How the 1960s made today’s colleges and universities

For many older baby boomers and their parents, the golden age of this country is not wrapped up in a mythical past, but rather, exists in living memory. Donald J. When Trump spoke of making America great again, his supporters knew what he meant: to bring the country back to its post-World War II state, when the United States developed the world like a colossus. Early in this era, the United States not only produced three-quarters of the world’s production, but the real income of Americans grew at an average annual rate of 4.4 percent between 1950 and 1970.

Although the post-war era witnessed conservative conformism and the Cold War paranoia, blacklisted, sworn allegiance, and hundreds of professors before state and federal investigative committees, the early post-war era also witnessed a period of upheaval. A kind of moderate Cold War liberalism. This cautious liberalism was reflected in the repeal of the Chinese boycott law in 1947 and was finalized with the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act, which in turn abolished the national immigration quota. This was also evident in the enactment of the first civil rights law after the restructuring, beginning with the Civil Rights Act of 1957, which allowed the judiciary to obtain court injunctions to protect the right to vote.

One of the most striking examples of the Cold War’s liberalism was the unprecedented increase in federal and state funding for higher education. The National Defense Education Act of 1958 was enacted after increasing post-World War II federal support for university research, providing the first federal-funded grants and subsidized loans for college students, and later by the Higher Education Act of 1965, which expanded the need. Create work-study jobs and outreach and support service programs for students with background-based grants and loans and low-income backgrounds.

Thanks to these initiatives, graduate enrollment increased by 45 percent between 1945 and 1960, then doubled again by 1970.

As Ellen Schrecker, one of the most important and influential historians of post-war higher education politics, shows in her 2021 book, Lost promiseIn the aftermath of World War II, colleges and universities were seen as essential to national security, economic growth and social mobility. As a result, a growing number of policymakers and college and university administrators have embraced the idea of ​​expanded access.

Thanks to increased federal and state support, public flagship and land grant campuses have grown significantly in size, similar to urban colleges and universities. A number of urban privately owned properties have been transferred, city campuses run by local school districts have been converted into state universities, and a number of YMCA-affiliated institutions have been transformed into private universities. At the same time, states have expanded access by transforming teacher colleges into regional expansions and greatly increasing the number of community colleges and extension campuses, as well as establishing coordination boards to oversee and manage dozens of public university systems and the growing higher education sector.

Inside Lost promiseShrekar, the most familiar No Ivory Tower, His McCarthyism and the history of American universities draw his attention to the turmoil on the country’s campus in the 1960s. This turmoil and instability has deeply divided individual institutions, alienated a large segment of the population, and ultimately eroded the social consensus committed to the more egalitarian notion of American higher education.

This portrait sounds undoubtedly familiar. But Schrecker has challenged the notion that campus conflict should be seen as a battle between student radical, inflexible, authoritarian administrators and cowardly, out-of-touch faculty members on campus about free speech, defense research, civil rights and the Vietnam War.

Such a caricature, he argues, obscures a much broader, more complex conflict, where the battle lines are not clearly drawn, spreading across the entire high-ed landscape. Many conflicts were campus-specific, including dress codes, restrictions on dormitory room visits, women’s access to athletics, and ethnic integration, as well as curriculum, graduation requirements, pedagogy, and the nature of certain disciplines – including appropriate research topics, methods, and conceptual and explanatory frameworks.

In my own case, in U.S. history, the beginning of a huge debate about accepting or rejecting new social history and its call for a history from the bottom up, revisionist diplomacy, history that offered a critical perspective on the drivers and goals of American foreign policy, quantitative history. , The Marxist view of history, and the history of blacks and women.

In 621 detailed pages, Schrecker unveils a remarkable range of activist faculty and student groups that have gone beyond ensuring that colleges and universities live up to their high-minded values ​​and become truly democratic institutions that respond to the voices of all their stakeholders. An array of self-styled rebellious sociologists, fierce historians, activist literary critics, economic rebels, and Godflies point to its chapter.

If you fear that academic freedom is at stake today, you should read only the books of Schrecker and the travels of Angela Davis, Bruce Franklin, Eugene Genovese, Stout Lind, Michael Parenti, and a few dozen others, to see how serious the bet was halfway through. Centuries ago

Shrekar is certainly not the first historian to write a book about college in the 1960s. In 2018, the great historian of higher education John R. Thelin (Brown, 1969 class) published his own study of college life in the sixties. His book focuses on anti-war, civil rights, and free speech activism in Berkeley, Columbia, and Colonel, who are not radicals or hippies, and who experience the overwhelming majority of students who did not participate. Emerging drug culture, sexual revolution, or counter-culture. A single sentence adds to his point: “Propaganda about campus unrest in the 1960s is often a victim of higher education in terms of misidentification.”

So who’s right – Shrekar, with his emphasis on campus ups and downs, or Thelin, with its emphasis on institutional diversity and continuity with the 1950s?

Despite my strong appreciation for what Thelin has done – including mining student memoirs, campus newspapers, oral history and newsreel, archival sources and institutional records – his book is more about campus functionality – such as increasing college admissions, campus housing, administrative bureaucracy, and implementation. Research, data collection, and compliance with government regulations – do not view higher education as a conflict, ideological, political, cultural, academic, or social field.

The ruins of the 1960’s often say that you have to be there to truly understand that decade of education-in, sit-in, campus demonstrations, and administration building occupations. Well, someone who vividly recalls the ’60s and saw the end of that campus conflict and controversy, Shrek’s explanation strikes me, to use the appropriate phrase from the’ 1960s.

True, most college students in the 1960’s did not participate in the campus demonstrations. True, the widespread embrace of cultural transformation associated with the 1960s, such as widespread illicit drug use, widespread premarital sex, and premarital sex, actually took place in the 1970s.

Nevertheless, student protests were not confined to elite campuses. Or Black Studies, Mexican American, Native American, Puerto Rican, and Women’s Studies – or the introduction of admissions policies or programs for women’s access to centers or houses dedicated to specific identity groups or to competitive athletics.

Whether certain students protest, resist, or stand by as a passive observer, these debates have left an indelible mark on their college experience and their subsequent politics.

American higher education in the 1960s left a number of complex and conflicting legacies.

The most obvious, of course, is how the radicalism of the sixties served as a model for today’s student activism, campus protests, violent politics, sexual freedom, and alternative, unconventional lifestyles. Needless to say, a generation of enduring radicals need to be inspired to acknowledge that the roles and behaviors involved in the 1960s offer models for the next generation with their own distinct concerns about student debt, economic instability and inequality, climate change and emergence. A politics that many see as clearly hostile to youth and diversity.

But other legacies of the 1960s are, perhaps, more important:

1. Even as access expanded, new forms of stratification emerged.
Ironically, in the 1960s the country institutionalized some deep and endless inequality in campus resources and reputation. Research grants and contracts greatly benefited their recipients, while other institutions lagged behind in educational costs per student.

2. Research universities have become important partners in the emerging government-corporate complex.
Based on the foundations laid a decade ago, application and contract research became the focus of university finance research. While the defense research campus has attracted the most attention from protesters, other types of research, medical, scientific and social science, have also fundamentally changed the priorities, stuffing and business model of the Tier 1 organization.

As more and more institutions follow Tier 1 status, these universities, too, often focus on the cost of their teaching responsibilities, application for their missions, and contract research.

3. As universities grow in size and effectiveness, student experiences become increasingly impersonal, increasing student dissatisfaction.
Today’s calls for 360-degree, wrapping, overall, one-stop support structures present a response to the fact that a large number of students feel a deep sense of isolation from their professors and the institution. For the first time in the 1960’s, students reported a mere drop in numbers. Today, a team of professional counselors and student service and academic support professionals working in the growing career, disability, and psychological services and tutoring and writing centers is needed right because previous counseling and care has proven to be completely inadequate and unresponsive.

4. Some leading politicians have succeeded in demonizing universities, provoking an ongoing reaction that has taken a different form.
Complaints about the high cost of higher education, administrative blat, decaying academic rigor, (allegedly) dead-end majors, political correctness, culture exclusion, trivial research, and poor-preparation for the job market have, of course, been armed by less interested ones. Ending the exclusive recognition of colleges and universities rather than institutional improvement.

The dictionary definition of history as a study of the past is, of course, radically incomplete. The most fascinating works of history are often about the past, the ongoing, long-term trends, and the lasting legacy of history as much as they are about the past and the self.

The 1960s are a history, but it is also an inevitable, inevitable presence. Its influence exists in today’s music, dress, speech, values, manners, politics. It is in the universities that the legacy of the sixties is most evident, not only in today’s campus protests, demonstrations and rallies, but also among the powerful political forces that humiliate, devalue and insult higher education and its faculty as overvalued and overpaid. Low achievement

Steven Mintz is a professor of history at the University of Texas at Austin.

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