In the wake of the Tucson shootings, actor and Encinitas resident Richard Dreyfuss is taking on what he calls "America's civics crisis."
The Academy Award winner led a national conversation on Monday from the University of San Diego campus. Dreyfuss spoke about the need for restraint when the natural human tendency might be more toward hyper-emotionalism.
"That common sense so long identified as ours has been replaced by a common senselessness and apathy and ignorance," Dreyfuss said.
Through his nonprofit, The Dreyfuss Initiative, Dreyfuss brought together experts on both coasts to talk about what it will take to bring civility back into America's political scene. While he wouldn't go so far as to say the tragedy in Tucson was directly related to political ugliness, Dreyfuss said America is headed down a dangerous path if Americans don't start speaking to each other in a more respectful way.
"You can have and must have a sharing of political platforms upon which we all stand and are allowed and celebrated for having differing opinions," Dreyfuss said.
Republican pollster Frank Luntz said mutual respect won't happen unless parents get involved at an early age.
"If it's not happening at home, no matter how much you spend, it's not going to happen in the classroom because the child is not going to be fed the right way, the child is not going to be disciplined the right way," said Luntz.
But to a large degree, civics is not being taught in American schools. In fact, the group Vote iQ says more than 60 percent of Americans can't name the three branches of government.
Vote iQ's Richard Shenkman said, "If you don't know the three branches of government, how can you take part in any meaningful public debate about the complicated issues facing this country?"
Dreyfuss said there is an unease and anxiety being felt by Americans now that we've rarely seen before. He said he hopes today's conversation opens the kind of dialogue that can bring back civility and ultimately lead to solutions.
Copyright Do you have more information about this story? Click here to contact usCopyright 2011 by 10News.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.