Academy Award-winning actor Richard Dreyfuss. Photo by Chris Jennewein

Academy Award-winner Richard Dreyfuss lamented Thursday the decline of civility in American politics, accusing the Republican front-runner of “public indecency.”

“Donald Trump is the icing on the cake that will poison and kill this country,” he said at a press conference in La Jolla. “It’s not about politics. It’s a question of his simple lack of human decency.

“Civility is not just manners. It is the oxygen required by republican democracies in order to survive.”

The actor, who lives in North San Diego County, was being honored by the National Conflict Resolution Center for The Dreyfuss Civics Initiative, which he founded in 2008 to revive the teaching of civics in American public education.

Dreyfuss traced the decline in civility to Proposition 13 in California, which reduced spending on education, and the counterculture of the 1960s and 70s, which he said encouraged widespread cynicism about government. The result, he argued, is a watered-down school curriculum today in history and civics.

“The people who are in Congress today were born in the 1970s and they never had civics. Ever,” he said.

He described the drafting of the Constitution as “most important political revolution in the history of civilization” but warned that in dropping civics “we’ve done the Constitution and Bill of Rights a terrible disservice.”

Dreyfuss said his initiative isn’t partisan, and added that he doesn’t consider himself a liberal despite his issues with Trump’s lack of civility.

The actor, who won an Academy Award for best actor in 1977 for “The Goodbye Girl,” will receive the annual Peacemaker Award Thursday night from the National Conflict Resolution Center. The San Diego-based center provides resources, training and expertise to help people, organizations and communities around the world manage and solve conflicts — with civility.

How could American schools revive civics education and civil discourse? A start, Dreyfuss said, would be for teachers to read and sign the preamble to the Constitution.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.