Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Life on a College Campus

My age puts me in a strange category. I was right between June Cleaver and Betty Friedan! Too young to really embrace the "happy housewife wearing pearls and high heels to do the laundry", and too old to burn my bra in public.

I went to college in the early 60's, carrying the indoctrination in my mind that I got in high school, you either were going to be a nun or a wife and mother, and become one or the other by age 20. I messed up on the nun thing by turning chicken 1 week before my date to receive my veil, and changing life's path before I actually entered the convent doors. So I found a great fellow, we got engaged, and I was a married woman by age 20. We used to say you went to college to get your MRS degree--for many of this age, it was very true.

So, by all this talk, you know I'm a fairly conservative person, not given to dabble in the excesses of the late 60's and early 70's. College protests on campus were not happening when I went to college, and by the time they actually were happening, I was home with 2 kids, a husband, a house and was more interested to keep peace between the kids than protests on college campuses.

I always wondered what it was like on college campuses in those days, when unrest and freedom of speech against injustices took precidence over attending class. My younger siblings were of the age to attend college during these times, but as far as I know, they didn't participate in any riots or things like that. Maybe they were just keeping that quiet, not to scare the parents or older sister. But, it was the 70's after all!

Now the community college where I work is nothing like Berkley or Kent State, but today, I envisioned myself in such a situation somewhat akin to what people might have experienced when attending college in the 70's. A gathering of faculty members and students, participating in exercising free speech, with the caveat that all speech is protected in this country. We celebrated "Banned Book Week" on our campus today, and a gathering of folks read and listened to selections from a number of banned books--some banned for a while in our country, some in other repressive societies. This was a VERY mild experience in comparison to bra or flag burning of the 70's, or National Guard troops coming in to repress student protests. No burning of anything, no police presence, just a group of people on a college campus reading things that would have not been open to be read in past days.

The importance of freedom of speech is something that I wonder if some people get. If they don't like what they hear, they scream, yell, name call, draw up petitions to have it banned, write hateful editorials, send disgusting emails. Yes, they have freedom to do this, but they want others freedoms to be repressed to suit them. I hear more stories of my immigrant students, who lived in societies where these freedoms were not open to them. They see our country as a beacon of hope for the freedom they so desperately seek.

Even with our flaws, our country is something that many in the world see as a more desirable place to live than where they were born. Many see the only opportunity for themselves is to sacrifice their home and sometimes family to come to the United States for a chance for a better life.

I just hope they find that better life. And we citizens of this country, we'd better not take our freedom for granted, because it is something that many in the world do not have.

By the way, I read from a favorite book called "The Giver" by Lois Lowry. This is a juvenile fiction book that was banned because of some of the themes written in it as it described a utopian society, designed to be a non-competitive, non-stressful, bland society, in which every person has a certain role, determined by a great unknown body of wisdom figures. Jealousy, lust, greed have all been bred out of these citizens, or removed from their psyches by medication. You think it is a perfect world until the dark underbody of the society is revealed to a wise young thinker. His actions determine the future of the whole society--it is a very compelling and interesting book. Several other of my favorites were read--Fahrenheit 451, The Kite Runner, Native Son. Thanks to Professor DF, who made this all possible. I'm really glad I participated!


NV said...

Just know that there are plenty in our country who would make it so that your students COULDN'T become Americans. (this always slays me because unless you're a "pure" American Indian or Mexican, your ancestors came from somewhere else!)

and you're right. For all it's flaws, it's still the best thing going. I just wish we could quash all the haters!

And Charlotte's Web is a banned book. Charlotte's Freakin' Web! Who thinks this "ban" crap up? The anti-banning movement has thankfully been alive for decades. (My first love proudly displayed an "I read banned books" button in his car.)

sewwhat? said...

Well, you knew his personality by reading the button! Some people have nothing else to do but protest.