Civics education advances through LRE
Following my tour of duty as Chair of the Standing Committee on Law Related Education for the Public of the Illinois State Bar Association (“LRE”), I agreed to Chair its Civics Education Subcommittee to help advance the work begun over the last few years. Thus far in the new fiscal year which began in June, the Subcommittee will include Hon. Rosemary Collins, Hon. Robert Wilbrandt, Hon. Mary Nader, Retired ALJ Ed Schoenbaum, Zee Williams, Emma Durantes, Todd Miller, Tom Murray, Ann Pictor, Suzanne Schmitz, Sandi Sweeney, and Nancy Easum.
At our first meeting, the Subcommittee took time to review LRE’s good work in civics education over the past three decades, starting with the High School Mock Trial Invitational and evolving into broader areas for civics education. Over the past decade or so, LRE has worked to evolve its Lawyers in Classrooms program with 158 or more volunteers spread across 28 or more counties. In conjunction with that program, and as an aid to teachers throughout the State, LRE has developed various teaching aids which continue to be made available through <isba.org/teachers>. As well, LRE has worked to draft, revise, and provide pamphlets on various topics in the law, to typically provide insight and assistance to students.
We also took time to review the desires of ISBA President Umberto Davi, which include (a) work to achieve the Mission of LRE as it relates to civics education, (b) advancement of last year’s work on Bringing the Courtroom to the Classroom, and (c) work on Bringing the Courtroom to the Boardroom (a/k/a the ISBA Speaker’s Bureau).
We also reviewed the desires of LRE Chair Rocky Martinez to achieve the goals of the Subcommittee, as set forth in the Strategic Plan adopted by LRE on June 19, 2015. As such, the Subcommittee will work to inspire greater involvement of ISBA members, continue to work with the Illinois Judges Association in these areas, reach out to other bar associations, interact with the Illinois State Board of Education, work to involve teacher groups, and develop programs for the public in general.
We also remembered ISBA Executive Director Bob Craghead’s admonition to focus. We want to (and feel some level of duty to) achieve much, as we have been given much and find ourselves in a noble profession. Our resources (personnel, time, and finances), however, are limited. So once again, we will work to do what we can, but we will each respect the demands of our families and profession (a/k/a day jobs), as we work to facilitate civics education throughout the State.
In this new fiscal year, the Subcommittee will conduct its work through five Working Groups, which will include the Lawyers in Classrooms Working Group (which will work to contact current volunteers (to thank them and confirm their continued involvement), divide the current volunteers by State Judicial Circuit with a Coordinator for each, work to get new volunteers, and work to get volunteers into classrooms), Bringing the Courtroom to the Classroom Working Group (which will work with its IJA counterpart to again form a joint committee to continue the work started last year in the areas of training, materials development, and deployment), Bringing the Courtroom to the Boardroom Working Group (which will endeavor to replicate the Classroom projects with an eye toward reaching adults), Outreach Working Group (which will work to develop contacts in the civics education world outside the legal profession), and Materials Working Group (which will review and develop current and needed materials for isba.org and the above-noted projects as requested).
Membership in these working groups remains open for addition as we continue to welcome new volunteerism and ideas. Meanwhile, we will continue to evolve our role, and work with the leadership of the ISBA to arrive at proper protocols for interacting with those outside ISBA.
As we move forward in this new fiscal year, we continue to welcome questions, comments, and suggestions from educators and others interested in civics education in Illinois. As well, all are invited to explore and utilize the free resources which are available through the Web sites of the ISBA (www.isba.org), the Supreme Court of Illinois (www.state.il.us/court), and the Illinois Judges Association (www.ija.org), as we are all working to make our State a better place through education.