When I think Richard Dreyfuss, I think Mr. Holland’s Opus and miscellaneous other acting bits, so when I saw him on TED, I was intrigued to find him one of the more intelligent Hollywood types. In fact, he heads the The Dreyfuss Initiative, which aims to bring [[Civics]] back into education.
And I never thought about it this way, but the very fact that most people may not even know what civic is could be blamed on the huge backslide of freedom and mature political discourse in America. And if you don’t know, the video below gives a great recap.
The point is to prepare citizens for leadership across the board, not just people wanting to go into politics, but give meaningful ownership of communities and the political process back into the hands of the populace. It’s about nurturing vital aspects of the democratic process, without which it is a curse instead of a blessing — embracing necessary things like debate and dissent, not with the obsessions of adversarialism, but a goal of tolerant pluralism.
Today, this is perhaps the most important class for any school, for any child, and yet without it we have wet-nursed complacent, opinionated generations not far enough above the line of utter ignorance to be worthy of a ballot box. In a world where politics have more the tenor of sports rivalries, it’s time to return to our roots.
Now I may not buy every historical proof of American Exceptionalism in his speech, but it is clear whatever exceptionalism we had is no longer mainstream, in part because we have adopted foreign and pre-Revolutionary notions of freedom, social justice, and economics. But apparently some of us are old enough to remember when this was not so. It was not perfect, but it was at least facing the right direction. And without civics, there will continue to be no compass at all.