student movements

student movements, designation given to the ideas and activities of student groups involved in social protest. Historically, student movements have been in existence almost as long as universities themselves. As early as the 4th cent., students were engaged in protests against professors with unpopular political views. During the Middle Ages, the universities of Paris and Bologna were often the scene of violent confrontations between townsmen and students. The coming of the modern era saw an increase in student activism. Students played an important role in almost every one of the major revolutions of the 19th and 20th cent. In the United States, student unrest took on political overtones during the American Revolution. Toward the end of the 19th cent. many American students embraced the new theories of socialism and communism being advanced in Europe. The Intercollegiate Socialist Society was formed (1905) to advance the ideas of Marxism. Socialist activity and student protest, often in support of labor struggles and economic justice for the poor, blossomed during the Great Depression. Many students spoke out against McCarthyism in the 1950s and for freedom of speech on campus in the early 1960s. Spurred on by the civil-rights movement, the Vietnam War, and a growing counterculture, groups such as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) rose to prominence. SDS advocated participatory democracy and economic justice, criticizing corporate-military interlocks and unresponsive government bureaucracy; their tactics included sit-ins, mass demonstrations, teach-ins and student strikes. The 1970 student strike for peace involved 200 campuses. Police response was often violent, as in the 1970 Jackson State and Kent State killings and at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. During this same period, Europe and Japan were also scenes of massive student protests, including a nationwide strike of French students and workers (May–June, 1968). Students began protesting overcrowding and repressive conduct codes but soon moved to a critique of a society whose work and culture ethic was based on consumption. South Korean student movements have staged massive protests for more equitable wages and democratic reforms, as have students in China, where many participants in the Tiananmen Square protest have been imprisoned, fled, or gone underground. Recent U.S. student movements have protested apartheid, nuclear weapons, destruction of the environment, and cuts in funding for education.

See L. S. Feuer, Conflict of Generations (1969); E. Abeles, The Student and the University (1969); W. W. Brickman and S. Lehrer, ed., Conflict and Change: The Response to Student Hyperactivism (1970); S. M. Lipset and G. M. Schaflander, Passion and Politics (1971); K. Sale, SDS (1973); W. Breines, Community and Organization in the New Left (1982); G. Katsiaficas, The Imagination of the New Left (1987); S. Simmie and B. Nixon, Tiananmen Square (1989).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2023, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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