Form partnerships to develop and implement public education programs about law.
Civic education, which requires an understanding of law and its role in society, is a shared social responsibility. Schools, the bar, the bench, the media, civic organizations, community agencies, and the family are among those key social institutions and groups who share in this responsibility. When such groups work together to advance compatible goals, they create a synergy that reinforces and enhances each other’s efforts.Since the 1970s, the American Bar Association has provided national leadership in fostering partnerships between, and developing networks of, educators, lawyers, judges, and others committed to public education about law and the justice system. For instance, we have supported a national network of law-related education (LRE) programs based at bar associations and other legal/education institutions in every state in the country, have participated in a U.S. Department of Justice funded consortium of five national LRE organizations since 1978, developed the Law and Liberal Arts Faculty Network (composed of more than 5,000 college & university faculty members), have supported a network of thousands of Law Day program planners nationwide, and have maintained a special relationship with the U.S. Supreme Court to publish Preview. In addition, we have worked closely with many ABA sections and other entities on relevant public education programs and resources.Looking ahead to the 21st century, the ABA Division for Public Education should seek to make understanding of law and its role in society an even more integral part of the education citizens receive. Building effective partnerships with influential organizations that seek to achieve the broader goal of improved civic education in schools and communities should be essential to that strategy. Among possible collaborators are such organizations as the Alliance for Justice, the American Library Association, the Close Up Foundation, the Federation of State Humanities Councils, the National Education Association, the National Boys and Girls Clubs of America, commercial mass-market and educational publishers, PBS-affiliated producing stations, and appropriate state and federal agencies. The Division can strengthen law-related civic education components of other organizations’ programs and enhance the presence and visibility of our efforts. This could be accomplished through such means as joint programming with organizational partners, submitting cosponsored project-funding proposals, making presentations and conducting workshops at their conferences, making links to their Web sites, and producing law-related articles for their publications. Subject-matter educational standards and testing of students will also have critical implications for school curriculum in the years ahead. For this reason, the Division must make establishing strong links to state and federal government agencies and initiatives, such as the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), a priority. The goal is to ensure that the study of law and legal issues is a key component of citizenship standards and is incorporated into relevant testing programs at each grade level.The ABA enjoys a solid reputation as a provider of high quality products and services for civic education in school and community settings. We have joined forces with organizations, groups, and individuals, within and outside the legal community, to achieve similar goals. We must continue to do so. By nurturing and fostering related efforts by organizational partners and collaborators at the national, state, and local levels, we can best leverage our own resources and programs.
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