Civics for Life Quarterly Features

Volume 1 | Issue 3


Our democracy and society depend on civic education—a vital tool that gives Americans the knowledge, skills, and values necessary for being well-informed citizens and actively taking part in our democratic system.

While there have been significant efforts to improve civic knowledge among K–12 students and educators, it's important not to forget about adults who missed out on proper civics education in their earlier years. It's crucial that we focus on finding ways to meet the urgent need for civics education resources for adults.

With this goal in mind, the Sandra Day O’Connor Institute for American Democracy is thrilled to present Civics 101. This is a comprehensive collection of easily accessible, free online micro-lessons carefully designed to provide every American citizen with essential civic knowledge. At the core of this initiative is our unwavering commitment to nurturing informed and engaged citizenship.

These carefully created lessons will delve into the cornerstones of civic knowledge, providing a foundation for engaged citizenship in a democratic society.


Thanksgiving 1621, in Plymouth, Massachusetts, commended a bountiful harvest. The Pilgrims celebrated by sharing a grand meal with the Wampanoags, who'd assisted the Pilgrims the previous winter by providing food. Food brings us together. Indeed, at a speech leading off a day of discussion at the Center for Social Cohesion in 2011, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor asked her audience, "How as a nation, can we sit around and eat Mexican food and drink beer and make friends? That's the question." As our country gathers this week with friends and family, sharing food and drink, perhaps we might give some consideration to Justice O'Connor's query.

Sandra Day O’Connor with husband John in the family kitchen.
Sandra Day O’Connor with husband John in the family kitchen.


The Institute has begun producing new research on civics. Our premier policy brief, New Evidence on Trickle-Down and Trickle-Up Influences in Civic Education and Engagement, reshaped the civics-education paradigm and was covered by media outlets including Education Week, the Chicago Tribune, the Indianapolis Star, and Arizona NPR.


With Grady Gammage Jr. and Sarah Porter

Some 40 million people in the American West rely on water from the Colorado River. But the river’s flow has diminished, and those decreases will likely continue. What does this mean for the American West in general and Arizona in particular? Will vast expanses of agriculture disappear? Or is there reason to be optimistic about the West’s water future? Water-policy experts Sarah Porter and Grady Gammage Jr. join the Institute for a discussion.