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The militarization of our campuses under Richard Nixon, circa the protests against our invasion of Vietnam.

The gunning down of students by the National Guard.

May 4, 1970, forty-two years ago.

The iconic photos of Mary Vecchio and others.

And, ten days later, the shootings at Jackson State:

A group of angry students. A burst of gunfire from authorities. Young lives cut short.

It sounds a lot like the Kent State shootings on May 4, 1970, but it happened 10 days later at a predominantly black college in the South.

Police fired for about 30 seconds on a group of students at Jackson State in Mississippi, killing two and wounding 12 others.

I was unable to comprehend the horror of it. That this could happen in the United States:

.... students came out on the Kent State campus and scores of others to protest the bombing of Cambodia-- a decision of President Nixon's that appeared to expand the Vietnam War. Some rocks were thrown, some windows were broken, and an attempt was made to burn the ROTC building. Governor James Rhodes sent in the National Guard.

The units that responded were ill-trained and came right from riot duty elsewhere; they hadn't had much sleep. The first day, there was some brutality; the Guard bayonetted two men, one a disabled veteran, who had cursed or yelled at them from cars. The following day, May 4th, the Guard, commanded with an amazing lack of military judgment, marched down a hill, to a field in the middle of angry demonstrators, then back up again. Seconds before they would have passed around the corner of a large building, and out of sight of the crowd, many of the Guardsmen wheeled and fired directly into the students, hitting thirteen, killing four of them, pulling the trigger over and over, for thirteen seconds. (Count out loud--one Mississippi, two Mississippi, to see how long this is.) Guardsmen--none of whom were later punished, civilly, administratively, or criminally--admitted firing at specific unarmed targets; one man shot a demonstrator who was giving him the finger. The closest student shot was fully sixty feet away; all but one were more than 100 feet away; all but two were more than 200 feet away. One of the dead was 255 feet away; the rest were 300 to 400 feet away. The most distant student shot was more than 700 feet from the Guardsmen.

And recently, I was beginning to feel a little bit warm and fuzzy about Ronald Reagan until I discovered this Glenn Beck aspect of Reagan as Governor of California in a statement about student demonstrations he made on April 7, 1970, some three weeks before the Kent State shootings:
If it takes a bloodbath, let's get it over with. No more appeasement.
Death to angry students.

Death to thinking students.

Death to higher education.

Death to all education.

It began with Reagan:

What is Mr. Reagan's educational legacy? Let's begin with a look at his record as governor of California. While running for the governorship, Mr. Reagan shrewdly made the most of disorder on University of California campuses. For instance, he demanded a legislative investigation of alleged Communism and sexual misconduct at the University of California at Berkeley. He insisted on public hearings, claiming "a small minority of hippies, radicals and filthy speech advocates" had caused disorder and that they should "be taken by the scruff of the neck and thrown off campus -- permanently",

Once elected, Mr. Reagan set the educational tone for his administration by:

        a. calling for an end to free tuition for state college and university students,

        b. annually demanding 20% across-the-board cuts in higher education funding,

        c. repeatedly slashing construction funds for state campuses

        d. engineering the firing of Clark Kerr, the popular President of the University of California, and

        e. declaring that the state "should not subsidize intellectual curiosity,"

And he certainly did not let up on the criticisms of campus protestors that had aided his election. Mr. Reagan's denunciations of student protesters were both frequent and particularly venomous. He called protesting students "brats," "freaks," and "cowardly fascists." And when it came to "restoring order" on unruly campuses he observed, "If it takes a bloodbath, let's get it over with. No more appeasement!"

Several days later four Kent State students were shot to death. In the aftermath of this tragedy Mr. Reagan declared his remark was only a "figure of speech." He added that anyone who was upset by it was "neurotic." One wonders if this reveals him as a demagogue or merely unfeeling.

.... Ronald Reagan left California public education worse than he found it. A system that had been the envy of the nation when he was elected was in decline when he left. Nevertheless, Mr. Reagan's actions had political appeal, particularly to his core conservative constituency, many of whom had no time for public education.

In campaigning for the Presidency, Mr. Reagan called for the total elimination the US Department of Education, severe curtailment of bilingual education, and massive cutbacks in the Federal role in education. Upon his election he tried to do that and more.

.... Mr. Reagan also made drastic cuts in the federal education budget. Over his eight years in office he diminished it by half. When he was elected the federal share of total education spending was 12%. When he left office it stood at just 6%.

He also advocated amending the Constitution to permit public school prayer, demanded a stronger emphasis on values education and proposed federal tuition tax credits for parents who opted for private schooling. The later two initiatives stalled in Congress. There were desultory efforts to promote greater values education but they eventually misfired because of an obvious lack of consensus on whose values were to be taught.

Mr. Reagan was far more successful in giving corporate managers unprecedented influence over the future of public education. Reagan's avowed purpose was to make America more competitive in the world economy. But corporate executives dabbling in public education had no discernable influence on America's competitiveness. But the influence of big business did undermine the power of parents and locally elected school board members. It also suggested that it was far more important for schools to turn out good employees than good citizens or decent human beings.


Reagan's legacy.

Nixon's legacy.

The legacy of the NRA.

Guns over book learning. Stupidity, complicity, bovinity, not thinking, least of all no critical thinking, no questioning of authority.

The dumbing down of America. The disintegration of our nation into barbarous stupidity, marked with campus shootings ala Columbine, Virginia Tech, Oikos University, et al.

Originally posted to Karen Hedwig Backman on Mon Apr 30, 2012 at 10:36 AM PDT.

Also republished by ClassWarfare Newsletter: WallStreet VS Working Class Global Occupy movement.

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