James Paul Gee: The Our Courts Project
8.6.08 | The Our Courts Project is the inspiration of former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. The Justice-appalled by the fact that many young people today know the names of American Idol judges but not the justices of the Supreme Court and by the hostility citizens and politicians have directed at the Supreme Court (e.g., “Who elected them?”-which shows a profound misunderstanding of the whole point of the court)-wants to engage kids with civics through digital learning rather than textbooks. In today’s schools civics, social studies, and history are often marginalized or untaught, thanks to the fact that they are not tested under No Child Left Behind strictures. Further, these subjects have often been taught in boring ways that have left them the least popular subjects in schools. The Our Courts game will put young people in the midst of historically important cases, where they can experience different perspectives on these cases and-in part in a Phoenix Wright like way-argue them themselves. The ultimate goal is based on a specific view of learning. Schools treat subjects like physics as if they were just a set of facts and information (“content”). But physics is not first and foremost a set of facts, it is first and foremost a set of activities through which people engage with the world and see it and understand it in new ways. So, too, with “civics.” Civics is not first and foremost a set of facts, it is a set of activities through which people can participate in the societies and transform them. We want to make civics part of an engaging game that ultimately spills out into the real world in demands for justice.
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