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1. Trust is a risk worth taking.
2. A rough beginning can be a reason for optimism.
3. The people you are in awe of are often in awe of you.
4. Sleeping on a church floor is a beautiful thing.
5. The road is long because it’s supposed to be long.
6. Sharing stories is life-altering.
7. The beloved community exists in a state of constant reinvention.
8. Where the movement is now … is thrilling.

“The University of California was a young, comparatively small institution when I entered there in 1885 as a freshman. … My class numbered about one hundred boys and girls, mostly boys, who came from all parts of the State and represented all sorts of people and occupations. … We found already formed at Berkeley the typical undergraduate customs, rights, and privileged vices which we had to respect ourselves and defend against the faculty, regents, and the State government.

“One evening, before I had matriculated, I was taken out by some upper classmen to teach the president a lesson. He had been the head of a private preparatory school and was trying to govern the private lives and the public morals of university “men” as he had those of his schoolboys. Fetching a long ladder, the upper classmen thrust it through a front window of Prexy’s house and, to the chant of obscene songs, swung it back and forth, up and down, round and round, till everything breakable within sounded broken and the drunken indignation outside was satisfied or tired.

“This turned out to be one of the last battles in the war for liberty against that president. He was allowed to resign soon thereafter and I noticed that not only the students but many of the faculty and regents rejoiced in his downfall and turned with us to face and fight the new president when, after a lot of politics, he was appointed and presented. We learned somehow a good deal about the considerations that governed our college government. They were not only academic. The government of a university was — like the State government and horse-racing and so many other things — not what I had been led to expect. And a college education wasn’t either, nor the student mind.”

—The Autobiography of Lincoln Steffens

“All Art is propaganda and ever must be, despite the wailing of the purists. I stand in utter shamelessness and say that whatever art I have for writing has been used always for propaganda for gaining the right of black folk to love and enjoy. I do not care a damn for any art that is not used for propaganda.”

—WEB DuBois

“Student fees in state universities are usually confined to minor charges for matriculation, gymnasium, laboratory materials, and breakages, etc., which rarely amount to more than $50 a year for undergraduates. With the exception of Vermont none of the institutions in this group charges a regular tuition fee to residents of their respective states except in the professional departments, and in a few cases in engineering colleges. … The total revenue from student fees in 1910-1911, excluding board and rental of rooms, exceeded $100,000 in only six of the state universities — California, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin, Michigan leading with $339,000. … The University of Washington, with half as many students as Michigan, but with only 277 professional students out of 2142, received from student fees $15,000. In contrast to these figures of the revenues from student fees, should be placed those of Harvard, $651,000, Chicago, $581,000, and Columbia, including the Teacher’s College and Summer School, $1,164,000.”

A Cyclopedia of Education, edited by Paul Monroe, 1913.

The always-thoughtful danah boyd (those lower case letters are her idea) speaks up for youthful recklessness:

I’m worried about our societal assumption that risk-taking without thinking of the consequences is an inherently bad thing. We need some radical thinking to solve many of the world’s biggest problems. And I don’t believe that it’s so easy to separate out what adults perceive as ‘good’ risk-taking from what they think is ‘bad’ risk-taking. But how many brilliant minds will we destroy by punishing their radical acts of defying authority? How many brilliant minds will we destroy by punishing them for ‘being stupid’? It’s easy to get caught up in a binary of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ when all that you can think about is the consequences. But change has never happened when people simply play by the rules. You have to break the rules to create a better society. And I don’t think that it’s easy to do this when you’re always thinking about the consequences of your actions.

I’m not arguing for anarchy. I’m too old for that. But I am arguing that we should question our assumption that people are better off when they have the cognitive capacity to think through consequences. Or that society is better off when all individuals have that mental capability. From my perspective, there are definitely pros and cons to overthinking and while there are certainly cases where future-aware thought is helpful, there are also cases where it’s not. And I also think that there are some serious consequences of imprisoning youth until they grow up.

Read the whole thing.

About This Blog

n7772graysmall is the work of Angus Johnston, a historian and advocate of American student organizing.

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