The American classroom. In the 1960s it was a place of growing discontent. The school was ground zero for protest; about the war, about racial inequality, about the quality of education, about the growing gap between rich and poor. And in the midst of all that were questions of the quality of education. Was every student getting the same shot at a decent education everywhere, or was access becoming a question of class and privilege? Were the inner-cities the last to receive funding for adequate classrooms? Were teachers given decent wages. Was College the goal for the average student in high school? Was college even possible? Did a College degree actually guarantee a job? Were the protests warranted and was dissent part of our education?
A lot of questions, and in the hour this panel discussion took place, probably more unanswered than answered ones. We had arrived at a point in our culture where things were being questioned – motives, importance, the bigger picture. A student coming into school was no longer expected to come out the other end as a trained employee of Corporate America. In this age of questioning, it was questioned as to whether courses being taught were actually relevant to the issues of the day and the atmosphere of change taking place.
Ironically, while this series of broadcasts was taking place (August 1968), we were in the midst of the mass demonstrations in Chicago and the Democratic Convention there. The increased resistance and turning tide of public sentiment towards the War in Vietnam. The rise in the counter-culture which put into question our core values as Americans and people on the earth. Where was a K-12 and possible College Education fitting in all this?
It’s important to consider the concerns over the future of our current state of education in 2017 can be found starting roughly around 1968, if not before (Free Speech Movement of 1964). That many were starting to feel Education wasn’t a right but a privilege – that our college campuses, hotbeds of protest and intellectual confrontation, were somehow at fault for the troubles our country was going through in the 1960s. That a College education was indicative of a liberal-leaning train of thought, and it was this atmosphere which didn’t bode well for an America of dutiful taxpayers and followers. That maybe a largely uneducated society was better than an educated one. And if you look at the gradual de-emphasis on education, the demonizing of those with college degrees as “elites” and the skyrocketing and prohibitive costs of college tuition, you begin to realize there may have started a pattern in 1968. A lot happened that year – much of it has had long-lasting affects.