By Nadin Abbott
September 11, 2014 (San Diego)--California Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Tani Cantil-Sakauye addressed UCSD alumni at the Symphony Towers in downtown San Diego today. She emphasized the need to teach civics to students. She believes it is critical “to educate so people can better understand what the branch does and why we do it.”
Chief Justice Cantil-Sacauye also said we need to renew our efforts to improve civics education in the State. “Why civics? Civics sound dry, it sounds like a government class, why would we would focus so much on that?” Part of the answer is that students leaving high school are not getting a civics education and how the three branches of government work.
She recalled the experience of her own daughter, who only got one semester of civics education in the last semester of high school.
But the problem isn’t just with young people. The Chief Justice also told the story of a member of the Legislature who is a lawyer. This legislator, whom she didn’t name, told her that judges should answer to those above them in the judicial branch, but ultimately the Chief Justice should answer to the Legislature.
It is a principle of U.S. government that the three branches are independent of each other. The Chief Justice found it troubling that a legislator, a decision maker, did not understand that. He believed that the judicial branch was not a co-equal branch of government.
This is a crisis that needs to be solved, she believes. Democracy is something that has to be taught to each succeeding generation.
She also said that a well-funded judiciary, with enough courts, is important for businesses. Businesses rely on contracts and other well established aspects of law and precedent. Having cases frozen due to an inadequately funded system can and does make businesses flounder.
An effort is underway now to bring civics education to K-12 classrooms, “to the core curriculum,” the high court’s top justice said. She referred to a report titled, “Revitalizing K-12 Civic Learning in California,” which details the project to bring civics back into the core curriculum. (The report can be found here: http://www.cde.ca.gov/eo/in/documents/cltffinalreport.pdf)
Justice Cantil-Sacauya said that because these young people graduate without a knowledge of civics, “they fail to understand the world around them. How decisions are being made, they fail to understand how they can change the world, and they fail to, without civics I believe to understand the interplay of the three branches of government.”
The Chief Justice also explained the importance of an independent judiciary, and that decisions by the Courts are not made for their popularity, but on precedent and Law—and that maintain independence of the courts is essential. Listen to speech.