Written by County Comptroller Howard S. Weitzman Friday, 18 September 2009 00:00
I was reading recently how Academy Award-winning actor Richard Dreyfuss is now devoting himself to promoting the education of “civics” in our schools in order to give our children real-world knowledge and, hopefully, wisdom about how to run our government. I never realized that Mr. Dreyfuss and I had so much in common and I enthusiastically join his call to bring back civic education.
During my visits to schools, community groups and other organizations, I always try to instill an excitement and interest in government in young people. At the same time, I encourage them to be active citizens. After all, young people can only benefit from community involvement – personally and professionally – and, if nothing else, they should understand that civic education really does play a critical role in how we go about governing ourselves.
According to The Center for Civic Education, a nonprofit, nonpartisan educational corporation, in recent years, civic learning has been increasingly pushed aside. Civic education has been in steady decline ever since the 1960s; but Mr. Dreyfuss, who recently studied at St. Antony’s College at the University of Oxford, has developed a new curriculum for U.S. public schools that would use video presentations to educate students in an entertaining way (with him as the “talent”). Confident that his new educational techniques will attract students’ interest in civics, Mr. Dreyfuss is also working with civic and educational groups to promote the teaching tools.
Mr. Dreyfuss and nonprofit organizations, like The Center for Civic Education, are making it their mission to see to it that civics education becomes a core part of education once again. We need to recognize that individuals do not automatically become responsible active citizens who engage themselves in community affairs. There truly is an educational curve that brings out this kind of citizenship in people. Being active citizens goes way beyond just spending a few minutes in the voting booth each Election Day. I encourage young people to participate in community service and engage in local politics; in addition, I push them to take it a step further by discussing and debating public policy with friends and family.