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Richard Dreyfuss promotes civics education
Actor Richard Dreyfuss returned to the Island in a new role this week, speaking as an advocate for teaching civics in public schools again.
Richard Dreyfuss. Photos by Ralph Stewart
"We need to give kids the tools necessary to run our government," Mr. Dreyfuss said. Some of those tools include reason, logic, and clarity of thought, coupled with the tools of dissention and debate, he added. "Our republican democracy is the only system of government thus far that requires the participation of the civic body. Yet we don't require the people who run that system to have any particular expertise. We wouldn't do that in the corporate world."
Last night's conference came about through Mr. Dreyfuss's long-time friendship with Bob Tankard, an All-Island School Committee member who formerly served as West Tisbury School principal. Mr. Tankard introduced Mr. Dreyfuss to superintendent of schools James Weiss last summer. After sharing his ideas about civics education with Mr. Weiss, Mr. Dreyfuss said the superintendent suggested the possibility of "igniting the enthusiasm of the local community" in developing a possible pilot civics program in Vineyard public schools.
Richard Dreyfuss shares his thoughts about the importance of civics education in an interview with his assistant, Erin McCahill, filmed at Vineyard Haven's Katharine Cornell Theatre yesterday afternoon.
"I want to attach the word urgency to this problem, and make people aware that civics is not just a subject of discussion," Mr. Dreyfuss said.
Asked if he was a frustrated politician at heart, Mr. Dreyfuss replied, "No," with a laugh, adding that he has always been interested in politics and history. "America is the achievement of the miracle of governance. It doesn't happen by itself," he pointed out.
A follow-up discussion takes place today from 12:30 to 2 pm at Martha's Vineyard Regional High School to continue the dialogue started last night and to focus on the development of a pilot civics program.