Richard Dreyfuss’s thoughts on American politics and education are somewhat surprising, coming from an upper-tier Hollywood star:
This is the result of a complete absence of teaching current events in our schools and teaching without context or candor. We have eviscerated our children’s education and unconsciously treat them as people we hate, denying them any excellence or agility of mind.
Western kids are reportedly trying to join ISIS; why? Perhaps because the only spiritual movement being discussed in public, however ugly its ideology, is extremist Islam. Judeo-Christian spirituality seems pallid and disconnected; certainly Americans are no longer learning the secular faith of the Constitution, the musculature of republican democracy, its values of individual worth, its religious tolerance, its embrace of opportunity and merit.
Dreyfuss could have been a little more explicit that such education is the responsibility of all of us, teachers and otherwise. If we’re not engaged with and vocal about our political and religious beliefs, then even if they’re taught in school, they’ll be abstract, “pallid and disconnected.”
But when it comes to public education, he’s right on, and the problem appears to be by design. Just look at the perversion of AP U.S. History (appropriately, “APUSH”). In some ways, this is simply a consummation of the content that academics have been injecting into education for decades. It’s a deliberate attempt to undermine the political and cultural underpinnings of our country. At least, it was once considered an “alternative” history, with the standard kind presumed to be still taught in schools.
It’s not just the academics, with their educational theories, either. There’s a reason teachers’ unions are deeply interwoven with (and significant funders of) progressive causes. Those causes are their mission, although it’s a case in which form marries function: As a group — that is, as a union collective — public school teachers’ most visible activity is using political activism to redistribute wealth from taxpayers to themselves.
In the vision of civic engagement that (it appears) Dreyfuss and I share, that’s not supposed to be how politics and education work.