Gabriel Matthew Schivone, a reporter for the University of Arizona at Tucson’s Daily Wildcat, snagged an interview with Noam Chomsky recently, and Chomsky had some interesting things to say about student activism in the sixties and today.

The whole thing — including Schivone’s analysis of the role of protest on the campus — is worth reading, but here are a couple of choice Chomsky quotes:

When people talk about “the sixties,” what they are thinking of is about two years. You know, 1968, 1969, roughly. A little bit before, a little bit later. And it’s true that student activism today is not like those two years. But, on the whole, I think it’s grown since the 1960s. So, take the feminist and the environmental movements. I mean, they’re from the seventies. Take the International Solidarity Movement — that’s from the eighties. Take the Global Justice Movement, which just had another huge meeting in Brazil. That’s from this century. Plenty of students are involved in these things. In fact, the total level of student involvement in various things is probably as huge as it’s ever been, except for maybe the very peak in the 1960s. It’s not what I would like it to be, but it’s far more than it’s been.

Elite sectors and centers of power want students to be passive and apathetic. One of the reasons for the very sharp rise in tuition is to kind of capture students. You know, if you come out of college with a huge debt, you’re gonna have to work it off. I mean, you’re gonna have to become a corporate lawyer or go into business or something. And you won’t have time for engaged activism. The students of the sixties could take off a year or two and devote it to activism and think, ‘Okay, I’ll get back into my career later on.’ Now, that’s much harder today. And not by accident. These are disciplinary techniques.


Good stuff.