• September 2, 2015

The Times, They Changed

The Times, They Changed 1

Kent State University Archives

The Ohio National Guard dispersed students with tear gas at Kent State on May 4, 1970. Then guardsmen opened fire.

School's out. That was the news in early May 1970, when hundreds of colleges and universities across the country canceled classes, exams, and graduation exercises, fearing violent student protests against the war in Vietnam. Campus demonstrations and strikes escalated following President Richard Nixon's announcement on April 30 that U.S. ground troops would cross the border from Vietnam into Cambodia. The military's mission was to find and destroy sanctuaries the North Vietnamese army used to support its forces fighting on the South Vietnamese side of the border.

The next day, Friday, May 1, students at Kent State University in Ohio joined thousands of others across the country to mount protests against the invasion that would eventually grow into what news reports called a national student strike. When demonstrations spilled from the campus into downtown Kent in the early hours of Saturday, May 2, Mayor Leroy Satrom requested National Guard troops from Gov. James Rhodes of Ohio. Confrontations between students and guardsmen ensued over the next 36 hours, culminating just after noon on Monday, May 4, when the soldiers fired their rifles at students, killing four and wounding nine. Two of the dead were passers-by who had not been protesting.

Within days, students at other colleges and universities responded with rage at the Kent State shootings. Many campuses closed temporarily in order to dampen the student anger, and some didn't reopen until the fall.

The approaching 40th anniversary of the spring 1970 events invites comparisons with the placid political climate on campuses today, a quietness that prevails even though the nation remains mired in wars as controversial as Vietnam was. "Where's the outrage?" is a common retort of radical elders to the lethargy they see on campuses today. Guardsmen on campus were a problem in 1970; but this spring the problem for antiwar activists is a student culture so quiescent that troops are unnecessary.

The exceptions to the dormancy that dominates campuses are few, and even those underscore the larger countrywide pattern of political indifference. Student strikes in California this spring against the privatization of public education and the rising costs of attending colleges and universities were signs that student political life still has a pulse. The call for a national strike and "day of action" on its namesake date by the California March 4 movement had a late-60s/early-70s ring to it, but responses to the call were underwhelming, especially outside of California.

The usual explanations for the difference between then and now won't do. The suggestion, for example, that the renewal of a military draft would ignite students' self-interest doesn't account for the fact that most 60s-era students were sufficiently sheltered from the draft to make their chances of seeing combat negligible. Lewis B. Hershey, director of the Selective Service until 1970, granted draft deferments to students and some white-collar professionals on the reasoning that engineers, scientists, and teachers were essential to national security and the war effort. By the time the lottery system evened the playing field somewhat in 1969, "Vietnamization" was under way, and the number of combat roles filled by American GI's began shrinking.

Likewise, the argument that students today are shielded from the terribleness of war by a government and news media that don't reveal the graphic truth is weak. A comparison of news coverage, past and present, would show that there is far more information available now.

In any case, the idea that students of any generation are so self-interested that they would oppose a war only because it would not be in their interest to fight in it—which seems to be the assumption behind the claim that if there was a draft now, as in the 60s, students would oppose the war—has a finger-shaking quality to it that, delivered by older mentors, is not going to deliver the intended results. That attitude toward student apathy, along with the notion that students remain willfully uninformed about the causes and consequences of the current wars because, well, life is more comfortable that way, works better as a scold than an explanation.

The fact is that student culture today is formed in institutional settings that have changed since the 1960s and 1970s.

The higher cost of education, for one thing, defines two paths to an undergraduate degree, and both curtail campus political culture. One path, typical of private colleges and universities, dictates a lock-step progression through liberal-arts curricula preset to move students from matriculation to graduation in four years. Students' packed schedules allow little time for such frivolity as political activism. The other path, typical of public colleges and universities, harnesses many students to full- and part-time jobs in order to pay for their educations, which might extend far beyond four years. Mediating institutions like neighborhood schools and churches, labor unions, or even extended families that may once have helped students integrate their on- and off-campus lives are now frayed by cost-saving consolidations, plant closings, and the greater mobility required for job searches.

And unlike the paths leading beyond bachelor's degrees to careers in the expanding post-World War II economy, those walked by many students today merely lead to unpaid internships and their parents' basement apartments.

The very effectiveness of the student movement's mobilizations in the 60s against the war in Vietnam wrought other changes that mitigate a repeat of that era's radicalism. Disasters like Kent State taught administrators to "never say never" to student demands. Their own ham-handedness having led them to the tactic of "repressive tolerance," presidents and deans put liberal wrappings around innocuous initiatives like "community service" and "experiential learning" and handed them back to students as the new "activism." Want an organization for human/labor/abortion/housing rights? Sure. Want an office and budget with that? No problem. Course credits? We can do that, too.

The proliferation of minor sports and the Title IX decision in 1972 that opened athletics programs to women filled the discretionary hours in college life for still more students. The image of students and faculty members engaged in after-hours plotting to change the world is hopelessly nostalgic. Offers to meet students after class for coffee and conversation about a lecture are rebuffed with "I've got practice" or I've got a meeting."

New practices like student course evaluations, which grew out of student dissatisfaction with classes they found irrelevant to the events of the 60s—with the Vietnam War at the top of the list—were usurped by college authorities. The questionnaires once formulated by student groups—which then distributed them and collected the data for redistribution to classmates for their use—became tools in the hands of administrators for closer oversight of the curriculum and control of the faculty.

And the same 24/7 media establishment that brings us more news faster also brings the mind-strangling programming of American Idol and ESPN, accompanied by more low-priced electronic gadgetry than the family SUV can haul to the campus. Forty years ago, one hall phone for a dozen rooms and a television lounge shared by students in the dorm necessitated the negotiated use of social space and fostered a common sense of American life. Now, students are plugged into their own isolating iSpace. Facebook, Twitter, and the Internet may create community of a sort, but those communities are fragmented and isolated from one another.

Today, the technology that students imagine delivering the globe to them just as effectively delivers their minds and emotions to marketers and propagandists for whom their atomized selves are no match. Colleges and universities, meanwhile, abet the emPodding of their students, spending millions on hardware and reconfigured infrastructure in a race for bragging rights as the "most wired" school in America.

Most detrimental to the kind of student mobilizations that closed campuses 40 years ago are the junior-year-abroad programs that began to expand after Kent State. For most students, their first term on the campus is an orientation to college life; the second term is a time to sample some organizational involvements. Those interests deepen during the early months of the second year, and a new generation of leaders begins to emerge. Then, the enticements of study abroad wash over the class: Oxford for poets, Rome for artists, and Oaxaca for anthropologists. Who can resist?

It's the best and brightest who get the tickets, of course, and by spring break of sophomore year, the class leaders, the ones who might have gone to Port Huron in 1962, set their sights ahead and begin withdrawing their commitments to the campus community. On an annual basis, the friendship networks and organizational connections that might have grown into a Free Speech Movement in 1964 are fractured and left for the next year's first-term sophomores to rebuild. Seniors returning from overseas have majors to complete, LSAT's and GRE's to master, and the next round of application forms to fill out—little time to make a better campus, let alone end a war.

Political projects like Students for a Democratic Society in the 1960s developed with the guidance of student leaders who were committed to something beyond their own four or five years as undergraduates—and then sometimes evolved into community or workplace organizing projects that lasted many more years. Today, the institutional realities of student life make it hard for undergraduates to sustain commitments beyond 18 months.

When President Barack Obama broke the color barrier to the White House in 2008, pundits noted the large numbers of student campaigners and voters who turned out for him. We can't be sure, though, whether their presence in the campaign was a difference-maker or just different looking when viewed against the backdrop of the campus quietude we had become accustomed to.

In January, President Obama turned out for Martha Coakley's run for the Massachusetts Senate seat left vacant by Edward Kennedy's death. But college students did not. Maybe disappointment with Obama's surge in Afghanistan had turned students to the left, and they took it out on the Democratic Party. But not likely. A forum on the war I attended late last year ended with the same exasperation as others in recent years: Where are the students?

The 60s remembered through the photograph of a Kent State student lying lifeless on the ground has even less appeal for students in 2010 than for the Class of 1970. But histories of that period also record the correlation between student activism and changes that made this country better: students sitting in for racial integration in Greensboro; students standing up for free speech in Berkeley; and students marching on the Pentagon for peace in Vietnam.

Better than questions about the lethargy of student activism in 2010 are inquiries into the times. Where are the 60s? It's the times that have changed, not the students. It's the administrative practices and economic circumstances incubating campus culture that have changed. Those conditions didn't change on their own, however, and they won't change themselves again.

Jerry Lembcke is an associate professor of sociology at College of the Holy Cross. He is the author, most recently, of Hanoi Jane: War, Sex, and Fantasies of Betrayal, due out from the University of Massachusetts Press in June, and The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory, and the Legacy of Vietnam (New York University Press, 1998). In the spring of 1970, he had just returned from 13 months in Vietnam as a chaplain's assistant assigned to an artillery unit.


1. neniaf - April 26, 2010 at 01:14 am

What an odd analysis of how the changes in society have affected student protest! Study abroad diverts attention from events on campus? On the contrary, I've found that it usually increases student involvement, both prior to departure and after return. Title IX? Sure,a few more students are involved in athletics these days, but the vast majority are not student-athletes, and campus protests in the U.S. have never involved vast numbers of students. It is interesting that the author didn't mention the need of students to work to pay for the higher cost of college these days. If anything keeps students away from campus events, it is usually the fact that almost all students are working, and some are working multiple jobs. Even if they are not at work at the time of the event, it shifts their need for sleep and study time so that many decide that speakers, rallies, and the like are just not possible for them.

But let's face it. While realistically the draft may not have affected most students directly, it affected them psychologically. As someone who was a student in the early '70s, even as a female I spent hours thinking theoretically about what my response would be if drafted. Every friend I had was obsessed with draft numbers. Vietnam consumed us because while it wasn't us, it could have been us. Current wars are different because, unless students choose to make them their wars, they won't be.

2. ruth_ruth - April 26, 2010 at 07:28 am

Comment#1 is right on target. There's no excuse, though, for your mislabeling the picture of Mary Ann Vecchio. It's been common knowledge for the past 40 years that she was a 14-year-old from out of state who was just passsing through. A quick look at Wikipedia could have helped you out with this.

3. 22228715 - April 26, 2010 at 08:52 am

I think you're onto something that today's students are different than the students of the 1960s. But beyond that, I think your explanations are overly simplistic. There have been plenty of historical moments that lacked the impediments on which you blame the evils of today, but also did not yield the activism of the 60s.

Rather than provide alternate explanations, I would like to back up and challenge the most basic assumptions of the essay. First, I would note that is sounds remarkably similar to lamentations about sub-par college students written in the late 70s, the 80s, the 90s, and the early 00s. Indeed, I suspect I can find examples of this tone from before the 1960s. So, perhaps the thesis is as much about the author as it about today's college students.

Second, the author seems to presume that 1970 or so was the pinnacle of what student behavior SHOULD be, and that things since then should be measured against it. This seems obviously shaky to me, but I will leave that debate to another essay.

Finally, I believe that 1970 Kent State has also been mischaracterized, perhaps clouded by nostalgia or myth. Given the standards for desirable student activism outlined above, even 1970 Kent State would fail. Most students there were not activists, and it was a fairly conservative campus. The first protest on Friday had, at most, a couple dozen attendees, and many of them were graduate students. As you noted, two of those who ultimately were killed were passing by on the way to class, very intentionally trying to even appear to be involved in the activism you laud. Indeed, at the large Monday fracas, arguably MOST of the people there were watching, not participating. And by Monday, after a weekend of rude and disconcerting invasion and trampling and menacing of a generally quiet midwestern campus, many if not most of the angry students were protesting the occupation of KENT STATE, not the occupation of Vietnam or Cambodia.

There is no modern equivalent of that situation.

This generation of students is changing the world in their own way, and by other measures, doing a pretty impressive job. Perhaps their ways are imperfect, but there were drawbacks to the methods of the 60s too. If you are going to judge today's students, it is not fair or historically valid to use the context of the middle of the last century.

4. davidcayjohnston - April 26, 2010 at 09:19 am

The headline on this essay grabbed me, but like poster #1 above I agree that this is an odd essay that tells us little about the reasons for the changes over the last four decades. The factual error about Kent State is also troubling.

The draft motivated many student protests that I covered as a very young reporter for the San Jose Mercury in 1968-73, but so were ideas that students could change the world and that they wanted out of the endless cycle of (undeclared) war and other military adventures. But not all student protests were about the war: some were about racism, police brutality and even how colleges were run.

Perhaps the shortcomings of this essay will inspire someone else with deep insights into the differences between students then and now to write a more informing examination of change in American society about protest, power and politics.

5. boiler - April 26, 2010 at 10:13 am

Personally I'm not that nostalgic for the student protests of the 1960s. Self-righteous, self-appointed 20-year-olds don't have a great record of producing constructive social change, and while the achievements of the protest movement were real, so too was the damage they did. But if you do miss all that, it's still there, if you look for it. You can find student protesters with placards, shouting slogans in unison based on overelaborated political theories about the dominance of oppressive institutions. Nowadays they're on the right, not the left, and their heroes are Hannity and O'Reilly rather than Marx and Ho. But they're all over the place, protesting abortion and secularism and holding anti-tax tea parties. If that doesn't float your boat, you might ask yourself whether it's really student protests that you miss, or the relevance of a particular political ideology.

6. akafka - April 26, 2010 at 10:32 am

ruth_ruth, you're right. Sorry for the error. We've revised that caption. Thanks. -Alex, an editor at the Review

7. goat_herd - April 26, 2010 at 10:38 am

Wow, really? I suggest that Professor Lembcke compose another essay, one that asks all those wonderful former 1960's/1970's students that he so pines for to look in the mirror. Why? Because they are the ones running the country these days. The students of the 60's and 70's are by-and-large the business owners/managers/CEOs/politicians of today. It is precisely this cohort whose fingerprints are all over the great debacles of the past decade. It is precisely this baby-boom cohort that is running the "24/7 media establishment" that churns out the "mind-strangling programs" he rightfully decries. It is precisely this cohort, found in both political parties, who is mortgaging (pun intended) the future of the very same students he complains about thanks to continued deficit-spending with no end in sight. I would suggest that before all the flower children sneer at the apathy of the students today, they ask themselves what have they done lately to fight for a better, more just, more equitable society? And what are they doing to ensure that this society does not implode from the giant financial hole it has dug itself into? Glass houses and stones, I think there's a saying somewhere that Professor Lembcke needs to be remided of.

8. cleverclogs - April 26, 2010 at 10:40 am

I agree with boiler (#5) - I am so over the self-congratulatory nostalgia of the 1960's. I was swept away by it when it was first revived for the 20-year anniversary in the 1980's, but I was also considerably younger than college. I was in junior high and I loved the aesthetics of it - long skirts, floppy hair, flowers and the music, which, as far as I'm concerned, is the most lasting useful contribution of this period.

By the time I got to college, I had long since realized the deep flaws of that g-g-generation and their ideology. Their lack of compassion for returning soldiers and their selling out in the go-go 80's seem all of a piece to me. So even if I were to protest something, I knew I wouldn't take a page from their self-centered playbook.

Maybe today's college students are all on MoveOn, or maybe they are more conservative, as boiler (#5) says. Or maybe they've seen that their parents became "the system," and so they figure such a thing is inevitable and work with it from the beginning, by running the LGBT club or Amnesty International. Maybe the student protests of the 1960's were a necessary step in our cultural evolution, but wouldn't it suggest a lack of success or growth if those same ways of protesting were still in use?

9. stamara - April 26, 2010 at 10:44 am

Palestine has become the issue of most importance on university campuses since the war on Gaza in Dec 2008-January 2009. Palestinian grassroots organizations have asked the world community to support boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel until it abides by international law to dismantle the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, provide equal rights for Palestinians living in Israel and negotiate a just settlement for the Palestinian refugees. The BDS movement, as it is known, has unified students on college campuses around the country.

These organizations are worthy of note because they are diverse ethnically and religiously bringing together Muslims, Jews, Christians, Arabs, Europeans, Americans and Israelis. Berkeley is witnessing a historic battle in the student government over a resolution urging the University of California to divest from two U.S. military companies profiting from Israel's occupation. Hampshire College has adopted a divestment bill against companies profiting from the occupation. This political movement is the most exciting development I've witnessed on U.S. campuses in the last two decades. There is a determination around human rights that is uniting students in a positive and productive way.

10. craigberger - April 26, 2010 at 11:27 am

This column is very disturbing, especially given the lack of reflexivity -- the author is clearly someone who sees this phenomenon through a Boomer lens. If he was a Millennial, he might see a different side of the present youth culture. It's very easy to denigrate the current technological strand of youth activism today as "quiet," but either dig a little deeper, or admit that you're a Boomer and don't have all the answers about a culture before judging it.

11. california - April 26, 2010 at 11:28 am

<Comment removed by moderator>

12. anonscribe - April 26, 2010 at 12:14 pm

Some of the issues Prof. Lembcke raises are fairly accurate of younger folks. But, there are two glaring omissions: 9/11 and the fall of communism. I'm 28, and I was an undergrad on 9/11. Of course, we're fighting wars with the wrong folks. I'm not justifying Iraq or Afghanistan (and I'm not demonizing them either). But, 9/11 sticks around my mind when I think about the wars. However misguided I think the wars are, soldiers are choosing to fight in them (a minor affirmation of the draft point), and those we're fighting, especially in Afghanistan, are loosely connected to a domestic terrorist attack that was itself a defining moment for many of the students this article is talking about. It's hard to get all hellfire and brimstone against a war when the main image sticking in your mind is the death of 3000 Americans. This doesn't justify the war, and perhaps it doesn't justify being so accomodating in our attitude toward it, but I do think it partly explains the perceived "apathy," which might better be termed "ambivalence."

Strangely enough, if you want to see the opposite of ambivalence, look at the young people who enlisted in droves since 9/11. Some of this was blood lust, but much of it was caused by the genuine belief that the military would allow them to change things for the better, fight for democracy, etc. The desire for change and the will to act toward it is there, but the methods/goals certainly don't bear a resemblance to the 60/70's.

Lastly, it's pretty hard to launch a general social critique against the state capitalist machine when you don't have an alternative that's perceived as comprehensive and viable. The fall of the USSR, and the relative failures of Cuba to achieve self-sufficiency and China to do any better than the US does in treating its citizens fairly, have blended to leave current students without a radical alternative vision of how society could be. In its place, and this echoes many of the comments here, current students generally support reform and incrementalism, not the radical transformation of society that seemed integral to the counterculture movements of the 60/70's.

And, for many, including myself, this is a rational decision based on the perceived failures of the counterculture movements in the 60/70's, which--as others have mentioned--transmogrified into boomer yuppie Valhalla. The ideal isn't socialism or communist revolution, it's not the overthrow of the current system; instead, it's the gradual reform of our system in the direction of the amelioration of suffering and gaining of greater social equality. Of course, perhaps this is the case because the boomers already screwed the pooch so consistently that our big dream is to have an economy that will provide us with stable employment and a chance to raise our families without going on food stamps or having our homes foreclosed on.

In many ways, everything older folks ought to know about us younger folks is encapsulated, for good and ill, in Obama. Pragmatic, reformist, technocratic, democratic, and both pro-markets and pro-social services. But also perhaps a bit too compromising, too confident in their own analytic skills, a little uncreative, and a little "cold." That's where the young left more or less stands, I think: practical to a fault.

13. hgsdctr - April 26, 2010 at 03:48 pm

Hello from Kent State. I was born the year May 4th happened, and now I'm teaching Frosh to appreciate the importance of this historic event. What do I say to them? There's nothing nostalgic about May 4 for me. Have times changed? Yes. College kids these days appear interested in 1) getting ahead in life (e.g., job, grad school) and 2) college as a rite of passage (e.g., partying). Missing is "becoming well educated" or "changing the world" or anything to which the ivory tower is supposed to aspire. Now the clashes with police seem to be pointless. 51 people were arrested Saturday at "college fest." There was no point besides spring, and beer, and the nearing end of the semester. Where are the political radicals? Where have all the Jesus Freaks gone? Where are the agitators? Anything too serious seems to be in poor form in the postmodern era.

14. jwyrick44 - April 26, 2010 at 03:49 pm

All misguided nostalgia aside, how come the shootings at Jackson State are never referenced in these Kent State/student protest articles? Two students were killed there only 10 days later yet it never seems to surface.

15. vaneblucas - April 26, 2010 at 03:59 pm

Professor Lembcke,

In the Spring of 1970, I too was serving in Viet Nam. I came home on July 4, 1970. One of the last times in my life that I served as an acolyte/alterboy at Mass, i was 19 years old and the "alter" was the front end of a Jeep.

Thank you for your service and "Welcome Home."

Kevin M. Lynch
Assistant Professor of Insurance
Rosemont, PA

July 1969-July 1970

16. vaneblucas - April 26, 2010 at 04:01 pm


Jackson State was mentioned in this same addition of CHE...in the article below this one on the title page.

Kevin M. Lynch

17. jwyrick44 - April 26, 2010 at 04:09 pm

Thanks Kevin. Reference was definitely there. However, Jackson State always seems to just get "mentioned" in another article. In most historical accounts of those days, Jackson State gets very, very little coverage. Shame really. Students there were protesting the same war and two students met the same fate.

18. jballen - April 26, 2010 at 06:28 pm

My co-boomers spat on my uniform. Today they point out the servicemen in the room and ask for a round of applause for them. Self-interest du jour...

19. bag31050 - April 26, 2010 at 11:00 pm

Boiler I am reminded of a Mark Twain quote.

The radical of one century is the conservative of the next. The radical invents the views. When he has worn them out the conservative adopts them.

- Notebook, 1898

I as a boomer in some ways am becoming a conseritive.

20. thirdcamper2 - April 27, 2010 at 01:59 pm

Note: Although the invasion of Cambodia and Kent State kilings were part of the background to the Jackson State massacre, the Jackson State events were far more about racism and deprivation in Mississippi--black anger in the Black Power era and an all-white police force-- than about the war. We link the two sets of killings, but they are really pretty different.

21. 22228715 - April 27, 2010 at 05:23 pm

Yes, Kent State and Jackson State were pretty different. But know that Jackson State is remembered and included at the annual commemoration at Kent State.

22. seamustheclassicist - April 28, 2010 at 03:21 am

So basically students today are the equivalent of slaves, drooling in desensitized stupor at circuses, craming more bread into their gullets, pushed along at a pace that leaves little room to the pursuits of freemen (politics, political action, pondering larger world about them that doesn't involve their pocket book.) It is plain to see: drink and screw like coarse epicurian over spring break, learn to boot lick and be cut-throat in business school, follow some meaningless internet meme because novelty is the only thing that stirs your jaded senses. And ultimately wonder why you are unemployed because yoru country outsourced many jobs, war costs a lot of money (poverty draft, anyone?), and ultimately your country has no use for you. It is quite plain to see why there are no student protests.

23. cosmos1138 - April 29, 2010 at 01:08 am

Awesome truth goat_herd! as a little kid of the 60's growing up in northern Ohio I believed all the BS they said - hmmmm maybe thats why I took my doctorates and left the country - who needs someone who still believes in that silliness right?...well for starters all of us.

24. jlembcke - May 04, 2010 at 11:34 am

I am grateful for the work and care given by the Chronicle editors who moved "The Times, They Changed" into press, and I appreciate the readers who posted comments. Here, I would like to respond to some of those comments.

Reader 1 picks up my point that junior-year abroad programs impede the development of campus political culture but she disagrees, saying that students return from abroad more engaged. That's discussable but even if she is right, the realities of having to reenter student life as seniors while also planning their post-graduation lives (realities that I point out) mitigate the amount and quality of that engagement. Moreover, the interests raised by their time abroad are likely to be specific to the places they were, not the place they are. Campus radicalism of the sixties and early seventies was more focused on the change that needed to be made on American campuses and the building of a student power movement to get that done (a point that reader 4 alludes to).

Readers 3, 4, 7, 13, seem to complain that I'm blaming today's students for shortcomings that are not of their own making. The point of my essay is exactly of what they say it is, as I think is made clear, especially by paragraphs eight and nine, and the last paragraph. I specifically speak to the concern of Reader 1 about the effect that today's higher cost of education has on student culture.

Readers 14, 17, 21 ask about the absence of Jackson State in my article. The question is appropriate. Reader 20 captures my own thought on this, which is that I have never been sure of how much it belongs in the same category as Kent State. I'm open to discussion on that.

Readers 8 (by inference) and 18 (explicitly) invoke the mythical image of spat-upon Vietnam veterans to indict the student radicalism of 1970. I wrote a book about the myth; their use of it here is illustrative of its enduring power to distort the historical record.

Reader 12 points out that the stalling, if not collapse, of the socialist project in the last decades of the twentieth century changed the global context in which the American antiwar movement unfolds. My piece, though, was about the changed management practices of higher education, not world politics.
That said, I agree with the writer. A few years into the war in Vietnam, many Americans found reason to not only oppose the U.S. military project there but to actually support the socialist vision of the Vietnamese independence movement. By contrast, the movements against U.S. interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan beg the question of what/who, then, we should be supporting in those places.

There are other developments beyond my agenda for this article that also need to be considered for a comprehensive analysis of the differences between then and now. For example, so-called urban renewal projects and the building of Interstate highways through cities sometimes destroyed "campus town" neighborhoods with the coffee shops, bookstores, and bars that incubated campus radicalism. And new and innovative academic programs like Hampshire College and Evergreen State College that were designed to foster the kind of free thinking that proved dangerous to the establishment institutions of the time were often placed a safe distance from the centers of economic and political power.

Readers 5, 7, 8, 10, and others use terms like "nostalgia" and "boomer lens" attempting to shoot the messenger (me) by imputing a subjectivity to my view that is just not there. When I graduated from Augustana College in Sioux Falls, South Dakota in 1966, I was an apolitical math major. The only "pine" in my memory for those years (reader 7) is the pine I sat on for one basketball season.

It is "the times" that have changed since 1970, and on college campuses those changes were wrought by administrators who saw the same social dynamics in play that Herbert Marcuse and Michel Foucault saw. With those insights, they changed campus political culture and downstream from that are the limits and possibilities we, students and faculty, work within and with today.

Jerry Lembcke

25. citizenship - May 06, 2010 at 05:11 pm

I witnessed a person in uniform being spat upon back then. Nothing mythical about it. The spitters were vile, self-righteous haters.

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