Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Berkeley in the Sixties

Today we took a little tour back to California and visited Berkeley. Our primary focus the whole day was the Free-Speech Movement.

We first discussed what the term "new left" meant and who represented it. I didn't really remember too much about this term, but the teacher gladly refreshed my memory. We then discussed SDS-Students for a Democratic Society which represented "new left" students. We watched a movie called "Berkeley in the Sixties" which had videos of the sit-ins on Cal's campus and interviews of some of the main players of the movement. The movement drew from the civil rights movement and later turned into an anti-war movement. The majority of the students that were a part of the movement were young, affluent and privileged. Many right-wing Americans, primarily older adults, were astonished that these "good kids" were rebelling.

In the movie, the demonstrators were dragged down stairs and carried across streets by cops, because they would go limp and refuse to move. This showed me how dedicated the demonstrators were to gaining victory in their cause. It was very obvious that they were not going to give up until they got what they want. And they did get what they wanted in the end.
Seeing those demonstrators stand up to the police without any fear to fight for freedom of speech made me realize once again that sometimes myself and other students take certain things for granted.

I am very glad I am able to be out at Brown having this great learning experience because it is teaching me more about America's history and even myself. While being out here I have been able to decipher what colleges I would want to go. Although Brown is no longer on the top of my list, I still like the school just for the fact that it helped me realize the type of school I would and would not want to go to. Brown is too much a quiet, non-excitement school and I think after a year of being here, I would get bored or relentless.

As well as realizing the type of school I would like to go to, I have noticed the different opportunities some students have had. Some girls I know have been able to take French classes at the schools in their district since the second grade. A lot of students I know in my grade back home say that they still don't know how to read an analog clock. Although this could be the students fault, it just shows the difference in teaching and learning between where I'm from and my floor mates are from. My experience so far at Brown has been very fulfilling and I know that I will grasp much more with just the 3 days I have left. Goodnight everyone!


Madeline Kronenberg said...


Sounds like your class has been very informative -- those sixties students were quite determined to make changes -- and they did.

I'm glad you've realized your own preference for "excitement" - as it is important to recognize your own style. The difference in "opportunities" you have noticed is a pronounced one, and I think you will continue to see that opportunities are at best uneven for most students.

Keep looking for new insights in your few remaining days and I think you will have a very complete experience to look back on.

Don Gosney said...


You’re getting to know more but there’s only so much they can tell in a brief class.

Some things they may have missed on:

The SDS was ‘the new left’ in the beginning but quickly morphed in a communist backed and run organization bent on making America look bad in the eyes of the world.

About those demonstrators who stood up to the police ‘without any fear’—there was fear, Avauna. The Berkeley Police, the Alameda Deputy Sheriffs, the CHP and the National Guard were armed with guns, with tear gas and with truncheons and they were more than willing to use them. People died, Avauna, and many were maimed so don’t ever think or suggest there was no fear. The fear was real but so was the cause and for that they were willing to risk everything.

I was there in the outdoor dining area near Sproul Plaza when the helicopter flew overhead and sprayed us with tear gas.

I can recall one day when a friend and I were crossing Bancroft right in front of Sproul Plaza when we heard a raucous noise to our left. When we looked down the street we saw a mass of humanity in the streets carrying signs. We then heard a raucous noise to our right and when we looked we saw a mass of humanity all dressed in their bright blue jumpsuits with helmets and carrying six-foot long sticks. These were what were referred to as The Blue Meanies—Alameda County Deputy Sheriffs. When we returned from our class an hour later the windows in the shops were all broken, the garbage cans were on fire and the streets were torn up.

Around the same time during an effort to reclaim People’s Park, the Blue Meanies fired 00 buckshot at people on some rooftops killing one and blinding another.

California Governor Ronald Reagan and his chief enforcer, Edwin Meese, had taken a stand that they were not going to allow anyone to disrupt their vision of what California should be like.

There was nothing about the ‘free speech movement’, Avauna, that was free. In the land where the First Amendment is sacrosanct, just as in recent times, it had to be fought for and the price was heavy.

On another note, your comments about the lack of educational opportunities in our District are very real. That’s for sure and for certain. If there are a “lot of students back home [that] say they still don’t know how to read an analog clock” then I have to ask whether that’s the District’s fault, their parents’ fault or the students’ fault. There are a lot of people in the community who think that parents need to take at least SOME responsibility for teaching their children some things. Reading a clock? At what point in a person’s life after the age of six do they stop and ask someone to spend three minutes to teach them how to tell time? If I continue to comment further on the absurdity of this I’ll have even more complaints filed against me.

It worries me too, Avauna, when you write that ‘this could be the students’ fault’ it suggests to me that you’re not convinced that the students need to take responsibility for some things in their lives.