Richard Dreyfuss On PoliticKING

Larry King Guest Richard Dreyfuss explains his movement to bring American civics back into the classroom and why he doesn't vote.

DREYFUSS: So all the guys that are in Congress now, the Young Turks, and the Republican party, they never took civics. They never studied the Constitution, they never studied the Bill of Rights, and that’s why they say such stupid things. There’s two points I want to make here: First, Inarguable points. No one in this country understands the stories on the front page of any newspaper in this country. No one. We don’t understand the bail out, Wall Street, foreign policy, the fed, the prime mortgage controversy, the bank-- we don’t understand any story on the front page. Two: Western kids are now joining ISIS.

KING: Not in multitudes.

DREYFUSS: Well, it starts with a trickle. Why? Because even though it sounds crazy, it’s the only spiritual movement being talked about in the media. No one talks about the values of the enlightenment that made strong the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Nobody talks about the secular faith of the United States or western Europe. And that’s why kids who grow up with a spiritual yearning of one kind or another, find themselves taken by these people.

KING: But why did we stop? Civics was required when I was in eighth grade.

DREYFUSS: Well they’ll say that part of Common Core, and No Child Left Behind, but it’s really not, and it’s been relegated to the idea that it’s politically rude to discuss things that maybe certain sections of the country disagree with, or it’s a controversial issue to say that there’s such a thing as America being responsible for the greatest political miracle in history, which is true. And our kids don’t know that story anymore. And that’s a shame.

DREYFUSS: You know, if I were a history teacher, I’d say this, any kids coming into my classroom I’d say this: How many kids here have the same politics as their parents? And whatever number raises their hand, I say, for this semester you take the opposite. You have to. So that you understand the opposing view. Every paper you write, every debate you’re in, you have to be opposing your parent’s political politics. And that way, you start people thinking for themselves. And our country right now is in a complete, vivid, unmistakable decay. Everyone knows it, everyone feels it, when you think of the future of America, it makes you uneasy, instead of comfortable.

KING: Well how can you disagree with [bringing civics back into the classroom]?

DREYFUSS: Because [politicians are] so disgracefully driven by this partisan nonsense. I’m gunna hold my breath until I turn blue before I help the other party. And that’s absurd. And so they just don’t think past their noses. They’re not thinking about their kids. They act towards their own children as if their children were their enemy. We have warehoused our children. We’re not teaching them anything in public schools. And my whole initiative is for the grades below high school graduation. I attended the White House roll out of what they called the university level civics and I raised my hand and said ‘If you’re going to hold off how to fall in love with America and patriotism and civics until the kids are in college you’re going to met with a solid wall of skepticism and cynicism.’ You gotta get them when they’re young, in kindergarten, and first and second grade. You wait til they’re 19 and they’re going to say 'up yours Charlie.'

KING: There’s no better guest than Richard Dreyfuss. Define “ideological thuggery”.

DREYFUSS: Well, it’s really simple. There are extremist Islamics called ISIS and Al Qaeda, and western kids, British and American, have been drifting towards joining them, and we know that’s started to happen. What's that? It’s a footprint to the future. That’s the system unless we take action that’s going to replace the greatest idea for governance in the history of the world- Democracy. But we’ve stopped exercising it. We’ve stopped teaching it or understanding it, so what’s going to happen is we’re going to go right back to the 5th century. We’re going to go back to ideological thuggery, and when you read about ISIS destroying the temples and the statues of the ancient assyrians, you know, these people are nuts. And they have to be stopped and we’re so obsessed with our local contemporary issues, that we still bothered to think or make the mistake and confuse, that Putin is not a communist. You know, Putin’s the head of a country, our problem is ISIS over here, what are we going to do about that? And the Pentagon has not a clue as to how to fight them. So what’ s going to happen? They’re going to take over our kids.

KING: So obviously we need a strong, some moral leadership here, right?

DREYFUSS: Yes, and we need civics taught to the power, the sovereign power, that’s what we invented here, you know. All men are created equal, and this is government of, by, and for the people, and that meant the kids in school were turned from students into citizens, in school. We stopped doing that.

KING: Well said, Richard. So therefore, do endorse and candidates anymore?

DREYFUSS: No, no. I don’t endorse candidates, I don’t endorse-

KING: Do you vote? Ah ha!

DREYFUSS: I will, sometimes, I won’t sometimes. Voting is not the issue.

KING: You don’t have to vote.

DREYFUSS: The fact is that when we’re voting we’re voting completely uninformed. We’re voting on empty phrases. We have no idea what we’re voting for or against, because we don’t understand the financial, the Wall Street, the business, the corporations.


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