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Countercultural Campus   in the early 1960s, allfreshmenenteringMacalesterCollegewererequiredto readapreselectedbookduringthefirstfewweeksof thefallterm.Discussionsof thetext,bothformallyarrangedandinformal,ensued.In1962,thebookselected for the freshmen was B. F. Skinner’s Walden Two; a year later, freshmen read Albert Camus’s The Plague; and in 1964, the selection was William Golding’s The Inheritors. These books—the first portraying an experimental communitarian society attempting to develop a way of life outside of the consumer-oriented, capitalist context of modern life; the second a reflection on free will, authority , and individual responsibility within the context of an overpowering civil threat; and the third depicting an essential inhumanity and brutality at the core of humanexistence—raisedthemesthatMacalesterstudents,alongwithyoung adults across the nation, were debating at the time.1 Echoing the theme of the new Man and His World course, which in 1963 took the place of one required religion course, each of these books invited extended reflection on the role of the individual within social, political, and cultural contexts in which traditional sources of meaning and foundations for moral action are impotent or absent. Whilestudentlifebythelate1960sisfrequentlyrememberedascharacterized byradicalcritique,rebellion,experimentation,andhedonism,attheheartof all theseresponseswasanongoingphilosophicalquestioningof seeminglybankrupt norms and traditions and a desire tofind new ways of being in and knowing the worldthatcutacrossmanyareasof campuslife—asearchformeaningwrapped up in, as one student put it, “the spiritual cry . . . the social cry . . . and the intellectual cry.”2 To address these “cries,” young adults rejected traditional mores Countercultural Campus |  and authorities, developing alternative philosophies and ways of life that felt more authentic, fulfilling, and humane. Pursuing such ideals, students, hippies, artists,druggies,andotherscreatedacounterculturemovementthatsignificantly shaped student life at Macalester in the late 1960s and 1970s. Packing “Relevance” into Education Education itself was among the first targets of countercultural critique—a natural outgrowth of the student movement. At the same time as the professorate , especially at Macalester, was attempting to raise its credentials and professionalize , the traditional structures and methods of the university came under fire by students. The desire for a meaningful—“relevant,” in the parlance of the period—intellectual life permeated education across the United States and at Macalesterduringthisperiod.Traditionalknowledgeandwaysof learningwere increasingly seen as divorced from the problems and issues of real life. The development of the Interim term during January 1964 was a direct response to students’ lobbying for “relevance” in the curriculum. The term was meant to be spent in serious study of topics of unique concern to students. In thewordsof DonGemberlingandArtOgle(classof 1964)intheirunderground newsletter Right and Left in the Ivory Tower, it “should well have been an answer to all our complaints . . . a lack of fulfillment of the liberal arts education— intellectually, spiritually, and socially.”3 Yet while idealism motivated many students ,notallsharedtheenthusiasmforself-directedinquiry.Eventssuchasafield trip to a Greek Orthodox church were canceled “for lack of interest,” voluntary chapel meetings were “almost deserted,” the library stood “almost empty,” and thecampusitself was“de-populated”onweekends,“asthesuitcasersrushhome tobetterfoodandbettersociallife.”Facultywereperceivedasnodeeperintheir commitment to learning, “desert[ing] the place by noon.”4 With Interim, the slippage between the ideal, offering a unique educational opportunity, and the reality, that such opportunities would never be fully embraced by students eager for a range of experiences, became readily apparent. Andthisslippagebetweenloftygoalsandmundanereality,betweenanidealistic striving for new goals and acceptance of traditional ways, created a tension that infused student life throughout the era. TheInterimtermwasonlythefirstof severaleducationalexperimentsaimed atfosteringamoreexperientiallybasededucationalenvironmentatthecollege. As debates about the artificiality of grades and traditional course requirements  | nature & revelation swept the country, and as the Macalester faculty themselves eliminated the physicaleducationandlanguagerequirementsandrelaxedtheliberaleducation requirements in the late 1960s, students lobbied for even more radical change. Thestudent-runMacalesterFreeCollege(MFC),launchedduringspring1968, consistedof studentsteachingcoursesandleadingdiscussionsonahostof topics viewed as more relevant to contemporary life. As Wallace Cason, a senior who chairedtheMFC,explainedtoaSt. Paul Dispatch reporter,theFreeCollegewas conceived as “a cooperative student effort to self-educate on an informal basis, making learning a social thing.”5 According to Cason, the Free College offered a radical critique of education at the college. In his view, “the faculty is at fault for failing to meet the new social outlook of each new wave of freshmen. The studentsareatfaultforfailingtomeetthefacultyhalfwaytotellthefacultywhat we, students, are interested in NOW.”6 In describing the Free College to students, promotional material explained that “Mac’s Free College is set up to involve you in new learning experiences. It is based on the premise that Interim is too good a thing to do only one month out of the year. We will help you to meet new circles of people much more homogeneous and specialized for your interests than school classes can be.”7 A host of courses were offered by several students, including Love and...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780816673346
Related ISBN
9780816656264
MARC Record
OCLC
648711615
Pages
424
Launched on MUSE
2014-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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