3
Students and Politics

PHILIP G. ALTBACH

For more than a century, student movements have had an important place among the agents of social change. In some nations, students have succeeded in toppling governments or changing policies. In others, they have been instrumental in various kinds of cultural revivals. In the new nations of Asia, Africa, and Latin America, students are often instrumental in political, social, and cultural development. Students have provided inspired leadership to national liberation movements, political parties, and on a more local level, labor organizations and cultural groups. Not only have the leaders of the new states frequently come from student ranks, but the ideological base of many of the new societies has been influenced by the student movement.

While the organizational manifestation of student concern is the most dramatic indication of the power and importance of the student community, the day-to-day life of the student in these societies is also crucial to their development. The values which are obtained during the process of higher education and the quality of that education will inevitably have an impact on nations which have a very small reservoir of trained manpower.

While students in the industrially advanced nations of the West are important, their numbers are large and the society is sufficiently well developed so that the fate of an individual student or even fairly large group of students is not crucial. In most new nations, however, students often form an "incipient elite." In many of these societies, students assume political responsibility even before finishing their studies, thus bringing national politics onto the campuses in a very direct way. Governments are therefore conscious of the student population, trying to influence it or perhaps repress

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