What Education Activists Can Learn From Vietnam War Protesters

columbia protestsOne of the things I learned during the struggle to bring American soldiers home from Vietnam: If you think something is crazy and wrong, and believe that to the core of your being, say so even if no one around you is willing to support you. Little by little, the accumulation of such voices of protest, multiplied ten thousand fold across the nation, will inspire those who hear them to ponder why someone they respect is speaking out, and perhaps to enter in conversation with them about their beliefs. And such conversations will lead to new voices being raised and new conversations, especially when those conversations lead to actions. That is how a movement grows and I have seen it’s results with my own eyes. Here is an example

In 1967, during the first anti-war protest at Columbia, where I attended college and graduate school, almost the entire football team was on the other side of the fence insulting and cursing the protesters, wondering why a few of their jock friends like me had joined the “pinks and the Commies.” In 1968, when buildings were occupied by protesters, it look heroic efforts by people like my friend Roger Dennis, a star of the football team who supported the protesters, to prevent his teammates from pulling people out of the buildings.

Then, in the spring of 1970 when the US invaded Cambodia, the entire Columbia football team went on strike in protest.

mark naisonWhat happened between 1967 and 1970. Not only historical events which forced people to think, but THOUSANDS of conversations between pro war football players and friends and team mates who had begun to doubt, and then militantly oppose, the use of American ground soldiers in Vietnam.

Those of us in education facing policies we know are destructive and wrong- but which have virtually unanimous bi-partisan support should ponder this example. We can change the conversation one person at at time, if all of us say what is in our minds and in our hearts.

Mark Naison
With A Brooklyn Accent

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Published by the LA Progressive on August 9, 2013
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