Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Next Generation

International organizations, seeking to bring stability and economic prosperity to the developing world, constantly emphasize the importance of the rule of law. Societies where disputes are resolved according to an orderly framework of law, administered by neutral and professional officials, are safer and more prosperous, pure and simple. More on this idea and its promotion at websites like the United States Institute of Peace, the International Law Institute, and the World Justice Project (which is sponsoring a Rule of Law conference for the Middle East and North Africa in June).

Closer to home, American judges and court professionals share a deep-seated reverence for the value of the rule of law, and frankly a deep-seated fear that their reverence may not transcend the generations. But much effort goes to preserving and extending this value, and we hope that American teachers utilize high-quality resources available to teach the next generation about civics and our constitutional order. For example, the National Center for State Courts provides a graphic novel series called Justice Case Files to help educate the public about how the courts work and to remind them of the critical role courts play in a democratic society. Another terrific teaching tool is the "Justice by the People" curriculum offered by the American Board of Trial Advocates, a group devoted to preserving the right to a civil jury trial.

In Texas, ABOTA and the State Bar of Texas Law-Related Education Department, along with the Texas Bar Foundation, the Western Judicial District of Texas, and Law Focused Education, Inc., launched a pilot program in 2009 called the Teachers Law School. Teachers learned Texas criminal and civil law procedures, and participated in discussions designed to prepare them to return to their classrooms well-equipped to provide an introduction to the world of law. Texas civics teachers will also want to visit the wealth of resources available for Law Focused Education and Law Related Education.

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