With an empty spot on my roster last semester, I took a class about the culture of America during the sixties. I wasn’t expecting very much from the class; I thought I was already knowledgeable about the time period. In reality I just took it because I liked the professor. In the end, I learned more than I bargained for, and it put my prior knowledge of the time period to shame.
It seemed that every week we would end up talking about the same thing. Protest. Black teenagers braving huge crowds of angry whites to stand up for their right to go to the same high schools as everyone else. Students being arrested, beaten and sometimes even shot for the fury of their voices.
The surprising thing about all that I learned last semester wasn’t that people had the courage and strength to do such things. Rather, I was surprised by how apathetic students are now in comparison. After our parents’ generation did so much and was so active in their communities, fighting for nationwide changes, it seems that many of us have inherited little more than apathy from them.
Granted, the issues that inspired such passionate protests 40 years ago are not as stifling today, but they still exist. There is still racism, sexism and hate in the world. Our nation is again involved in an unpopular war in a faraway country. Yet students are doing nothing.
When we were unsure if or when a war would break out, there were some anti-war activities. I remember a demonstration at the Bell Tower, and a few debates put on by the Temple Issues Forum. Nine months later, we are still at war, and American soldiers are dying on a daily basis. But the debates are few and far between, and the demonstrations are nonexistent.
In fact, there have been few demonstrations, protests, rallies or much of anything on campus. Just about everyone at Temple has to have seen the fundamentalist Christian preacher at the Bell Tower this semester.
Whether you agree with his message or not, you have to give him credit for going out there as often as he does and subjecting himself to public ridicule to support what he believes in.
When this controversy over teachers whose highest degree is from Temple not being rehired next fall blew up a few weeks ago, some students held a meeting to support them. Initially the turnout was impressive on such short notice, but when it came to assigning tasks to help the teachers, volunteers were scarce. The same dozen faces were the only ones willing to put the time in to help.
People want changes to be made, but they want other people to do it for them. I think it is this attitude that characterizes our generation to a certain extent. In the 60s, students were willing to risk being arrested, hurt or killed to support what they believed in. Today, students seem to be plagued with lazy indifference.
Torin Sweeney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.