopefully participate in reasoned civic debate, the internet also provides opportunity for the light speed dissemination of balderdash which then gets repeated, quoted as gospel in an "I read it so it must be true" manner and then spread exponentially in a self reinforcing manner.

As a firm believer in Freedom of Speech, I support that tool of discourse. I also believe in the saw that the "cure for bad speech is more speech", but if it is more "ignorant" speech one has to wonder. The cure for "bad speech" should be reasoned and "enlightened" (at least accurately informed) speech.


The things that can be learned by listening would go a long way towards informing the public, even if not educating them.

In the business of politics, though, it seems that the politicians are more pleased with a rabble that can be roused with catchphrases and generalities.

Who is John Galt?


Republicans like it that way. They don't want an educated population. Only the stupid and uneducated can be swayed by the religious fanatics on the right. I live in California, and we're in big budget crisis -- the first thing Schwarzenegger wants to cut is education.

Hon. Joyce Krutick Craig U.S. Administrative Law Judge (Ret.)

Justice Souter's comments are on the mark. Too many public schools no longer teach anything about the American Constitution and how our government functions. I remember taking my gifted step-children on a trip to Washington when I was about to testify before the House Ways and Means SubCommitte on Oversight in Government Management in the mid 1980's. On a tour of the House and Senate, they had no idea of how the members were elected or what their function was. I was totally astounded as I had learned this in 3rd grade in NYC . I note that my own son had learned about how our government functioned, but only because it was taught in a gifted and talented program and I complained to the Board of Education in our town but my complaint fell on deaf ears.

I serve on the Connecticut Bar Association's Law Related Committe and its purpose is to have attorneys and judges go out to schools (primary, secondary, and adult education) and teach how our system works). This should not have to be done by bar associations. It should be taught in the public and private schools starting in elementary school


Unfortunately, Justice Souter's call conflicts with the education establishment's principle of teaching not facts but rather "how to learn." Besides, the Republic was already lost under F.D.R. Since then, the government works however the Supreme Court _says_ it works.

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