On May 4, 1970, the National Guard shot and killed four students during an anti-war protest. The massacre went on to change American culture forever.
- The killings marked the height of escalating tensions between protestors and police in Kent, Ohio, during the spring of 1970.
- Despite how the culture views the tragedy today, the majority of Americans sided with the National Guard shortly after the incident.
- To this day, nobody knows exactly why the guardsmen decided to open fire on the crowd of students.
Today marks the 50th anniversary of the Kent State massacre, in which the National Guard killed four students during a protest against the Vietnam War.
The killings on May 4, 1970 marked "the day the war came home." The already-polarized nation was never the same. After the story broke, with John Filo's famous Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph on the front page of newspapers nationwide, millions of students began organizing school strikes and protesting on a larger scale.
The massacre went on to shape public opinion of the Vietnam War, and some historians suggest it played a role in the downfall of former President Richard Nixon, and helped influence Congress to pass the War Powers Act in 1973, which limited the president's powers to wage war.
In Kent, Ohio, the killings marked the bloody climax of an especially tense week between protestors and police. It started on April 30, when Nixon announced the U.S. would invade Cambodia — a move that came 10 days after the president had announced the withdrawal of 150,000 troops from Vietnam.
On May 1, about 500 students protested on the campus commons of Kent State University, where they buried a copy of the U.S. Constitution and posted a sign on a tree that read: "Why is the ROTC building still standing?" On May 2, the university's ROTC building was set on fire. According to the report of the President's Commission on Campus Unrest:
"Information developed by an FBI investigation of the ROTC building fire indicates that, of those who participated actively, a significant portion weren't Kent State students."
The National Guard arrived in Kent shortly after the building was set ablaze. On May 3, Ohio's Republican Governor Jim Rhodes held a press conference where he pounded on a desk and called the protestors "the worst type of people that we harbor in America."
May 4 fell on a Monday. Student protest leaders had called for a rally to be held on the campus commons around noon. Earlier that morning, the university had distributed thousands of leaflets declaring all rallies to be illegal, as the National Guard now controlled campus.
Around noon, hundreds of students had gathered on the commons, which was also occupied by about 100 guardsmen with gas-masks and M-1 military rifles. In total, there were approximately 3,000 people at the scene — 500 demonstrators, 1,000 "cheerleaders" who supported the active protestors, and about 1,500 spectators, according to Kent State University.
Here's how Jerry M. Lewis and Thomas R. Hensley, Kent State professors of sociology and political science, respectively, once described what happened next:
"Shortly before noon, General Canterbury made the decision to order the demonstrators to disperse. A Kent State police officer standing by the Guard made an announcement using a bullhorn. When this had no effect, the officer was placed in a jeep along with several Guardsmen and driven across the Commons to tell the protestors that the rally was banned and that they must disperse. This was met with angry shouting and rocks, and the jeep retreated. Canterbury then ordered his men to load and lock their weapons, tear gas canisters were fired into the crowd around the Victory Bell, and the Guard began to march across the Commons to disperse the rally. The protestors moved up a steep hill, known as Blanket Hill, and then down the other side of the hill onto the Prentice Hall parking lot as well as an adjoining practice football field. Most of the Guardsmen followed the students directly and soon found themselves somewhat trapped on the practice football field because it was surrounded by a fence. Yelling and rock throwing reached a peak as the Guard remained on the field for about 10 minutes. Several Guardsmen could be seen huddling together, and some Guardsmen knelt and pointed their guns, but no weapons were shot at this time. The Guard then began retracing their steps from the practice football field back up Blanket Hill. As they arrived at the top of the hill, 28 of the more than 70 Guardsmen turned suddenly and fired their rifles and pistols. Many guardsmen fired into the air or the ground. However, a small portion fired directly into the crowd. Altogether between 61 and 67 shots were fired in a 13-second period."
Ultimately, four students were killed, and nine were injured. The dead were: Miss Allison B. Krause, 19, Pittsburgh, Pa.; Miss Sandy Lee Scheuer, 20, Youngstown, Ohio; Jeffrey G. Miller, 20, Plainview, N.Y., and William K. Schroeder, 19, Lorain, Ohio. Eight Ohio National Guardsmen later faced criminal charges, but all were acquitted.
"There is no evidence from which the jury could conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendants acted with premeditation, prior consultation with each other, or any actively formulated intention io punis or otherwise deprive any students of their constitutional rights," a federal judge wrote in 1974.
Some details of that spring afternoon remain murky. But what's clear is that America was violently polarized in 1970. The nation was five years into the Vietnam War, which had already killed thousands of young draftees and helped spawn the counterculture movement and its accompanying protests — some peaceful, some violent.
A culture war was escalating. Broadly speaking, it was between young Americans who felt disillusioned by the violence and status quo, and a more conservative swath of the country who felt the war was necessary, or even patriotic. After all, young Americans were dying abroad on behalf of their country: Was it all for nothing?
It's worth considering this culture war when looking back at Kent State. After all, not all Americans viewed the incident as a misuse of state power, as it's widely portrayed today. In fact, shortly after the killings, the majority of Americans (58 percent) supported the guardsmen. And that anti-anti-war sentiment sometimes manifested violently.
For example, during the "Hard Hat Riot" of May 7, construction workers in New York City beat student protestors who were trying to shut down Wall Street a day after marching through Manhattan for the funeral of one of the students slain at Kent State. Some of the "hard hats" even chased students back to Pace University and invaded buildings. The riot marked a symbolic turning point in which the Nixon administration was able to win over some working-class Democrats who had grown fed up with the anti-war movement. "These, quite candidly, are our people now," top aide Patrick Buchanan told Nixon.
May 4, 1970: The end of the '60s
May 4 was the day the '60s died, say some historians. But the Kent State massacre wasn't the only instance around the turn of the decade where police killed unarmed protestors. In 1968, during an anti-segregation protest on the campus of South Carolina State University, the South Carolina Highway Patrol killed three black student protestors, and shot more than 20 protestors as they tried to run away. In 1969, police shot and killed a 25-year-old protestor during a demonstration near UC Berkeley. And on May 17, 10 days after Kent State, police in riot gear killed two students during a protest at Jackson State, a historically black college.
To this day, nobody knows exactly why the guardsmen decide to fire on the unarmed students at Kent State.
"No one knew the national guard had real bullets. We were completely shocked. It just never occurred to anyone that they would actually have bullets to shoot people. It may sound naive but we talked about that for years afterwards," said Lou Capecci, a former Kent State student who attended the May 4 protest.
Richard Lyon's visionary plan for the future of innovation at Berkeley.
- UC Berkeley's new vision to be carried out by Rich Lyons, its new chief innovation and entrepreneurship officer.
- Richard Lyons talks with Big Think about the need to transform universities' "intellectual capital."
- All educational disciplines could benefit with greater innovative principles.
As universities are forced to confront a rapidly transforming educational landscape, the University of California, Berkeley, recently announced that the post of their first-ever chief innovation and entrepreneurship officer (CIEO) would go to its former dean of the Haas School of Business, and longtime UC Berkeley alumnus and facility member, Richard Lyons.
According to leadership at the university, the position is meant to enhance innovation interdepartmentally, while also integrating an enterprising mindset across the forward-thinking campus. Big Think caught up with Richard Lyons to get some insight into his vision for the university in the years to come. Lyons sees tremendous opportunity to make an impact with his new position — it touches the entirety of the university.
In sum, he intends on giving the UC Berkeley's future students the tools they need to turn their intellectual creativity — and the "intellectual product" that comes with it — into a transformational net gain for themselves and society at large.
UC Berkeley’s new position
Image source: Wikimedia Commons.
A UC Berkeley press release announced that Richard's role would be effective January 1, 2020, after which he would go on to start developing and communicating Berkeley's intellectual and innovative portfolio throughout campus, the community, and the business world at large.
Vice Chancellor for Research Randy Katz sees this leadership position as one that'll take on a dynamic role both within the university and outside of it. In an email statement Katz stated:
"The CIEO role has two parts: to be an evangelist for Berkeley entrepreneurship to the outside world of the Bay Area, national, and international innovation ecosystem, and to work on advancing our campus culture for entrepreneurship and innovation."
On the subject of these two parts — Berkeley advocacy and fostering a campus culture of entrepreneurship — Lyons felt that acting on both fronts was equally important. At the core, Lyon's is focused on asking the tough questions:
"What opportunities are we trying to address? The intellectual creativity of Berkeley is truly remarkable. How is that 'intellectual product' going to be transformed into a benefit of society?."
Lyons has served as dean for 11 years, during which he helped to foster a culture of entrepreneurship and lay the groundwork for the campus' larger innovation goals. Lyons launched a number of entrepreneurship programs. One example of note is the Berkeley SkyDeck startup accelerator created in 2012.
The creation of the position comes off the heels of an important and extensive report titled "Entrepreneurship at Berkeley." This was a year-long study conducted by the former Vice Chancellor for Research Paul Alivisatos, commissioned for the university to figure out how they could expand their entrepreneurship environment into the greater community.
Future role at the university
Photo credit: Noah Berger / University of California, Berkeley
A role like CIEO comes with a lot of uncharted territory. But it's also an absolutely necessary role moving forward in the future university landscape. Richard sees the role as an entrepreneurial challenge in itself. Like an upstart, he'll be tasked with using resources that he himself doesn't control, and will have to put together the pieces as he goes along.
"One of the fun things is. . . the role is yet to be designed and created. There are a lot of degrees of freedom to put the priorities where we feel they should be. I know the institution very well and can marshal the resources and people around the vision to get things done."
With a growing interest on college campuses worldwide in entrepreneurial activities, the current higher educational industry is poised with the unique opportunity to prioritize innovation throughout the whole system.
Whether that's forming new partnerships with startup communities, commercializing research, or giving students the resources they need to succeed in the choppy waters of entrepreneurship — the result will hopefully be a net gain.
Strengthening a culture of innovation
UC Berkeley is one of the world's top public schools for graduating the most-funded startup founders. It has a rich tradition of churning out innovative entrepreneurs and successful companies. The fulfillment of this new position seems to be the next logical step in the university's bid to transform their business outreach.
Great institutions are obsessed with getting better. – Richard Lyons
Even more so than just printing out new founders and startups, Lyon's vision is to also impart the enterprising mindset to students of all disciplines. "We put a lot of remarkable people into society from the sciences, business world, and humanities," he says.
Lyons imagines the many possibilities for incorporating this mindset into numerous types of undergraduate studies. He believes that students who are less receptive to a business mindset might reconsider its value if the principles of entrepreneurship were presented to them correctly.
Berkeley has a rich history of divergent thinking. The Bay Area has been home to some of the most important cultural events in the past century. Lyon's mentions the rich cultural artifacts we have left over from the 1960s.
"Think about the enterprising spirit of the 1960s. These things didn't just happen. You have to get people's attention, organize and communicate in certain ways. These are all things that would fascinate a humanist or really anyone... and speak to the wisdom of the people, who haven't always been included in the dominion of the entrepreneurship spirit."
Lyons has set a number of, what he calls, "measurable milestones" that he's looking forward to accomplishing in this exciting new position. Perhaps the most standout, the transmission of entrepreneurial skills to the avant-garde student body at large.
Some of the world's most prestigious universities aren't in America.
- China's Tsinghua and Peking University are on par with Harvard and MIT.
- These 10 universities consistently shuffle around for top tier status in Asian college rankings.
- Universities in Japan, Singapore, South Korea, and China have churned out dozens of Nobel Laureates and other renowned figures.
Asia possesses some of the most cutting-edge and finest universities in the world. While we're all accustomed to the powerhouse and traditional American and U.K.-based universities, in the past 100 years Asia has seen a surge of growth.
Leading the way in terms of advanced future research, while also partnering with established university systems around the world — Asia has become a destination for some of the world's best and brightest.
Tsinghua University is one of the most prestigious institutions in China. Leading a rigorous multidisciplinary system for the past three decades, it has gone through many iterations and changes since its creation in 1911.
Known as one of the most elite schools in China, and referred to some as the "MIT of China," the school prides itself on its strength in engineering and the sciences. Admitted students must have excellent scores on their national exams. Tsinghua consistently ranks in the top 30 of The World University Rankings.
The campus is located in northwest Beijing alongside other colleges inside of a designated university hub. Built on the former Qing Dynasty royal gardens, the campus has a remarkably beautiful synthesis of ancient Chinese and Western architecture. Two Nobel Prize winners have either went to or worked for the university. Many graduates go on to become influential in Chinese politics.
Peking University is considered to be the first national university in China, having been founded in the late 19th century. Dubbed the "Harvard of China," it is a major cultural hub and center of China's humanities.
Peking also sits on former Qing Dynasty imperial gardens. Over 2,000 international students attend the university every year. It is well known for having one of the largest libraries in all of Asia, with over 11 million books and other printed resources in its massive library. Three Nobel prize winners have been associated with the university.
National University of Singapore
The National University of Singapore or (NUS) is the oldest university in the country and has the greatest amount of students, too. While it is an outstanding school for engineering and technology, it also has a dedicated center for innovation and entrepreneurship in the tech field. This "technopreneurship" focus has been around for the past 30 years.
The university has a flexible degree granting system — the students have the ability to transfer between departments and different faculties early on to facilitate a more robust, cross-disciplinary education rather than focusing too much on one subfield.
Their four "Research Centres of Excellence" focus on quantum technologies, cancer research, mechanobiology, and environmental life sciences. They have an impressive list of alumni that include four Singaporean prime ministers and presidents and two Malaysian prime ministers.
University of Tokyo
University of Tokyo is the first national university of Japan established in 1877. Spread between three campuses between Hongo, Komaba, and Kashiwa, the University of Tokyo has a number of facilities throughout the metropolitan area.
The university has a unique course structure, where students embark first on a two year liberal arts education at one campus before transferring to another location to finish their intended major. From a previous ranking by the Professional Ranking of World Universities, the University of Tokyo ranked second behind Harvard University in having the most number of alumni having CEO positions in Fortune 500 companies.
One of their campuses (Shirokane) has one of the largest supercomputers in the field that is focused on genome research.
Seoul National University
Originally founded by the Japanese empire in the 1940s, the Japanese imperial college standing was eventually abolished and merged into the university with a number of other nearby institutions.
Seoul National University consistently ranks globally and in the top universities in Asia. It is situated in the heart of South Korea's capital city. The main campus, Gwanak has over 200 buildings for all of its students and staff and even comes with its own subway station.
There are a number of famous alumni and international political figures that include the former UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon, Song Sang-hyun former president of the International Criminal Court and Lee Jong-wook, former head of the World Health Organization.
University of Hong Kong
Founded by a British governor in 1911, the University of Hong Kong (HKU) was originally a prominently English-based university. In 1927 it began to integrate within the surrounding Chinese culture and begin offering courses and degrees in Chinese. Their main building was built in 1912 and is considered a national monument, alongside it are a number of other British colonial architecture buildings.
As a very selective school, it's a highly sought out after place for students from mainland China. All students are required to be proficient in both English and Chinese language courses. Many HKU graduates go on to become Chinese politicians and hold positions of power in private industry.
Duke Kunshan University
Duke Kunshan University sets itself apart from the other top asian schools on this list, as it is relatively new — it was founded in 2013. The university is an international partnership between Duke University and Wuhan University. This said, it offers a wide range of world-class academic programs for Chinese and international students.
Duke Kunshan is based in Kunshan, Jiangsu province, China. Situated on a 200 acre area, the entire campus is decidedly modern and in close proximity to Shanghai by means of a high-speed rail. The city of Kunshan has become a leading hub of high tech research and manufacturing in China. It also considered to be one of the fastest areas of growth in all of China.
Their Global Health Research Center has been established with the Duke Global Health Institute, in order to address health issues endemic to China and the region. Many of its research programs are centered around the Chinese population and the health problems they face, such as chronic disease and environmental health.
Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
Another prestigious university in Hong Kong, the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology was created in 1991. Their main focus is on science, technology and engineering. The campus is based in the Northern part of the Sai Kung district and is built out of terraces carved in the hillside.
Their Lee Shau Kee Library is known for containing one of the largest collections of maps of China and Asia — they were produced by cartographers over the past 500 years. Alongside many other prestigious Asian universities on this list, HKUST has previously ranked as a top university of all of Asia. A recent Global University Employability Ranking, found that graduates have some of the highest employment rates in all of Greater China within the past five years.
Kyoto University is the second oldest Japanese university and one of Japan's National Seven Universities. Its campus is spread between three campuses residing in Yoshida, Uji, and Katsura. Founded in 1897 and originally known as the Kyoto Imperial University, the institution received its new name in 1947.
It has a number of notable research facilities, such as the Yukawa Institute for theoretical physics, which has produced many Nobel Laureates — 10 to be exact. While predominantly a Japanese institution, the university offers a 15-week program at the Education Center for Japanese Language and Culture for international researchers that want to learn and study the language.
Pohang University of Science and Technology
Another great university to come out of South Korea, established in 1986 the Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH) is a leading research facility with tight ties to the technological industry. It has a bilingual campus, making it a popular university in both South Korea and the world.
A privately-run institution, POSTECH is a great school for international English students as more than 85 percent of the classes that count for credit are conducted in English. With a small enrollment and research centered approach, the university attracts a number of top students from all over the world.
Why Asia and America are trading places
Why have some conspiracy theories been pushed back into the public? Because when you try to force them out of the mainstream, they'll find a wider audience on the fringes.
Liberal college students have taken to shouting down certain right-leaning speakers on campus that they don't agree with. Michael Shermer, the publisher of Skeptic Magazine, thinks that is the worst thing you can do. He posits that all you do when you prevent someone from speaking is make certain people want to hear them more. This has led to the rise of the conspiracy theorists and why fringe ideas—from something as silly as flat-earth believers to something as morally reprehensible as Nazism and Holocaust deniers—have been pushed back into the mainstream. Michael's new book is Heavens on Earth: The Scientific Search for the Afterlife, Immortality, and Utopia.
While we often criticize the humanities for not providing an education that leads directly to employment, one philosopher argues they have an even more important role to play in our societies.
We’ve discussed before that Socrates, one of the greatest things to come out of Athens, hated Athenian democracy. While he had many reasons to do so, one of the primary ones was that the typical Athenian had no idea what they were discussing, and were prone to using emotion over reason when making important political decisions. They lacked both the skills for critical thinking and viewing the world outside their own perspective to be proper democratic citizens.
But, as philosopher Martha Nussbaum argues, we can avoid those problems by placing a high value on an education in the humanities. A high value which today is often difficult to find.
In her book Not for Profit, Why Democracy Needs the Humanities, Nussbaum lays out the case that a job oriented education, one focused on preparing students for work, is far from enough to assure that the students will also be able to function as democratic citizens in a pluralistic, modern, and globalized, society.
While she doesn’t deny the need for technical education; she argues that a purely job oriented education, or even one which is highly focused on a narrow field of study, does not promote the development of critical thinking skills, the ability to consider differing viewpoints, an understanding of people vastly different from themselves, or strong methods for finding truth for themselves that people need as citizens.
These skills, she argues, are best found in the arts and humanities as promoted by a liberal arts education at all levels. While the United States is doing well at the university level of teaching these things, she contests that we are often unwilling or unable to do so at the grade school or high school level. If we do not assure students have access to the arts and humanities, she posits, we are likely to fall victim to demagoguery and lose the benefits of a modern democratic society.
Well, what’s wrong with our current method of teaching the humanities? Why write a whole book on this?
A major issue in modern American education she discusses is the increasing use of standardized fill in the bubble tests, and the tendency of teachers to “teach to the test”. It isn’t impossible to teach the humanities in a way that can be easily tested, the treatment of philosophy as a test subject for the A and O level exams in the United Kingdom has shown that much, but Nussbaum shows us how a multiple-choice test is unlikely to encourage any skills other than the regurgitation of information. They aren’t even that good at what they claim to do anyway.
With the national focus increasingly given to education for employment and competitiveness those parts of education which seem unlikely to lead to employment are the most simple to justify cuts to. Nussbaum laments this, and notes that at her own university advertising geared towards new students focuses nearly exclusively on those programs seen as practical and leading to employment. She dubs the combination of funding cuts and lack of attention a “crisis of massive proportions” which is still underway.
Suppose we just got rid of the humanities. Can’t we be a free people without them?
The myriad examples of tyrants attacking the arts and humanities suggests we might be wise to hold on to them. She cites, among other events, the prohibition of teaching the Korean language in public schools and the crackdown on Confucian education in general during Korea’s occupation by Imperial Japan. All a key part of the plan to reduce the Korean people to servants of Japanese imperialism, a role which had no need for a non-technical education.
Nussbaum later argues that the most cartoonish and often horrifying mistakes made by the Athenian democracy, which caused thinkers like Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle to reject democracy, could have been easily avoided if the population had any of the skills an education in the humanities provides.
The Funeral Oration of Pericles, an example of the Athenians being led by a populist working in their interest. Often, they were only led astray.
Is she alone in these ideas? Does anybody else argue that a democracy requires these skills?
Socrates, as depicted in The Republic, favored an intensive education for the philosopher kings he saw as the ideal rulers of his utopia. While his proposed curriculum is not the liberal arts education Americans know today, it is one that promotes the search for truth with the use of reason and logic and assures that the leaders of the city state will know not only how to lead, but how to approach the problems they may face as leaders. While he didn’t wish for the majority to lead a nation, it is clear he understood that those who do lead must have certain intellectual skills. In a democracy, these leaders are the people.
Aldous Huxley, philosopher, author of Brave New World, and noted psychonaut, made a similar observation in Brave New World, Revisited. Where he noted with terror that the world was moving towards his dystopia much faster than he had predicted and proposed education for democracy as a key tool to prevent this. He later elaborated on his proposed curriculum for a free people in his utopian work Island.
Okay, what does our situation look like now?
We presently have a better education system than the people of Athens; who ended their formal education in adolescence and denied it to women and non-citizens. Often inspired by Socrates and his pedagogy, today’s students can find a humanistic education in the American, Scottish, and (increasingly) Korean education systems dedicated to making them fully rounded individuals and citizens.
While Nussbaum warns us to be on the lookout to attacks on and financial cutbacks to the liberal arts model of education, we have reason to be optimistic as well. She mentions many excellent programs in American schools, such as Future Problem Solvers, as examples of democratic education done correctly and in a way that assures continued support.
The study of the humanities can have many practical uses. It can even be used to find employment, no matter what the nay-sayers might tell you. More importantly, they have an intrinsic value in allowing us to fully develop as individuals. In today’s climate, they also take on the role of helping us make democracy possible. Without a proper education in the humanities, where we learn how to understand people we may never meet, how to evaluate arguments and charged rhetoric, and imagine differing scenarios from those we see every day, we may be doomed to the fate of many a failed democracy before us.
But, if we utilize the fantastic tools we have access to, rise to the challenge of giving everyone the education they need, and emphasize all vital subject matter-even if it seems impractical, Nussbaum argues that we have much reason for optimism and the chance for the continued success of democracy all over the world.