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Former Justice Souter Warns About The State Of Civics Education

Jim Cole
/
AP

Former Supreme Court Justice David Souter spoke in Concord Friday night. Among the topics for discussion was the state of civics education in the country.

Justice Souter told an audience of more than 1,300 people that civics education had declined since he attended Concord High School in the late ‘50s. The decline began, says Souter, in the ‘70s and it failed to recover since then.

“I don’t believe there is any problem of American politics in American public life which is more significant today than the pervasive civic ignorance of the Constitution of the United States and the structure of government.”

He said the American republic was more likely to fall by an electorate who does not know who to hold accountable in government for specific problems, rather than by an invasion or a military coup.

“An ignorant people can never remain a free people. Democracy cannot survive too much ignorance.”

Souter, who retired from the Supreme Court in 2009, spoke with PBS reporter Margaret Warner at the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord.

It was the first of a series of talks called “Constitutionally Speaking” which was organized in part by the newly established New Hampshire Institute for Civic Education.

Before becoming a reporter for NHPR, Ryan devoted many months interning with The Exchange team, helping to produce their daily talk show. He graduated from the University of New Hampshire in Manchester with a major in Politics and Society and a minor in Communication Arts. While in school, he also interned for a DC-based think tank. His interests include science fiction and international relations. Ryan is a life-long Manchester resident.
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