Sunday, May 7, 2017
Civics, Another Missing Element In Education
Actor Richard Dreyfuss and Fox News host Tucker Carlson were midway through a debate Friday night over funding for sanctuary cities when Dreyfuss left Carlson all but speechless.
Dreyfuss was telling Carlson that he believed no president had the power to withhold funding, as President Donald Trump has threatened to do, because that power rests with Congress.
But that was not what was uppermost in his mind. Instead, Dreyfuss needed to get something else off his chest.
“I want to mention one thing,” Dreyfuss said. “You were talking about the speakers on university campuses. And I am totally, incontrovertibly on your side about this.”
Dreyfuss said that not only is freedom of speech essential, regardless of the consequences, but free speech and education are the only ways to address America’s collective ignorance about the foundational principles of the nation enshrined in the Constitution and Bill of Rights.
“I think any intrusion into freedom of speech is an intrusion into freedom of speech. And when one of the presidents of one of the colleges said, ‘This is a school, not a battlefield,’ I said, no, it is a battlefield of ideas and we must have dissonant, dissenting opinions on campuses and I think it’s political correctness taken to a nightmarish point of view,” Dreyfuss said.
He then talked about deeper principles.
“I am a constitutionalist who believes that the Constitution and the Bill of Rights must be central and the parties must be peripheral,” Dreyfuss said, noting that few Americans have ever really studied these documents in school.
“Civics has not been taught in the American public school system since 1970. And that means everyone in Congress never studied the Constitution and the Bill of Rights as you and I might have,” he said.
Dreyfuss said knowing the basics of government is essential to being a functional American citizen
Ignorance of the basics “is a critical flaw because it’s why we were admired and respected for so long, it gives us our national identity, it tells the world who we are and why we are who we are, and without a frame that gives us values that stand behind the Bill of Rights, we’re just floating in the air and our sectors of society are not connected,” he said.
Dreyfuss said each side has to quit trying to silence the other.
“What’s really important is that the assumptions of the left and the right are all skewed wrong,” he said. “We have to find areas of agreement and areas that we share. And we do share the notion that education accomplishes certain things. One, it turns students into citizens. And, two, it teaches students how to run the country before it’s their turn to run the country. And, three, it teaches the values of this nation,” he said.
The obligations, responsibilities and workings of American democracy are essential parts of education, he said.
“People come from all over the world or are born into this nation without the values that we have here. That’s why they came here, to get them. And what are they? You can put them in opportunity, rise by merit, mobility, and freedom. That’s what we sell. And if you don’t want that, you’ve chosen the wrong place. And you don’t get a pass by being born here, you have to learn it,” he said.
“And we must learn our values and if we don’t, we are fatally, fatally wounding ourselves. We will not have any way to really combat the ideas behind ISIS because we won’t know our own. And we have to,” he said.
When Dreyfuss was finished, Carlson veered away form his usual style.
“So I … typically I interrupt our guests and I expected to debate you, but … I agree with every single word of that and I just want to say thank you very much. I think it’s important,” he said.
What do you think?