Die opstandige student : 'n analise en evaluering van studenteaktivisme in die V.S.A.
Duvenage, Schalk Carel Willem
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Student activism is an extremely complex phenomenon. The complexity of this phenomenon is caused by a great variety of factors. Some of the factors are the lack of a well-organized movement with a definite programme of principles, a lack of a foundation and the lack of a well defined object and a lack of a planned "modus operandi”. It is further aggravated by a wavering and doubtful objective and by the changeability, unpredictability and even capriciousness of behaviour. This complexity is further emphasized by the diversity of the degree of involvement as well as the great variety of persons involved. The problem not only concerns the individual, it stretches out into the family, into the school, into the university, into the church, into corporative establishments, such as military and industrial concerns. Thus, society as a whole becomes involved. Tremendous difficulty in research on this subject was caused by the volume of work done by other writers who endeavoured to approach the subject in all its diversity from one point of view only, and described it as such, They attempted to elucidate this very complicated phenomenon by means of a definite hypothesis. Lewis Feuer's method of approach is for instance the generation conflict; Theodore Roszack's is that of the awakening contra-culture; Jean-Francais Revel favours that of a wide and diversified revolution; Charles Reich's is that of an awakening new or third consciousness; Zbigniew Brzezinski believes in a contra-revolutionary power; Bruno Bettelheim's theory is that of the frustrated, superfluous youth while Marshall McLuhan's is that of the news-media-conditioned youth, Everyone of these points of view possesses an element of truth, but it can lay no claim to the whole truth. In several instances the one-sided stress of the phenomenon is an over-simplification. One cannot understand the student-in-revolt merely by making a psychological analysis of his complex individual personality, neither can he be understood by giving attention only to the environmental factors which developed his personality such as the domestic, the social, the cultural, the economic, the educational, the religious and the political ones. Even the study of the institutions as well as the circumstances against which the activists’ opposition is directed, will not supply the answer. However, all these factors must be taken into account. If we take everything into consideration, it seems that sociology, moreover, pedagogical sociology as scientific discipline, will be the best equipped to give a full picture of student activism. In the second place, sociology is the discipline which will be able to analize and evaluate the subject because sociology more than any other social, science endeavours to obtain an entire picture of human nature. It is done empirically and it examines relationships between persons, between connections and between structures on the basis of factual information. However, the task of sociology does not end there. Sociology is also a normative science; it also has a philosophical task, viz. the theoretical analysis of the various structural principles underlying social relationships. Sociology even questions the fundamental religious principles underlying a subject. The first part of the study (chapters 2 - 6) is concerned with the results of an empirical-sociological research, After a general orientation with regard to the seriousness and the extent of the phenomenon of student activism in the U.S.A., two unique examples, that of Berkeley in 1964 and that of Columbia in 1968, are discussed, Taking into consideration the various efforts to differentiate between the diverse types of student activists, two different kinds can be clearly identified: The Hippies and the activists, alternatively, the culturally alienated and the politically involved, i.e. the "alienated and the New Left”, Certain similarities between these two exist, such as their personalistic tendencies, their abilities, their aloofness towards any guidance by other people or ideologies and their permissiveness. Yet the differences are far greater. During the sixties a definite process of polarisation became evident. The uprooting and alienation inherent in the Hippies are much greater in extent and intensity than that found amongst the activists. Like-wise, tile rejection of the existing order of things as found among youth in general differs from that found among the activists. As a rule the Hippie's outlook is such that he refuses to be committed about the future or about long-term objectives or plans. Orientation for success and vocational aims are completely lacking because there is an inherent pessimism concerning the future, as well as a complete lack of motivation. Furthermore, the Hippie rejects existing Christian virtues such as a sense of responsibility, self-denial, order and self-control, while he himself reveals certain values which have been fabricated in the workshops of liberalism and existentialism, such as openness, spontaniety, immediate experience and licentiousness. The obvious attitude of adults which implies that responsibility must be assumed and that co-operation is inevitable, is also rejected by them. They are thus unwilling to fit into the existing order, in their family or in the wider family unit, as well as into educational institutions and any other social order, Most students who become drop-outs are found among this group. The Hippies are thus undermining society from the inside to such an extent that they are turning it into a hollow shell, by questioning the legality of the existing order through their way of life and by ignoring the social ethical codes which is the corner stone of every society and by replacing it with their own contra-ethics. The “Students for Democratic Society" took the lead in the activist movement from 1962, Until the organisation was disbanded in 1969 the SDS went through different phases. At first, until about the middle of 1965, it had a strong political bias, when the main issues were the Vietnam War, civil rights for Negroes and compulsory military service. From 1965, however, it concentrated .mainly on issues concerning the university itself. The whole campaign centred round the theme "student power" and obtained its "charter" in this manner, From 1968 a change of direction took place, as a result of which the organisation became more and more revolutionary. Violence was stressed, This resulted in the politicising and radicalising of campuses sometimes with bloody confrontations. Two different targets at which the activists aimed their campaigns could be distinguished, viz. contemporary society in general and more specifically the university itself. An inquiry into the actual number of these rebels reveals quite a confusing picture. It is nevertheless clear that the number of students who were actively and constantly concerned with campus riots were comparatively low, approximately 4% to 11%. Various methods were used by the activists in order to reach their goal: sit-ins, teach-ins, civil disobedience, public demonstrations, ultimatums to university authorities, bringing the university administration into discredit, martyrdom and even violence. Towards the end of the sixties it became apparent that violence was receiving more and more prominence. The only answer which the "New Left" gave to this problem, which had to be faced, was the idea of participatory democracy. It accentuates decentralisation of management, of communal control, local initiative and ad hoc procedures instead of traditionally democratic patterns of control. At the universities this concept was applied with vigour -as a result of which students were represented on various bodies. The Vietnam War was given more prominence over all points of conflict or other grievances. They maintain that the war is not a true expression of American responsible involvement in Asian politics, but is the result of intrigue and bungling in a situation which apparently cannot be solved. The activists came into conflict in the universities with the process of de-humanising as a result of the continued measure in which the universities assumed the character or form of a multi-university and a service station. Basically the activist directed his criticism against the so-called "Establishment". By this he means the comprehensive, corporate structure which is characteristic of the liberal-democratic America of today: the entire tremendous complex of "big government, big business, big unions, big debts, and big educational institutions". He withdraws from this immensely complex system and rejects everybody who accepts the status quo of the Establishment. Still worse, he demonstrates against it, protests against it, writes against it, and sets fire to their buildings if needs be. Apart from the clearly indicated issues which characterise the phenomenon of student activism, there is a wide spectrum of underlying factors which must be fully considered before this phenomenon can be fully understood and adequately evaluated. This applies to a variety of factors on the socio-cultural, economic, political, religious, educational and philosophical levels. On the socio-cultural level matters such as the technological revolution, the post-modern youth, student sub-culture, generation conflict, the crisis with the authorities and participatory democracy hits one in the eye. In the economic sphere it is apparent that affluence has greatly affected the life of the rebellious student. As far as their political awareness is concerned, there is apparently an obvious correlation between the activist students and their parents, while certain universities and particular academic courses have a more stimulating effect on student activism than others. The religious background of the rebellious students can be distinguished from that of other students in the sense that a stronger degree of indifferentism, secularism and neutralism is found among them. The discontinuation of religious teaching at public schools has definitely stimulated these tendencies. The theology of the revolution has had a much more subtle and indirect influence on student activism. However, it can be stated: The death-of-God theology fits the present American mood of the post-Kennedy era, a mood calling for activism and social change, a get-with-it mood. There are rather a markedly large number of Jewish students in the ranks of the activists. With regard to the educational background, the Oedipal rebellion hypothesis, especially as advocated by Lewis Feuer and Bruno Bettelheim, does not offer a conclusive answer to the .problem although it does contain an element of truth. Although the rebellious student identifies himself with his father's radical principles and ideals, he disassociates himself from his father because of his own passivity and complainsancy. John Dewey as one of the most important moulders of the American educational ideal, is the father of the full-blown child-centred school where children are able to develop naturally through personal experience and are able to evolve by their own initiative, to reach intellectual enrichment as well as social suitability. Discipline and authority are not stressed in such an educational system. Since the forties of the twentieth century, Benjamin Spock has been adding to the same pattern and has helped with his phenomenal influence to rear a younger generation for whom the traditional values of self-discipline, respect for authority and desire for conventional success have been replaced by spontaniety, immediate self-gratification and permissiveness. This attitude is in no small measure responsible for the activistic tendencies of the students. From a philosophical point of view, American political and social thinking are the spontaneous and ultimate result of Western Humanism. It is especially noticeable in the growing secularism, in the absolutising of the democratic ideal, in the deterministic domination of nature as expounded in technocracy, in pragmatism and in corporative liberalism. All these projections of Humanism serve to a greater or lesser extent as fuel for the fire of student activism. After the empirical investigation as described in chapters 2 to 6, chapter 7 gives us the second main part of this work. By employing the methods of philosophical sociology, a structural analysis of the university as well as a description of the ideal typical place which the student at a university should take, is given. Questions which touch on the university as a differentiated community are the following: its specific character, its functions, its particular relationships, especially its involvement and close interaction with other social groups in contemporary society, and finally its own special composition. All these facets can for obvious reasons, only be touched on very briefly. Everyone should, or could, be subjected to a separate and thorough .scientific investigation, The actual object which should be philosophically and sociologically investigated, is the student himself, his place at the university, the particular characteristics of the student community, his freedoms and rights, his responsibilities and his duties towards both the university as well as the outside world, his attitude to other components of the university, in fact, his entire typically student personality with the prerogatives and restraints attached thereto. Only after this has been done, the defects of the course of the modern American university-system can be pointed out and the rebellious student be critically judged in his true form. It appears then that the university is an institution "sui generis", with its own structural principles and intrinsic task-spectrum which must be deferred to. It is and always will be a "universitas magistrorum et scholarium" in which the student must also take his proper place. Because of the typical composition of the university with its particular relationships of judicial, rational authority as well as of academic freedom, students do not have the right to control the university. Such an assumption is based on a false premise. The judicial aspect of the student includes his right to raise his voice in academic matters. A plea must be made in favour of the students being given a greater voice at every level of the university, The third main part of this work is given in the final two chapters. In chapter 8, by means of an evaluation, an enquiry is made into the deepest fundamental motives of the rebellious student as well as of the "Establishment” against which he objects. The manner in which the student-activists have been influenced by Marx and Marcuse is shown to be very illuminating. Student activism is even more clearly defined when it is considered from the point of view of the religious fundamental principles of Humanism, viz. the antinomy between nature and freedom. The American way of life is undeniably determined by the pole of the control of nature by the personality of the autonomous human being. Humanism has degenerated into a process of dehumanization. Factors which contributed towards this are: technique, organisation, corporative liberalism, bureaucracy and everything appertaining thereto. The "Establishment" dominated everything. The reaction against this is a trend which has been active in society for some time without being obvious. Lately, it has radically, acutely and even revolutionary erupted into student activism. The pendulum has therefore swayed to the other side. It has become a search for self-identity, creativity, autonomy of the human being, and total freedom. Plumb centre of their argument is the idea that a person must be able to be himself in total freedom. The entire opposition against established authority is based on this, as well as a need for a complete reversal of the existing order, the status quo. Their propensity towards the idea of permanent revolution is rooted in this. Nevertheless, this concerns an attempt to realise completely the humanist-orientated concept of freedom. We are here still concerned with Humanism as such; even radicals can not escape "from the humanist involvement of the antinomy between nature and freedom. The swing of the pendulum, the shifting of the accent, the over-accentuation of the ideal of liberty, absolutising of liberty, offers no solution. It leaves the radical inevitably in the quagmire of permissiveness and nihilism, which are blood-brothers of anargism. Although the reply of the rebellious student to the problem of his time caused by his grievances and certain of his demands, is the implementing of the idea of participatory democracy, this must be rejected on the grounds of practical considerations as well as on principle, It would therefore appear that both alternatives, that of the status quo and that of the postulate of, the revolution are unacceptable. In the final chapter the reforming religious fundamentals are used as a premise and an attempt is made to furnish a guide for a third alternative: the Christian one. Taking into account the vertical dimension which includes all scientific studies, the university can remain true to its structural principle and perform its intrinsic task as well as to its human relationships. Not forgetting that the power of sin is also busy with its destructive work in the Christian university as well as in Christian scientific study, the Christian principles, structures and performing of functions, offers a perspective to which the humanists are completely deficient, In this context student activism is a complete "Fremdkörper".
- Humanities