The Richard Dreyfuss Show!?

SuperStock_253-213Sounds like Richard Dreyfuss was a complete bomb today at Kevin Levin’s private school in Virginia. Levin and his school had the unfortunate pleasure (I guess) to have this Hollywood actor/ historian (?) as a guest speaker. Levin titled his blog story today as The Richard Dreyfuss Show, very catchy! I like it.

I will agree with Levin, that based on his description, Dreyfuss indeed did not know the audience he was addressing and did not, as it sounds, stay on message that was appropriate for that audience. I do not know, I was not there.

So who was in the audience besides Levin? This is a private school, St. Anne’s at Belfield School, Charlottesville, Virginia, and while I don’t know anything about this school, I would bet they are an expensive school and, well, SOME might consider them elite. Whatever! All I know is that their school website is sweet and would make most simple public schools look embarrassingly bad. I would post the link to ours, but, well, sadly, though not for lack of effort, it cannot compete.

One thing that does concern me is this, Levin wrote, “From the beginning Dreyfuss … alienated much of his audience when he asked for a volunteer to cite the Bill of Rights.

Not sure how asking those students for a volunteer to recite a cornerstone document of our country was a problem or “alienated” those students? Was it because they could not do so? Was it his asking them to do so that offended? Clearly few students at any school would be able to do so, thus I assume that was the issue? As I said, I was not there. If that is the case, Dreyfuss blundered clearly. But with that said, I appreciate his intentions, we as citizens need to better appreciate and understand the Constitution and the Bill of Rights! Perhaps his point is well taken though impracticable?

Regardless, I am not defending Dreyfuss, it does sound like he clearly had no idea what he was stepping into and he got what he deserved!

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16 Responses to The Richard Dreyfuss Show!?

  1. Mike says:

    I wonder if this were Sean Penn, Susan Sarandon, Michael Moore, Jodie Foster, Meg Ryan, Drew Barrymore, Danny DeVito, Ellen DeGeneres, Matthew Perry, Billy Crystal, Sharon Stone, Bill Maher, Martin Sheen and many others is Levin or his elite Liberal students would have had such an issue… what if they had been ask to recite Karl Marx, “Capital”, would those brain washed students stood and applauded!!! Would Levin be even making a big deal of this….

    But true, What and the hell was Dreyfuss thinking to go to that Liberal elitest school!!?

  2. Chris says:

    Mike – I sincerely doubt Levin would support them any more than Dreyfuss, I think you’re wrong. I do have concerns and questions, but will refrain from asking those.

  3. Will Hickox says:

    I got the impression that Dreyfuss was making a point that students today don’t know the Bill of Rights by Heart, and that this (apparently) says something profound about modern students’ lack of civic engagement.
    If I had been there, I would have asked Dreyfuss if students in his own high school days could have done this…or if many people could who are not professional actors trained in memorizing long passages!

  4. Chris says:

    Will, very good point and I would agree. Surely Dreyfuss would not have been able to do so nor his classmates. As I said, Dreyfuss completely failed here to appreciate what he was stepping into. I appreciate his desire to make a difference, but his tactics failed.


  5. Kevin says:

    Dreyfuss asked if anyone in the room was able to cite the Bill of Rights, including the teachers. I can cite the Bill of Rights, but chose not to play his game. I know for a fact that others in the room, especially my AP students could do so since they must memorize it. Most Americans can’t cite the document, regardless of their generation. Other than that I don’t know what you want me to say other than the fact that from the beginning he came off as threatening and obnoxious. At the end he berated the audience for not challenging him with additional questions. Would you want to engage that kind of attitude?

    Yes, the website is “sweet”, but my school is much more than a website. Yes, it is expensive, but most of our students are on financial aid. We are an incredibly diverse student body that is anything but “elite.” If you are ever in the area I would be more than happy to show you around.

  6. Craig says:

    Chris why do you insist on hammering Kevin? He has stopped responding to you… frankly it’s getting old.

  7. Chris says:

    Craig, how did I “hammer” him. I was agreeing.

    If anything I am a bit jealous. I would love to work at a private school and make private school money. Maybe after 5-6 more years teaching AP and with my masters I will get the chance.

    I don’t think there is anything I would have done different if I were Levin.

    My point, and I guess I’ll spell it out. Dreyfuss was addressing students who would have responded better to a far more different approach. They attend an elite school (diverse or not) with highly educated students with highly trained instructors such as Levin. I may disagree with Levin and I know I had crossed over the line a couple of times, for which I apologized, but I have never question his ability as a teacher and if I had I would apologize for it; not my intention.

    Dreyfuss should approached the topic of the Bill of Rights by asking students if they knew it? And was it important for every American to know the basics behind the Bill of Rights? That would have stimulated dicussion and not alienated the audience. Though I will say I don’t think that question should have alienated anyone, I guess it depends on context… I could tell you the basic rights for each amendment, but I couldn’t give it word for word…who could? I doubt he asked that much, but I was not there.

    That’s all my post was about, and I was really impressed with that school’s website! I went there looking for more info on Dreyfuss and his visit, that is all.


  8. I could not cite the Bill of Rights verbatim, though I am familiar with the general principles contained and addressed in each of the amendments. Sounds like a “gotcha” attempt to me. Perhaps Dreyfuss could have better addressed his concerns by asking the students to discuss the amendments in general terms.

    Or, even better, since much of our Common Law was influenced by Mosaic Law, someone could have answered Dreyfuss and then asked him to cite the 10 commandments.


  9. Kevin says:

    I don’t believe that Chris was hammering me at all in this post. I agree that very few of our students could stand up in front of the entire school and recite the Bill of Rights. That Dreyfuss started with this and used it to gauge the level of knowledge in the room tells us more about his inability to engage his audience. Actually, I’m not even sure why it is necessary to memorize the Bill of Rights as opposed to a deeper understanding of the ideas contained therein.

    I’ve started every class with a discussion about yesterday and just about every student gave Dreyfuss a negative review. They were highly offended by his behavior, especially the way he handled the questions from the students on the panel. I am confident in saying that our students experience civil discourse throughout their four years at my school. Dreyfuss needs to reevaluate his whole message. Perhaps he should begin with a little teaching to experience the challenges that the vast majority of educators face on a day to day basis.

  10. I must respectfully disagree some as well. Dreyfuss came to Penn State Altoona (my campus) last year and was a fantastic and well informed speaker. He was humorous but insightful…and he knew his stuff. He is out on a noble mission on a number of fronts and I totally support his endeavors. His speech in Gettysburg today I found equally impressive.

  11. Chris says:

    Jared thank you for your post. As I have made it clear, I have never heard him. Was this case above simply a case of a “wrong venue” selection for Mr. Dreyfuss? Were these students and faculty really open to what he had to say? I do not know and will not presume to know.


  12. Kevin says:


    What could it possibly mean to say that my school may have been the wrong venue? Do you think my school is that different from others just because it is a private school? Dreyfuss also spoke at a public school that same day and had an even worse experience. I am glad to hear that his message is getting through in certain venues and I am not surprised to hear that it worked at Gettysburg. It seems to me his problem may be with connecting with high school students, regardless of whether they attend private or public school. You seem very comfortable poking at my school without committing. In the post you describe us as “elite” and here as the “wrong venue.” If it makes you feel better to do so than so be it, but perhaps you should refrain from saying anything at all given how little you know. Again, I understand that you make a point to quality your claims, but why make them at all?

  13. Chris says:

    Kevin I wrote: “Was this case above simply a case of a “wrong venue” selection for Mr. Dreyfuss? Were these students and faculty really open to what he had to say? I do not know and will not presume to know.”

    Where did I say that “it was” the wrong venue. I said “was this”. I include “?” marks. I said “were these”…..

    Maybe you are feeling a bit self-conscious.”I don’t know”?

  14. Craig says:

    Chris there you go again, I don’t know why I read your blog! It’s clear that you were implying what Mr. Levin says you were!

  15. Craig Swain says:

    I pretty much look at Dreyfuss, in this particular instance, as someone who is pitching some product on a late night infomercial. He really has no background or training to say that the “whopper chopper” or what ever he is pitching does all those wonderful things, but he is the face used to attract others to the product.

    The sad thing is the longer Dreyfuss is in play as the “pitch man” then the more he is identified with the product…that is civics I guess in this particular case. How long before we hear, “I’m not a degree holding historian, but I play one on TV…..”

  16. Chris says:

    I agree Craig Swain, I am frankly sick of all actors and singers who feel the need to tell me or my students about history, American values, or politics. Yet they are constantly given venues to spew their ignorance.

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