Fiftieth Anniversary of 1968

Mar 28, 2018 |  NAS

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Fiftieth Anniversary of 1968

Mar 28, 2018 | 


In the Spring 2018 issue of Academic Questions, contributors reflect on how today’s activism differs from, and is informed by, the campus activism of the 1960s era.

Mark Bauerlein (“I’m Watching Myself”) discusses differences between demonstrations of the 1960s and the “self-absorbed, ‘highly personalized’” campus protests taking place on campuses now. Sondra Farganis (“The Road to Who We Are”) writes about the move toward suppressing “potentially offensive” words and ideas that she asserts began in the sixties.

Paul Hollander (“Explaining the Counterculture”) reflects on his personal experiences as an escapee from a communist country and as an American academic, using them to highlight what he calls “the adversary culture.” William Shapiro (“The Cure That Ailed Us”) discusses how students romanticized the activism and passions of the1968 era, the resulting disillusionment, and the connection to today’s “social justice” policies at universities.

Jeff Zorn (“Cambridge, 1968”) closes out this special section with an account of his experiences with the “New Left,” and how his embrace of the movement was at odds with its practices.

The remainder of the issue offers contributions ranging from the sad state of history education to the futility of ideological affirmative action. Wilfred M. McClay (“Reunifying History in the Age of Fracture”) focuses on one important reason that history education in America is in such bad shape. Wight Martindale Jr. (“The Core As Art”) provides a “For the Record” entry, and considers the academic core as art, rather than social or political theory. Douglas Groothuis (“How Multiple-Choice Tests and Machine-Graded Essays Undermine Learning”) details the downside to relying on technology in education. David F. Prindle (“The University of Texas “Rape Survey”: A Case Study of Politicized Social Science”) discusses the problems that arise when the debate about campus rape is based on flawed evidence and imperfect social science. In the final essay of this issue, Robert Weissberg (“The Futility of Ideological Affirmative Action”) takes on the push for ideological affirmative action and why it isn’t a good solution to indoctrination and groupthink.

NAS members will receive printed copies of this issue in the mail. (NAS members, click here for instructions on how to get full online access to all AQ articles.)

Two of this issue’s articles (William Shapiro’s “The Cure That Ailed Us” and Jeff Zorn’s “Cambridge, 1968”) are available for free on NAS’s website.


I’m Watching Myself

Mark Bauerlein, Emory University

In the first entry of this issue’s special section, “Now on Then: The Fiftieth Anniversary of 1968,” Mark Bauerlein uses Norman Mailer’s account of participating in 1967’s antiwar March on the Pentagon in his Armies of the Night: History as a Novel, the Novel as History to describe the differences between the social and political demonstrations of the 1960s and the self-absorbed, “highly personalized” campus protests staged today.


The Road to Who We Are

Sondra Farganis, emerita, The New School

Sondra Farganis remembers her role as academic and civil rights and antiwar advocate at “the dawn of the counterculture” with pride and a sense of accomplishment. While always aware that such activism might bring about “a lot of good,” Farganis has come to “detest the closing down” of “potentially offensive” readings, ideas, and discussion that also started in the late sixties and has grown into a “deleterious and regrettable force.”


Explaining the Counterculture

Paul Hollander, emeritus, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Paul Hollander’s special section contribution is both a personal reflection on his escape from communist Hungary in 1956 and subsequent experiences as an academic in America and a sociological account, in light of those experiences, of the advent of what he calls “the adversary culture.” He also discusses the links among countercultural alienation, conceptions of repression, and “relative deprivation,” which proposes that people “often feel deprived” not due to some “objective, tangible, and indisputable deprivation but because they compare their situation to that of other people.”


The Cure That Ailed Us

William Shapiro, Emory University

William Shapiro remembers 1968 as a “watershed year for the ‘Movement’” as well as himself, and offers a detailed account of his experience as a very involved student activist at Brooklyn College who eventually broke ties with the Movement. “The events that caught up many students,” Shapiro observes, “ensured that the era that began around 1968 would be romanticized to a completely absurd degree, and eventually lead to disappointment and disillusionment. That is the legacy we are living with today.” What remains: “the sensibilities and sensitivities of the Movement” that inform today’s “social justice” policies on campus.


Cambridge, 1968

Jeff Zorn, emeritus, Santa Clara University

“My memories of Cambridge in early 1968 center on feeling fully alive, in the best of company, and on the right side of history,” recollects Jeff Zorn in his lively closing special section entry. As it turns out, however, after embroiling himself in one too many colorful or combustible encounters in the “the struggle for peace and justice,” Zorn had to admit that while he “embraced New Left rebellion,” almost immediately he also “recoiled from its practice.”


Reunifying History in the Age of Fracture

Wilfred M. McClay, University of Oklahoma

Wilfred M. McClay doesn’t mince words: “History education in the United States is in very bad shape.” While the causes of this are many, McClay focuses on the chief one: We have forgotten “that the study of the past takes on the greatest significance and shows the greatest vitality when it is connected to larger, public meanings, and is thereby woven into the warp and woof of our common life.” McClay’s article is adapted from his keynote address at “Securing Liberty: Rebuilding American Education in an Era of Illiberal Learning,” the National Association of Scholars’s thirtieth anniversary conference, held in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, in January 2017.


The Core As Art

Wight Martindale Jr., Villanova University

Offered as a “For the Record” entry, Wight Martindale Jr.’s engaging and deeply personal thoughts on the academic core considered neither as political nor social theory, but as art, were offered at the launch of Beach Books 2016–2017: What Do Colleges and Universities Want Students to Read Outside Class? by National Association of Scholars then director of communications David Randall (now director of research), held at the New York City offices of First Things on May 24, 2017.

How Multiple-Choice Tests and Machine-Graded Essays Undermine Learning

Douglas Groothuis, Denver Seminary

Technology in the classroom may strive for easy efficiency, but there is no shortcut to teaching—without it, true learning can’t take place. Douglas Groothuis breaks down why multiple-choice testing can never evaluate—let alone cultivate—“critical thinking, analysis, synthesis, and rhetorical savvy,” and how the use of machine-graded essays short-circuits essential teacher-student interaction.      


The University of Texas “Rape Survey”: A Case Study of Politicized Social Science

David F. Prindle, University of Texas at Austin

“Rape is a heinous crime, and reports of rape must be taken seriously.” For that reason, David F. Prindle asserts, debate about the occurrence of rape on the college campus “should not be supported by crucially flawed evidence based on deeply imperfect social science.” Prindle describes how that is what happened after the University of Texas at Austin Institute on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault issued the 2017 report, Cultivating Learning and Safe Environments: An Empirical Study of Prevalence and Perceptions of Sexual Harassment, Stalking, Dating/Domestic Abuse and Violence, and Unwanted Sexual Contact.


The Futility of Ideological Affirmative Action

Robert Weissberg, emeritus, University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign

Robert Weissberg sees the calls for “intellectual affirmative action” to balance out the overwhelming number of “cultural Marxists and others on the left” on the American campus as “an unreachable and impractical fantasy.” Weissberg argues how pursuing “ideological diversity” detracts from better solutions to free students from indoctrination and intellectual homogeneity.


Image Credit: Wystan via CC BY 2.0

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