Twin Cities federal courthouses plan justice and democracy centers to encourage study of civics – TwinCities.com-Pioneer Press
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The Twin Cities’ federal courthouses will soon each house a Justice and Democracy Center, to encourage students to study and understand civics and the law.
Chief U.S. District Judge John Tunheim announced the project Tuesday at the Westminster Town Hall Forum in Minneapolis. The centers are projected to be open to the public over the next two years.
“We want to inspire young people to want to know more about democracy,” Tunheim said. “Inspire them to be active in their communities; inspire them to look forward to voting and expressing their thoughts on important obligations; inspire them to understand all points of view and listen; inspire them to consider careers in the law to help others; inspire them to seek solutions and change where change is necessary; inspire them to understand how our democracy can work for them, and above all, inspire them to be good American citizens.”
The centers will include interactive learning displays with oral histories of judges and the courts, demonstrations from federal agencies like the U.S. Marshals Service, historical documents, themed installations such as women in the law and dedicated space for workshops and for national programs such as Court Camp and Just the Beginning.
Tunheim envisions the center being used for school field trips, mock trials, exposing students to legal careers and for self-guided public tours.
The centers can be used by teachers as a tool to bring the study of civics and government in balance with the current focus on science and technology, he said.
“Increasingly in this electronic age, it is readily apparent that civic engagement is falling, especially among younger citizens,” he said. “In 2016 and in 2020 national surveys conducted by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, showed one in four Americans were unable to name the three branches of government.”
According to another survey, one-third of Americans could not name any of the five rights that are protected by the First Amendment, he said, and that 70 percent of 12th-graders had never written a letter to express an opinion on an important issue.
“The United States, over the past 50 years, has spent 1,000 times more per student on STEM education than on history and civics,” he said.
St. Paul’s center, located in the Warren E. Burger building at 316 Robert St., will open in June. The Minneapolis center, located in the Diana E. Murphy building at 300 S. Fourth St., is to open in 2023.
The centers are being funded by the federal court and community sponsors.
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