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Illinois Judges Plan To Offer Up Civics Education

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CBS) — If you don’t know the names of the three branches of government, but you do know the names all the judges on “American Idol,” you might not have had enough civics in high school.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Dave Dahl reports, Illinois judges are trying to shore up the academic part of that equation through the “Courtroom in the Classroom” program.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Dave Dahl reports


Afterward, “hopefully, the student will be able to understand that, in fact, there are three branches of government, and that the courts play a very special role in protecting certain liberties and interpreting the Constitution,” said Rita Novak, a circuit judge from Cook County and president of the IJA.

Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Kilbride said civics education is not what it used to be.

“In 2007, we visited Chicago at Loyola Law School. When then-retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor spoke about judicial independence and judicial impartiality, and the importance of civic education, and the lack of understanding of civic education in this country and the decline she warned us about, I and others took her challenge,” Kilbride said.

At an announcement at the Illinois Supreme Court in Springfield, student Katie Sidwell vouched for the program’s significance: “(The judge) mapped it out, pretty much, in high schooler terms … because reading it out of a textbook isn’t exactly easy.”

Sidwell is a freshman at the University of Illinois at Springfield and was a student when a judge visited her class at PORTA High School in downstate Petersburg.

The Illinois Judges Association is trying to line up 225 visits, commemorating the 225th anniversary of the U.S. Constitution.