Taking Back the Academy! History of Activism, History as Activism

By Jim Downs; Jennifer Manion | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 1

Teaching Student Activism

EILEEN EAGAN

Handcuffed, they sit together in a police bus, and head toward the Cumberland County jail. Ages range from eighty-three to eighteen; some are longtime peace activists; some are college students; some are faculty at the local university. All have been arrested for "obstructing a public way" in downtown Portland, Maine, for sitting down in the street to protest impending war. The two eighteen-year-old students refused bail and got to stay in jail over night. The war came the next day but the protests continue, in Maine, across the United States, around the world.

In Burma/Myanmar, students have taken the lead in uprisings against oppressive governments, first the British, then, after World War II, against a series of military regimes. In 1974 students joined workers in demonstrations that lead to the shutting down of the universities. Again in 1976 and in 1988 demonstrations, often lead by students, shook the control of the authorities. Confronting a disasterous economy and martial law, professors called a return to civilian, parliamentary government, democracy, and human rights. The authorities responded with massive force and murder. When the Myanmar government refused to abide by the election victory of the National League for Democracy in 1990, some students joined an armed resistance force and others continued in nonviolent protest. 1

In Iran in the summer of 2003, students protested against conditions on campuses and in commemoration of the violent attacks on students in their dormitories the previous year. 2

In the twentieth century, struggles for democracy-national and academic-and freedom-personal and political-have brought students out

-11-

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