Richard Dreyfuss: Improving Civic Education

Link: Richard Dreyfuss: Improving Civic Education

Actor Richard Dreyfuss at the Big Apple Conven...

Image via Wikipedia

No, I am not on my trip blogging (but don’t put it past me). I just wrote this last night and scheduled it for later as to not send out two posts right after each other.

However, I wanted to share this great talk. It was filmed at the Commonwealth Club in July of last year. (See link above)

Richard Dreyfuss discusses the need and necessity of civic education and how our society is beginning to disregard its importance. He stands up against the push for facts and memorization (standardized tests) that have begun to get in the way of preparing young men and women for a life where critical thinking and reason are a vital requirement. As Robert M. Hutchins said, “The death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference, and undernourishment.”

I believe Mr. Dreyfuss is concerned, just like many of us who teach the social sciences, that society and public schools in particular, are becoming more apathetic and that has begun in the classrooms where history and government teachers are being forced to teach random objectives that can be quantified on a multiple choice test.

So what should we be doing? I believe Stephen Lazar said it best when he said, “the primary job of social studies teachers is to prepare critical citizens.” He explains that to be a critical citizen:

Students need to know that they need to “read” the New York Post differently from the USA Today, the New York Times differently from the Wall Street Journal, MSNBC differently from Fox News.  Moreover, they need to know to critically evaluate what they find through Google or YouTube.

So with this in mind the talk from Mr. Dreyfuss made a big impact. He speaks with reason and logic. He has quietly reflected on this issue for a great deal of time and it shows. He has evaluated and analyzed his words and thoughts meticulously. He demonstrates the very ideal that he is arguing for in a profound way. I highly recommend taking the time to watch this great talk.

Once done, don’t stop there. Go to the Dreyfuss Initiative to see the ideas he expresses in action.

As always, if you comment the blog, please rate the blog. If you rate the blog something good, please subscribe. This is Joshua Murphy and I am out.

2 comments on “Richard Dreyfuss: Improving Civic Education

  1. Val says:

    Ever since No Child Left Behind (or No Child Left Untested – as it is called by most educators) has ruled over the proverbial American kingdom, more and more restrictions upon the classroom have been heaped upon teachers. I think it is interesting that only since we have enacted NCLB have we seen such dramatic downfalls in the education of the children.

    Most recently, our school was given new instruction on Datawise, a program that creates tests based on various standards from the almost-adopted English Common Core Standards. I hook this special scantron machine to the computer and as I run the answers through the machine, it sends the reports of my grades and how well each student mastered each objective. We are now being required to use that, Curriculum Engine for lesson planning, and My Skills Tutor to give students the availability to study skills at home.

    Lots of technology pushes are out there for me to have to prove which students are progressing and which ones (or myself for that matter) need assistance. As we roboticize education, we are seeing that we struggle more and more to find relevancy and rigor. My job now depends on sheets of paper, results from a machine, and lesson plans that are sent to my boss and her boss and that person’s boss.

    The students are hurting as we rush through block scheduling to master skills and somehow find that personal connection that kids need for someone in which to confide when problems arise. I am spending more time arguing to find library time than to have fun at my job and appreciate the impact that I can have on students, which will in turn give them reason to do better in school.

    I find it interesting that this very thing was discussed in Dreyfuss’s famous movie, “Mr. Holland’s Opus.” Meaningful programs and concepts are cut because of scare tactics over testing and the almighty dollar. Meanwhile, pregnancy rates are high, students are left without any clue where to go after graduation and don’t possess the skills they need to succeed.

    Interesting find. I also enjoyed how you were very pleased with how you were able to time your blog posting. Yes, you are tech-savvy.

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