Richard Dreyfus to the Rescue!
If you are a civics teacher, take heart! It's Richard Dreyfuss to the rescue! Today in a taped interiew on ABC's This Week With George Stephanopoulus, it was announced that Dreyfuss will soon be beginning a "personal campaign" to teach civics. Lucky us!!! Dreyfuss might have wanted to enlist people who teach civics and government for a living, like me, as allies, but his approach for doing that is about as smooth as John Kerry's for winning the hearts and minds of American soldiers in Iraq.
Dreyfuss began his interview by saying, "The teaching of civics presently in the United States is dismal and startling." I always love it when some "important person" repeats that type of cliche, because they are oh so knowledgeable. Dreyfuss didn't explain why he believed the teaching is so dismal, so I have no idea where he got his information--maybe at a Hollywood cocktail party. But I guess that doesn't matter, because after all, Dreyfuss did play a teacher in a movie once. That should qualify him as an expert on the subject shouldn't it?
Dreyfuss goes on to say, "It used to be, when I was a kid, that there were classes in civics and you learned not only the checks and balances, but hows and whys and wherefores. And you learned what was the reasoning behind the creation of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. …" The obvious implication of this is that they used to teach civics a lot better than we do now. I am fifty-five years old, so I went to school in the 1950s and 1960s, and I don't think that's the case. I wonder what evidence Dreyfuss has to the contrary.
I would like Dreyfuss to know, that at least in my neck of the woods, we are doing our best to teach civics. The problem is that a lot of kids don't really care. Some do, and it's entirely possible that Dreyfuss did when he was a student, but most of them don't. They simply don't see how it matters to their lives now, and now is the time that most kids care about. My guess is that when Dreyfuss was in his teens, many of his classmates probably didn't care that much about it, either, but he just didn't notice.
If Dreyfuss wants to go on a campaign to convince kids that civics does matter, we would love to have his help. But to begin that campaign by simply repeating cliches that the subject isn't being taught well can only infuriate people like me who actually have to try to do the job. I can tell you one thing: if there is ever a rematch between Richard Dreyfuss and Jaws, here's one guy who will be rooting for the shark.