Back to the '60s: The New Campus Protest

Lehigh students taking Movements and Legacies of the 1960s decided to show what they'd learned by protesting the midterm, reports the student paper, The Brown and White.

What were they protesting? What have you got? They didn't have a problem with the class or the test, said a student named Clare Burchi. "It was more protesting the whole idea of exams and writing down all that we had learned into a little blue book."

Hold out for a little red book!

The Brown and White writes:

Instead of taking the exam, the students organized a war protest march and teach-in, which took place yesterday. Protesters named themselves "The New Resistance," and their goal is to make students aware that they are in charge of their education. The students of the New Resistance feel that the education system puts too much emphasis on grades and getting an education in order to get a high-paying job rather than for the purpose of learning.

Actually, it's the students who are rushing into business and econ majors while watching "The Apprentice" on TV. Nobody's stopping them from majoring in classics or philosophy.

Students learn that the "hidden curriculum" trains students "to be machines to work for the major corporations as well as capitalism," Burchi said.

Wouldn't it be more efficient just to replace the drones with real machines?

The New Resistance students feel that education as a whole does not allow students to see the connection between themselves and what is going in the world today.

"Students don't see that their getting through business school and working for a corporation is a direct connection to the war in Iraq," (student Terry) Hall said.

Oh, that is so 1971.

The professor said they'd get a zero if they didn't take the exam. But then he gave them an alternative assignment.

Students can write individual assessments of why they protested in light of what they learned about the 1960s movements. The students are also asked to give a full report of the actions they took to put what they learned into action.

Nobody will have to sacrifice an A for protesting against grades. They can be rebels without a cost — and with the added thrill of looking down from the moral heights on the foolish sheep being led unsuspecting to high-paying corporate jobs.

Activists Without 'Critical Mass'

In the Daily Bruin, UCLA officials complain that the decline in black and Hispanic enrollment — caused by the ban on race-based preferences — is changing campus culture. There isn't a "critical mass" of activists, they complain. Without preferences, there are fewer Hispanic and black students and more Asian-Americans.

"Without generalizing, I would say that Asian Americans have not had a traditional role of activism in the United States," (Berky) Nelson said. "They believe the way to success is through education, so they might study hard at the expense of things others may deem relevant."

Good thing Nelson, director of student programming, isn't prone to generalizing.

Discriminations points out the stereotyping.

A Discriminations commenter, who attended in 1995-99, says Asian-American students were very active in campus groups — especially evangelical groups.

...the powers that be are confusing left-wing activism with activism. Difficult as it may be to believe, someone can be concerned with society and things other than success through education without buying into your party line. Baby boomer elites may not appreciate that when UCLA's Asian students form groups they often, but not always, do so to worship Jesus Christ rather than Frantz Fanon, but one cannot accuse them of a lack of civic engagement and ascribe it to the stereotype of the diligent but passive oriental.

My daughter attended UCLA from 1999-2001. She thought campus social and political life was balkanized, with students encouraged to categorize themselves by race and ethnicity. It's one of the reasons she transferred.

Dam Silly

I admire people who stand up for their rights, but... This just doesn't seem worth making a fuss about. A 12-year-old girl was sent home from school in Needville, Tenn., when she refused to change her T-shirt, which the principal felt violated the dress code's ban on vulgarity. WKMG reports:

The T-shirt says, "Somebody went to the Hoover Dam and all I got was this 'Dam' T-shirt."

When Heather Mercer, 12, wore the shirt Thursday, she was told to change or be disciplined. She refused, claiming it's her First Amendment right to wear it, and was sent home.

Her parents support her decision to fight.

"I love it. It's my constitutional right ... talking about the dam," Mercer said.

Oh yeah, this isn't just a juvenile play on words. It's about the freedom to laud dams.

Mercer said she would be back at school Monday wearing the controversial T-shirt again. She and her family have agreed to fight it all the way, even if they have to home-school Heather.

Dam silly.


Stephen Scott of Tulsa, Okla., writes:

I taught at a district that did away with the "D" to raise standards. The immediate result was a higher rate of failing students. Within a few years, though, administrators, teachers and students all turned around and started doing better.

It's about time we raised the standards for passing instead of lowering them.

Alan Junck, a chemistry teacher in Ames, Iowa, writes:

So when a school attempts to up their standards — its the parents [who] complain the loudest? I'm sick of people blaming teachers, unions, school districts and teacher colleges for the problems in education. This just proves that most of the blame lies squarely on the backs of the parents who have no expectations of their kids.

David M. Bregande writes:

I breezed through middle school with straight A's, hardly ever cracking a book or staying up late to study. I found high school to be similar except for geology. I did as little work as usual. Luckily, my teacher cared little about hurting my self esteem, and I brought home an F in the third quarter.

I came to the harsh realization that, as a result of never being challenged, I did not know how to study. My brother returned home from Notre Dame for a break. In two short weeks, he taught me how to study, how to prepare, how to take notes and, most of all, how to take pride in my work, set higher standards for myself, and learn to succeed.

With a perfect grade on my final, I pulled my geology grade up to a B. I never left the honor roll after that, and four years later followed my brother to Notre Dame, where lessons learned in high school truly paid off.

In life, I am seldom surprised by the results of my efforts. I know that hard work reaps good results, and mediocre work reaps poor results. This is the real world's most important lesson, and one I would never have learned if not for that horrible "F" on my third quarter high school report.

Julia Nelson of Lawrenceville, Ga., writes:

It is too bad that self-esteem has become a more important concern in our schools than education itself. Might this have had its start with the poorly worded (but of course correct) Brown v. Board decision which focused on the idea that segregated schools made African-Americans "feel inferior" rather than on the obvious and just argument for equal protection?

Inflating grades in the name of self-esteem, particularly in the name of "protecting" minorities from feeling bad about themselves, is unbelievably condescending. It is fueled by a false and arrogant concern that doesn't truly believe such students are capable of achievement, and thus the best thing to be done for them is to remove the challenge. The overwhelming majority of African American teachers who taught while enduring the evils and pain of segregation would never have treated their students like that. They prepared their students for the real world against unbelievable odds. These "advocates" are committing academic euthanasia and calling it compassion.

John Conforti of Galloway, N.J., writes:

A letter writer argued that calculators should be allowed if problem solving is being tested because "a mistake in computation would mask a student’s real ability to solve a problem."

A college roommate of mine, hoping for partial credit, tried this reasoning in an engineering class taught by an elderly, Chinese, Nobel Prize-winning professor. The professor's response: "Partial credit? Partial credit!? You build bridge. Bridge fall down. You get partial credit!?"

David McReynolds of Marietta, Ga., writes:

Ask yourself: Would I ride on a space shuttle that was designed by engineers that could not multiply without a calculator?

Rog Martin writes:

I am an engineer. Calculators are part of my work tools, but I've used the same one for most of the last 15 years. Three years ago the family bought me a new one for a birthday present.  A week later, the high school sent a note home requiring that very same calculator be purchased for my daughter's algebra class. Why the school requires a $110-plus programmable graphing calculator for a ninth grade class is not clear. The outlay represents a very real obstacle to some of the less fortunate kids in the school, for whom no good arrangements exist.

The result is predictable: Students learn which series of buttons to press to get the answer that the basketball coach/math teacher's answer book wants. Calling it learning math is a lie.

Melinda Brewer of Kalispell, Mont., writes:

The best thing we could do for our children's self-esteem is give them a reality check: no skills, no promotion, no diploma. True self-esteem is found in our legitimate, practical abilities and in being able to tackle a problem and develop an appropriate solution. This is true of all disciplines: astrophysics, homemaking, you name it. Inflated grades, social promotions and fluff classes don't help students win in the race of life, they allow students to get by. If you ask me, that's a crummy consolation prize.

Tom Barkwell of Wellington, New Zealand:

Our system tries to make every kid fit one mold. If they buck the system, we label them dropout "losers." We threaten to withhold their drivers’ licenses and to send mom and dad to jail if they are chronically truant. We tell them "just stay in school" - at any cost.

In my opinion, that whole approach is nonsense.

As a mildly disruptive student — truant, tardy, sleeping, talking, smoking, etc.— who didn't want to be in school and didn't do any schoolwork, I didn't deserve to be in class with students who were working hard. My behavior held everyone back. And my attendance did me zero good. The best possible solution for everyone? "Go get a real job, kid!"

By learning the value of hard work and self-discipline demanded by an employer, I set myself up for success for the rest of my life.

Granted, my experience isn't right for many troubled kids. But I think we're missing a good bet when we won't acknowledge that honest work for pay, no matter how menial, is a good alternative for some struggling high schoolers.

Adolescence is a difficult time for most; a disaster for some. A small number of teenage kids are just not going to respond in a formal school setting. Let's offer them some decent alternatives, that include getting a full-time job. And stop labeling them "losers" who will never amount to anything. That can become a self-fulfilling prophesy. If we treat them with respect and honesty, they might return to school as adults with a fresh perspective and an open mind.

Kelly Dusinberre of Boston College writes:

All you who claim that classes have become so much easier and that no one tries need to take a look at the parents, and then at the learning institution producing us lazy, stupid slobs. 

I am highly motivated and pull straight A's while competing in varsity athletics in the spring and  fall. I am a chemistry major who spends all morning in class, all afternoon at practice (and both weekend days out of town competing) and all evening with my books, finding time for friends in between. 

I have a biochemistry roommate who works 10 times harder than myself to hit the mean on every exam. 

I would like to see you all come study with us and then tell us that our classes are so much easier in these fields— that are moving forward at an ever increasing rate— than they were when you went to school 20 years ago. Some of us had great parents who taught us the value of hard work and that school is what you take from it. 

It is frustrating to have the older generations constantly harping on the underachievers when good parenting will teach children to take all they can from their education even if they are not being actively challenged.   

Joanne Jacobs writes about education and other issues at She’s writing a book, Ride the Carrot Salad, about a start-up charter high school in San Jose.

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