ONE great educator became so infuriated with what he called the
licentious, outrageous and disgraceful behavior of students at his
college that he quit in disgust. The college was at Carthage, the year
was A.D. 383, and the dismayed teacher, as he relates in Confessions,
was St. Augustine. Sometimes students can try the patience of a saint. One of those times is now. Seldom before have so many groups of students
organized so militantly or seemed to try so hard to reorder their
colleges, their countries or the world at large. It is the biggest year
for students since 1848—a year of student-led revolution in Europe. The rise of this obstreperous generation is a genuine phenomenon. It was
unforeseen by educators, who scarcely a decade ago were overstating the
case in criticizing what came to be called “the silent generation.” Now
the cry for student power is worldwide. It keeps growing and getting a
lot of attention and quite a few results. For the first time in many
years, students are marching and fighting and sitting-in not only in
developing or unstable countries but also in the rich industrial
democracies. In the U.S., the movement has spread from the
traditionally active, alert and demonstrative student bodies of the
elite schools to many usually quiescent campuses. The protesting activists, still a very small minority, overlook the
accomplishments of society but criticize its shortcomings. Possibly
idealistic but skeptical of ideologies, they contend that governments
have not performed up to their original promises. The student leftists
disdain Soviet-style Communism as spiritually corrupt. The democrats
fault the West's inequalities of wealth and race. The activists demand change and want to determine its course. The
university should not be the conserver of society, they argue, but the
fountain of reform. They believe that students should be not merely
preparing to enter the active world but a force within it. Many of them
have a fashionable disaffection for organized religion, but they
express the Judaeo-Christian belief that one man should act where he
is, and that if he does so, he can help to change the world. | Demonstrations & Issues During the past three
months, students have demonstrated for change in 20 countries. They
have taken to the streets in such usual centers of student unrest as
Brazil, Japan and The Netherlands and in such normally placid places as
Denmark, Switzerland and West Germany. Student protests have led to the
temporary closing of at least three dozen universities in the U.S.,
Italy, Spain, Tunisia, Mexico, Ethiopia and other countries. Belgian
student demonstrations, fanning the old Flemish-v.-Walloon controversy,
brought the government down. Egyptian students, marching in spontaneous
protest against government inefficiency, obliged Gamal Abdel Nasser to
rearrange his Cabinet. Communist Poland put down street demonstrations,
but only after suspending more than 1,000 rebellious students. More
successful were Czechoslovakia's students: their protests were a
significant factor in pushing out the old Stalinists and shifting the
direction of government toward greater liberty.