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Posts Tagged ‘student activism’

By Susan Jhirad

As a retired teacher who has heard far too many spurious claims for the educational virtues of technology in the classroom, and a former activist from the thrilling protests of the 60’s, you might call me a skeptic about the revolutionary potential of the internet. Well, I’m not too old to admit when I am wrong.

Facebook, which I still refuse to join as a means of personal communication, has just enabled a youth revolution in Egypt that is completely inspiring. To see that this movement, largely led by the young, as were so many of the protests of the 60’s, spreading to all sectors of Egyptian society, from labor to farmworkers, to intellectuals and even capitalists who actually believe in democracy, has been nothing short of astounding. While we were able to build a powerful anti-war movement in the 60’s, it took years when all we had at our disposal were mimeograph machines cranking out posters that we affixed to lamposts at midnight- only to have them torn down. There is no doubt that that the instant communication afforded by Facebook, Twitter et al, have enable a rapid progression of events that would have seemed unthinkable to our generation.

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The silence in the English-language press about the student strikes at the University of Puerto Rico stands in stark contrast to the roar produced by the growing number of students who have moved to shut down UPR to protest state disinvestment from public education.

The basic terms of the strike: As the state legislature has systematically diverted money from Puerto Rico’s only public university system, UPR has been left with a $100 million budget shortfall. In response, the Board of Trustees wants  to make up that gap on the backs of the students, more than 60% of whom qualify for need-based aid. The Trustees want to force the students to choose between receiving federal Pell Grant aid and aid from the University based on merit or special skills. They call it double-dipping. The students call it class-based discrimination, a clever way to prevent poor and working class students from receiving honors and recognition along with the money necessary to make the $12,000-a-year education possible, and they aren’t having it.

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My visit to Kent, Ohio for the 40th anniversary of the Kent State killings, when four students were killed (Allison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, Sandy Scheuer, William Schroeder) and nine injured (with Dean Kahler left paralyzed and in a wheelchair for the last 40 years) was both nostalgic and informative.

Although I was not on campus the day of the killings, I did see the burning of the ROTC building and the shattered bank windows over that weekend in downtown Kent.  I also saw the Ohio National Guard occupy my campus, the FBI invade student dormitories looking for weapons and photograph classrooms to see what appeared on blackboards that May 4 morning which might have incited students to “riot,” the indictment of 24 students and one faculty member, and the exoneration of the Ohio National Guard and its leaders for any guilt in the killings. However, it was the town-gown hostility that mostly affected me. About a month after the killings, six townspeople attacked me, badly beat me, and repeatedly kicked me in the head. I reported this event to the police over the phone, but when I later checked to see what would appear in the local Kent newspaper, I was told, “Townsperson beat up by six hippie-types,” a reversal of truth that made me question every civil rights or anti-war “riot” I had ever read about.

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