This is a pre-partisan statement that should find agreement across the political landscape: None of the front-page stories on any newspaper in the country are understood by anyone.
From the Wall Street bailout to the Middle East to the Ukraine and Russia, no content or clear lines to content are available, and that’s true of any American TV news, network or cable.
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.
Kids who grow up in a spiritual void may drift to ideological thuggery because we let go of its most powerful enemy, the mobility of mind that comes from Enlightenment values.
Our values are not transmitted genetically; they must be taught. They’re not. We’re asked to make choices between political parties that have ceased all rational intentions to communicate their stand on issues with any clarity. We live in an hypnotic trance of inaction because we aren’t taught how to run the nation, that we as a people are the highest sovereign power, that we can and should hold villains accountable.
Voting doesn’t make you a better citizen, comprehending the issues makes you better. Voting without that makes us all suckers.
Academy Award-winning actor Richard Dreyfuss is the founder of The Dreyfuss Civics Initiative.