Monday, March 22, 2010

Child of the 60’s

I admit it. I am a child of the 60’s. Actually, I am a child of the 40’s, but this well established phrase is meant to suggest that those Americans who “came of age” in the 1960’s, and who were shaped in some measureable ways by the convergence of the civil rights, women’s, anti-war, and student protest movements, were to be henceforth known as a “child of the 60’s”.

Usually, the term was not meant necessarily to be one of respect. Sometimes it came to describe people who never really grew up, who never really joined the establishment; and/or who never gave up some brand of idealism coupled with some illustration of impractability.

I admit it: I am a child of the 60’s. I did join the Armed Forces; then after my tour of duty (in South Carolina) became a peace and civil rights activist, and a career higher educator. I admit and am proud of that many of my attitudes about the important of paying more attention to a neglected minority, first-year college students, were indeed influenced by the convergence of all the movements I suggest above. For me, improving the first year of college has always been about, and still is: social justice.

I am thinking in this vein because this past weekend our Congress voted upon legislation, that will be the most important civil rights legislation since 1964 and 65. I am also recalling the influence of the 1960’s because I spoke this past weekend at a conference at the University of South Carolina with the billing: “Student Activism, Southern Style: Organizing and Protest in the 1960’s and 70’s” organized by the USC Department of History. I will share in a future blog who this conference theme speaks to the origins of my career as an advocate for social, and educational, justice for beginning college students.

-John Gardner

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