Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor told a University of Florida audience Monday that the public knows more about the judges on "American Idol" than the justices on its highest court.

O'Connor used appearances at two UF events to highlight a failure to teach civics in U.S. classrooms. She cited polls showing that two-thirds of Americans can name at least one of the judges on the Fox television show, but less than half can name a single Supreme Court justice.

"These are shocking statistics, so it boils down to lack of knowledge," she said.

O'Connor made the comments during a panel on judicial reform in the morning that drew nearly 1,300 people to UF's Phillips Center. In the evening, she joined former Gov. Bob Graham in a discussion about civics that drew about 860 people to University Auditorium. She used both events to speak about the needs for citizens to be educated about their government.

About half of U.S. states no longer require civics classes, she said. She contrasted that fact with the requirement that new citizens pass a written exam about government.

"Our high school graduates cannot pass that test," she said. "I mean, it's appalling we make some stranger pass it but we don't require it of our own children." Read more