Civics education is declining in our nation's schools. In nearly half the states, students can graduate from high school without being required to learn anything about civics or American history. As a result, Americans today understand too little about our government. Only about one-third of Americans can even name the three branches of government, much less describe what they do. Young Americans cannot be expected to become effective citizens and political leaders unless they understand how our government works.
I decided to do something about civics education, which has led me down an unexpected path. I started talking to teachers, students and experts about what could be done on this issue. One thing was clear: Civics needs to be brought into the 21st century. Today's technologically savvy students have new methods of civic engagement, and our civics teaching tools need to be aligned with those methods. Younger generations are the leaders in using computers and digital tools to make a difference. So I teamed up with experts in education and technology to help students build on these skills while learning basic civics content. That is how OurCourts.org was born. Through interactive games, social networking and online resources, we hope to help empower the digital generation to lead us into the future as effective, active citizens.
The site's games allow students to step into the shoes of different actors in the civic arena and excites them about government and civic participation. In the first two games on the OurCourts.org website, students can play a clerk to the Supreme Court or they can run a constitutional law firm and learn about the Bill of Rights. The response to this site has been overwhelmingly positive. Teachers tell us this is a much-needed resource, and students tell us that they are having fun while learning about the government. Both tell us that they want to see more, so we are hard at work on the next set of games.
That is how I came to discuss video games last summer with young Charlie. After our conversation, he went home and tried the OurCourts.org games. The next morning, he happily told me how much fun he had had. In fact, he played until 11 p.m., when his grandmother told him he needed to stop and go to bed. That was a truly gratifying moment for me, of a different sort than those I had in my preretirement career.
I have had many such unexpectedly satisfying moments since I retired. I have worked on projects on a range of issues—from our national parks to Alzheimer's research. For me, retirement just means working on more than one thing. This is a common experience among my generation. Whether it is caring for spouses or grandchildren, engaging in projects and community activities or taking on whole new careers, retirees are as busy as ever. As for me, I may be officially retired, but I have no plans to stop working.
Are you planning to continue working after retirement? Share your comments below.
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