Kilbride was the guest speaker at the 49th annual meeting of the Peoria chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. His talk was entitled "Civic Education and the Preservation of Liberty."
"I don't intend to criticize teachers and school administrators. I have a new found respect for teachers," he said, citing recent visits to high schools. But the facts show civics has fallen out of the curriculum, he said.
In the 1960s, most high schools included three semesters of civics. Today students are lucky to get one semester, he said.
Illinois students must pass a test on the Illinois Constitution, but the passing grade is 40 percent, and "there is no grading criteria," he said he has learned.
The tests all students must take in Illinois to graduate from high school don't contain any questions on civics, he said. The state has reportedly spent $6.5 billion on the federal mandate No Child Left Behind, which contains no civics requirement.
As a result surveys show that students and adults know little or nothing about the workings of the government. Only 27 percent in one survey could name a right guaranteed under the lst Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and 70 percent didn't understand the difference between the judiciary and the legislative branches. "It's being lost on a generation."
This lack of knowledge affects how people view the government and appreciate their rights and liberties, he said.
Meanwhile judges are under attack from partisans, even though most judges rule on a non-partisan basis, he said. "Our system is based on fairness and impartiality," and decisions based on "the law and the facts."
"We need to refocus our priorities on civic education," he said. Studies show that children with a good background in civics tend to be more tolerant, more cooperative and ready to work for a the common good, and become more involved in their communities.He urged the audience of about 85 people to speak to their legislators about this situation.
Kilbride, a Democrat, was elected to the Illinois Supreme Court in 2000 and is running in November for retention.Also at the meeting two Peoria women received awards for their advocacy of civil liberties and civil rights, Peoria attorney Patricia Benassi and Peoria Park Board member Jackie Petty.
-- Elaine Hopkins