Top Leaderboard, Site wide
Truthdig: Drilling Beneath the Headlines
April 27, 2017 Disclaimer: Please read.

Statements and opinions expressed in articles are those of the authors, not Truthdig. Truthdig takes no responsibility for such statements or opinions.

Truthdig Bazaar
The Nature and Destiny of Man

The Nature and Destiny of Man

By Reinhold Niebuhr; Robin W. Lovin (Introduction by)

more items

A/V Booth
Email this item Print this item

Dreyfuss Schools America

Posted on Nov 22, 2006
Richard Dreyfuss
From HBO

During “Real Time With Bill Maher,” actor Richard Dreyfuss gave the country a lesson in civics and defense against indoctrination.

Watch it. (part 1, part 2)

The Largest Minority:

In the most recent ‘Real Time with Bill Maher’, actor Richard Dreyfuss pretty much took over the show and gave the country a lesson in civics. Referring to the fact that politics and news have been hijacked as mere sources of entertainment, he says “we confuse the melodrama of incivility with how public issues are discussed”. Continue on to part two for more schooling from professor Dreyfuss.



Square, Site wide


Lockerdome Below Article

Subscribe to the Truthdig YouTube channel:

Get a book from one of our contributors in the Truthdig Bazaar.

Related Entries

Get truth delivered to
your inbox every day.

New and Improved Comments

If you have trouble leaving a comment, review this help page. Still having problems? Let us know. If you find yourself moderated, take a moment to review our comment policy.

Join the conversation

Load Comments

By ThomasPaine2, January 15, 2007 at 4:44 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)


Spinoza makes a good point, but he does so with a brick instead of a scalpal.  Despite Bush, jr’s lamentations, America has never aspired to democracy.  We have always been a representative democracy - a very different animal - which is our firewall against the robber barons.

Anderson identifies the correct levers that steer “the force” of our government.  But as the Buddhists say, the root of all suffering is ignorance.  Citizen Dreyfus proposes the chemically correct antidote to this ignorance.

Chris is right about absolute power.  But the reason some people pursue absolute power is because they are clueless how to live without it.  They always seem to be pathological thieves or wealthy princes of privilege.  By the time they reach positions of leadership in our system, they are so habituated to cheating in government, they simply can’t imagine the Founders’ representation.  The good news is that, eventually, hubris shoots itself in the groin.  The hard part for our republic these days seems to be to hold that thief accountable despite our sympathy for his pain.

Of course, Bukko is right about common sense, but Citizen Dreyfus points out explicitely that competent citizenship is well beyond common sense - that’s the good news.  We can teach it, again.  Let us do it better than ever.

Thank you, Citizen Campbell, for your service.

chassbass fails to recognize that apathy is not a malady.  It is a symptom.  A cure must be directed at the malady - ignorance - which is ultimately a creative challenge for our K-12 professionals.  This is precisely what Citizen Dreyfus has focused his studies to for more than two years.

John the Destroyer is at risk for becoming a pathogenic cynic.  Cynicism is as destructive to the republic as cancer is to flesh.  He will be far more appreciated if he could direct his intellect to the yoke instead of to his drool.  The next step in Citizen Drefus’ plan is to convene a series of conventions around the US to design the curriculum.  Pay attention, tough guy.

Ditto for all my other neighbors here writing.  Remember, hope is for spectators.  This republic requires participants.  You can be sure that the princes of privilege are competent.  If you intend to hand off a republic instead of a plutocracy in disguise, then saddle up.


Report this

By Barb, December 14, 2006 at 9:36 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This letter was written to voice my dream regarding the teaching of civils…

Dear Mr. Dreyfuss,

Your appearance on the HBO Bill Mayer show has prompted me to try and contact you.  My family watched the broadcast.  Your comments, regarding the importance of educating the youth of our country on how rare and wonderful the basic concepts on which our government was founded, touched a cord my husband and I have been strumming to our children for years.  Suddenly, with your expertise regarding the issues, our past conversations took on a deeper tone and a new resonance that reached them on a level they had never experienced. 

We live in the midwest.  Our local school system like many today, struggles with fiscal concerns.  Not to take up you time, but only to explain, I will say that I have been frustrated by the financial decisions of the school district.  For the past two years the student’s annual achievement tests have been reduced to one subject.  This is in place of the previous standard of testing on two subjects per year on a rotating basis.  My youngest child, who is a senior this year, has not been tested on all of the core subjects during his four years.  After this change in operating standards, now consider that the district two years ago built a new football field and this past summer found the funds to put down astro turf on a practically new playing field.  To get back to my main point, if an educational institution is so focused on sports that they are choosing not to fulfill a basic principle of academic achievement, they are not likely to include a course of citizenship in the curriculum unless the Department of Education forces it to do so.  In the meantime, another generation is growing up without a foundation to appreciate our country as well as understand the population’s responsibility for the survival of the liberties for which it stands.  This is a fundamental foundation for the evaluation of political candidates and current issues facing our governmental representatives and the individual voters across the country. 

All of this has caused me to consider the following question.  While a curriculum for the Martha’s Vineyard proposed course of study is formulated, couldn’t a video program also be developed the use of organizations in communities across the country?  PTA groups, voter awareness organizations, VFW lodges, etc. could be enlisted to aid in a nationwide educational campaign.  It is a dream, but I feel its one which is entirely possible.  I hope this reaches you and you will give it a moment’s consideration.  Thank you for your time.

Report this

By Bukko in Australia, December 9, 2006 at 6:58 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Well put Skymntn. Terrible that someone could get to the point of actually BEING an lawyer and not recognise quotes from the Declaration of Independence. And still he felt confident enough to interrupt someone with more education. He has a future working for Alberto Gonzalez. Until the war crimes trials begin, at least.

Report this

By Skymntn, December 8, 2006 at 11:49 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Not too long ago I started a lecture before a group of lawyers about the changes in the Bankruptcy Code by reading from the Declaration of Independence. Before I could disclose from where I was reading, one lawyer stood up to call my recitation unAmerican and unPatriotic. I asked if he thought that those whose penned it were too unAmerican? I got a round of applause. I also said that as lawyers we are bound by our pledge to uphold the Constitution, which I believe is intended to include the dictates of the Declaration of Independence. I agree with Dreyfus that the teaching of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Gettysburg Address and other important documents have been cast aside in the name of just getting through it! History is a living breathing element of our genes, and as has long been said, those who do not study it are doomed to repeat it. Not since the Civil War has our country been divided by designating states by colors; then blue and grey, and today, blue and red. The effect is the same. The intent is to divide and allow the despots to conquer our constitutional democracy through the twin columns of intolerance and ignorance; just as every other great democracy has fallen.

Read and understand the Declaration of Independence where it is stated in pertinent part:

Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, – That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

Report this

By Mark, December 4, 2006 at 6:28 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I am a retired social studies teacher and I can tell you that civis, political science and government is no longer taught in schools in this state. It is really too bad because most kids today know absoulty nothing about how our government functions. Mr Dreyfuss was right on the money, and I applaud him.

Report this

By Steve Brant, December 3, 2006 at 2:08 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I saw Richard Dreyfuss on ABC News’s “This Week” show this morning.  The 2-minute report ended with an invitation for people to go to and suggest how to make teaching civics exciting.  It’s hard to find where to do this on the site, but if you put Richard Dreyfuss into the site’s search engine you will find it.
And yes, I hope TruthDig reports on the Dec. 6th conference as well!

Report this

By Laura Poirot, November 28, 2006 at 10:56 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Like natural resources, our bank accounts and our votes, our very brains have now become commodities for the power brokers to buy and sell.  Actual individual THOUGHT is becoming a dying endeavor.  We label ourselves and each other almost at birth.  It could be re-energized by bringing back CIVICS in school and keeping the Internet FREE and keeping religious dogma out of government.

Report this

By John the Destroyer, November 28, 2006 at 10:44 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

what’s all the ‘Dreyfuss’?  any fool can articulate what dicky did on real time.  bring on a hollweird fella to exhort:  Dicky for prez!  and all is well.  It’s crap brothers and sisters.  Dicky would last about a minute in whoreshington.
Fundamentally sound comment and enabled speech don’t cut it in the real world, sounds like another ‘American President’ speech.  Of course, the fact that he was, fundamentally correct is not lost on me, the fact that he ignores reality should not be lost on anyone either.  Getting from here to there, or better stated:  “so you got this right, how would you ACTUALLY GO ABOUT IT, DICKY?”  should be his next promo.

Report this

By Louise, November 27, 2006 at 9:43 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The youth care. WE have failed them!

Our republic was not created to perpetuate capitalism. Again, WE have failed!

When I went to school Civics, like History, Math, English and PE was required. Who was the President, and who controlled Congress when the education system in this country was influenced to do away with Civics? 

At some point in time the name republic morphed into republican and has been used ever since to denigrate government (by the people) and elevate capitalism, profit and power for the few, serviced by the many.

The many go along to get along, believing they will get a piece of the pie and a tax break. Or maybe because of a nostalgic belief in a slightly skewed history.

A never ending cycle ... the people get fed up and vote them out, but money rules and they always come back.

Democracy is not mobocracy, nor is it peopled by demons, but it may be socialism ... but then we are a society with members badly in need, so can that be a bad thing?

What we need is a republic governed by the people for the people through the peoples elected officials.

“By the people for the people of the people.” Oh, there’s an original idea.

Somewhere in there (The Constitution) lies the path we all need to look for, because the other powerful political force ... government controlled by an industrial/military complex is definitely fascism.

There is no place in the Constitution for that!

So yes, we definately need to see the teaching of Civics restored to the classroom. Our Youth would love to learn about the Constitution!

Report this

By Bob Savage, November 27, 2006 at 6:06 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Truly an exception to what usually passes for public discourse. I hope many people get to hear Mr. Dreyfus’ very articulate description of the current situation, the nature of civics education, and the consequence of not providing it.

I hope the Truthdig staff follow up on the mentioned conference.

Report this

By, November 27, 2006 at 9:16 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Just as Lord Acton claimed absolute power corrupts absolutely and so does absolute apathy.

Report this

By Duane Campbell, November 26, 2006 at 6:07 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Re: 39549, the state of civics education.
Civics has largely been cut from public schools, particularly in low income areas.  In its place is more drill on reading and math since these are the items tested.
some improvement in the last 4 years as a result of an effort called “The Civic Mission of Schools,: you can find these on the web.
I have been trying to get teachers to promote civics for 35 years and he going is tough. The so called school reform efforts have mostly ignored this topic. As Dreyfus says, it is vital.
Duane Campbell, author.
Choosing Democracy: a practical guide to multicultural education.
It really is about democracy.

Report this

By Bukko in Australia, November 25, 2006 at 4:27 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The trouble with common sense is that it isn’t…

Report this

By Dharmabum, November 24, 2006 at 6:08 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I appluad Mr. Dreyfuss for his very insightful comments, however could he have been more “hollywood?”  The glasses around his neck, the pen, and his constant chin rubbing.  He should be nominated for an award of some sorts. 

Plus he attacked the vary medium that he has used to achieve his level of status, so which is it?  Granted he has done more movies of substance than your average actor/actress.

In the end, however he made many points that are not even considered by this nation of sheep. Points that do not require civics classes, but mere common sense.

Report this

By Bukko in Australia, November 24, 2006 at 6:14 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Fascinating clips on many levels. At the most basic, interesting that Dreyfuss got so much time to talk. I used to watch Maher on HBO a lot before I emigrated, and panelists NEVER got so uninterrupted air. Who were the other two tongue-tied types?

Good too that he slags Raptor Murdoch, the worst thing that Australia ever vomited forth. “Citizen Kane” and historians talk with mortification about William Randolph Hearst. But the king of yellow journalism ain’t got nothing on the creator of Fox “News” and so many tabloid travesties. If it wasn’t for Fox putting the present mass murderers in office, there would be 655,000 more Iraqis alive today. The body count from Hearst’s Spanish-American War pales in comparison.

Finally, what IS the state of American civics education these days? I came up through public schools and a state university. I learnt about how government works, and got some political values background. They’re not doing that any more? Any comment from schoolteachers?

Report this

By Philly, November 23, 2006 at 8:36 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

RD made some great points there.  If only we or at least the youth gave a damn en masse.  We’re just a bunch of pleasure seekers and we’re going down. 

Imagine having a president who talked like that!  That’s who should be saying it.  Where the hell is the real leadership?  Dreyfuss is a brave man, that was great!

Report this

By Chris, November 23, 2006 at 11:34 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Not a big fan of Dreyfuss but he hit the nail on the head when it came to civics and people not being able to think for themselves because they aren’t taught how to. I think if you mention civics to people you’ll either get a confused look or they will respond, “Honda sells them”.

Dreyfuss is correct that the news is controlled by elites which is a sentiment echoed by Noam Chomsky in his Manufacturing Consent documentary. Dreyfuss is correct in stating it is not a crime to questions these elites as to whether they have an agenda.

I personally watch the BBC News and the only time I watch networks like Foxnews and CNN is when I want a laugh or be entertained.

Civics should be taught but the elites in power don’t want that because they think they know what is best and don’t want to relinquish their power. There is a scene in the Matrix Reloaded where Neo is sitting on a bench with the Oracle in a city park. Neo asks the Oracle why the villain wants a certain item despite being all-powerful already. The Oracle says something to the effect, “What do men who are already powerful want? More power”.

Report this

By butai, November 23, 2006 at 10:35 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I thank Richard dreyfus for his absolutely amazing performance. he is right on. As a father of two this has reminded me to make sure my children are taught what civility and public discourse means and show them that if they want to live in a free society they must work to keep it free. And that is not by supporting imperial wars but by declaring war ON the imperialist tendences in our nation culture.

Report this

By Greg W. Andersen, November 22, 2006 at 8:04 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I applaud and agree with everything Richard said.  Unfortunately, we are a culture of money and money alone; and I fear with our myopic tendencies no one will see how to make money teaching this and abandon it.

We are heading the way of the dinosaur and Rome if we are not careful.

We Americans long ago left a variety of countries to throw off the shackles of Kings, queens and dictators.  But, now we are heading right back where we started from.  The new “Royalty” are the rich politicians who buddy up with corporations to scratch each other back regardless of how it affects our country or our people.  The new peasants are everyone else.

Politicians now have a firm handle on taxing us to death, they control the military and use it as they see fit and they control the “spin” on the media or own it outright.

Hitler controlled the Army and was a master at controlling the media.  The only tools he needed to do his dirty work. 

Now, under bush old boy, we are perpetually at war, not allowed to criticize for fear of being unpatriotic, watching debates between candidates that are scripted and each debater knows the questions and answers ahead of time…..

What is real?  Who knows? 

I hope this focus on civics that Richard speaks of is possible.  It is imperative.

Report this

By Spinoza, November 22, 2006 at 6:52 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Democracy is an impossibility as long as capitalism exists. A democracy is the rule of, by, and for the people and when you have a small rich oligarchy owning all of the mass media, all of the means of livelihood, the average person has no say as to what happens in that society.  Democracy and capitalism are incompatible.

Report this

By Anchorite, November 22, 2006 at 3:46 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)


Lot of hard swallowing going on I bet.

Gotta love human dignity.

Report this
Right Top, Site wide - Care2
Right Skyscraper, Site Wide
Right Internal Skyscraper, Site wide

Like Truthdig on Facebook