Report: Schools fail to educate U.S. students in civics

Monday, May 9, 2011

The cover story in the May issue of the ABA Journal addresses the alarming lack of civic education in the United States. Mark Hansen’s piece, “Flunking Civics: Why America’s Kids Know So Little,” reports studies by several groups showing that young people simply aren’t learning the basics about civics and history.

The story cites the trend in American education over the last decade of focusing on reading, math and science to the exclusion of “history, social studies, government and civics.” The federal education law No Child Left Behind — passed during George W. Bush’s presidency — and the Obama administration’s support of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs have contributed to the current climate.

The ABA piece also notes that adults have not fared well in civics literacy: “Adults, perhaps unsurprisingly don’t appear to have a better grasp of law, history or government — all of which could be considered essential to civic responsibilities — than students do.”

The First Amendment Center’s annual State of the First Amendment surveys conducted since 1997 have shown that many adults lack basic knowledge about the freedoms found in the first 45 words of the Bill of Rights. For example, in the 2009 survey less than 20% of those surveyed knew that either freedom of the press or freedom of religion were guaranteed by the First Amendment.

Educators must address this alarming lack of knowledge about civics and government. Students need to learn about the Constitution, including the Bill of Rights and the First Amendment. Schools should also provide students with environments in which their First Amendment freedoms are respected.

10th Circuit: Nurse’s comment to cop isn’t protected speech

Judges dismiss lawsuit, finding Colorado nurse’s statement during traffic stop wasn’t matter of public concern.

By The Associated Press

DENVER — A federal appeals court has rejected a nurse’s attempt to get her job back after she was fired because she told a police officer that she hoped he was never one of her patients.

Miriam Leverington, a cardiac nurse at Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs, was stopped in December 2008 for speeding by Colorado Springs Police Officer Duaine Peters. During the “less than cordial” traffic stop, Leverington told Peters, “I hope you are not ever my patient.”

Peters then told Leverington’s bosses at the city-operated Memorial Hospital about the nurse’s comment and they fired her.

On May 5, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver dismissed Miriam Leverington’s lawsuit in which the nurse had argued that her comments were protected speech and that her firing violated her First Amendment rights.

Leverington said the officer was rude to her and that her comment simply meant she hoped to never interact with him again.

The unanimous three-judge panel agreed with a lower court’s decision to dismiss Leverington’s lawsuit, finding in

Leverington v. City of Colorado Springs that the nurse’s statement was not a matter of public concern and therefore not entitled to free-speech protections.