Oregon’s Silent Majority v. their Children: Challenging the role of the University and widening the “Generation Gap”
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Student unrest in 1970 at the University of Oregon and across the nation reflected the increasing tensions, frustrations and disillusionment that the younger generation of Americans felt toward their place in the global political drama. They felt confused about their roles as citizens enrolled in institutions funded by a government and a military whose actions and ideology conflicted with their developing attitudes about the national and local power structures. How did this enable them to be heard in the wake of the older generation? The younger generation insisted that social, cultural and political movement and sentiment of the era was unprecedented. Rather than imitating their parents, students and youth of the late 1960s were rebelling against them and creating something new—something radical. Students threw the American dream to the wayside. They went to college and many defied the morals and models their parents had established for them. Instead of following in the footsteps of an earlier generation, the youth of America was trying to create a different path. Students utilized their position as students and disputed the role of higher education. They changed the concept of the university from that which their parents cherished as an almost sacred instrument of self-improvement, to a forum for their political expression. They rebelled against both their parents and the in loco parentis role of the University. The voices of radical minority were heard in spite of the wide generation gap and answered by gasps and hushes from the silent majority.