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September 17, 2010

ABA President on Constitution Day: Make Civic Education Lifelong Pursuit

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The United States Constitution was signed on Sept. 17, 1787.  Just four handwritten pages long, it is arguably the most important legal document ever created, laying the foundation for American democracy and the rule of law.  Despite its importance, how many people actually understand it?

On the 223rd anniversary of the supreme “law of the land,” ABA President Stephen N. Zack issued a call to all Americans:  “We urge you, today, to make your own commitment to the document that is the cornerstone of our democratic society.”

Advancing Zack’s call to action is his own personal commitment to civic education. Last month he established the Commission on Civic Education on the Nation’s Schools, building on the ABA’s long-standing interest in improving American civic education.  The commission will present a civics and law curriculum to young people ages 13-19 at various sites around the country.  In addition to hosting these academies, it is also developing a national civics test to survey Americans’ understanding of the Constitution. These and other initiatives are planned with the ultimate goal of ensuring all students experience high-quality civic learning.

The ABA House of Delegates expressed its formal support of Zack’s efforts during the 2010 ABA Annual Meeting.  The policy-making body adopted a resolution encouraging “all lawyers to consider it part of their fundamental responsibility to ensure that all students experience high quality civic learning, including the study of law, government, and history.”

Further supporting Zack’s civics initiative, the ABA Division for Public Education offers online learning tools.  From lesson plans and conversation starters, to interactive features that test Constitutional knowledge and take the website visitors back in time to sign the Constitution, the resources are designed to help all Americans to learn more about the Constitution.

Zack says his goal is to “bring back civic education, not only to the nation’s classrooms, but also to the workplace and the dining room table.”