The Hedgehog Review

The Hedgehog Review: Vol. 12, No. 1 (Spring 2010)

A Failure to Communicate: Benjamin Braddock and the Aims of Education

Edward J. K. Gitre

Reprinted from The Hedgehog Review 12.1 (Spring 2010). This essay may not be resold, reprinted, or redistributed for compensation of any kind without prior written permission. Please contact The Hedgehog Review for further details.

The Hedgehog Review

The Hedgehog Review: Spring 2010

(Volume 12 | Issue 1)

These days American higher education —much envied, once seemingly impregnable—has found itself settling into a deep funk. Suffering from plummeting endowments and overextended commitments, institutions everywhere are having to make hard, pragmatic concessions to fiscal exigencies. Even the Ivies are learning to make do. Apparently, according to the New York Times, Harvard’s Widener Library has withdrawn complimentary pastries. The already-have-nots can now jeer, but no one can gainsay the Great Recession’s deleterious effects.

Where education is concerned, it appears the privatization of the republic may be coming to a head. Nearly from the republic’s inception, the nation’s leadership class had convinced itself of the civic virtues of an educated citizenry. “No republic can maintain itself in strength” without it, Thomas Jefferson wrote to John Tyler in 1810. It alone would “enable every man to judge for himself what will secure or endanger his freedom.”1 In modern times the blue-to-white-collar conversion of our economy from raw resources and industrial manufacturing to information and sophisticated technologies bolstered Jeffersonian virtue with a strong dose of Millsian self-interest. Add into this mix Congress’s passage of the 1944 GI Bill, which inundated higher education with millions of average American males, and there is the basis of our official ideology. For years it has had us believing that, as the president of the University of California Student Association, Victor Sanchez, put it, education is “a right, and not necessarily a privilege.”2 Increasingly, fewer can afford to foot the bill, including now the state, which has been steadily disinvesting for years.

Not since the sixties have official ideology and institutional practices grown so widely misaligned in so short a period of time as in today’s Great Recession. The debate about the U.S.’s commitment to public education is starting to foment on multiple fronts, not only among old-school leftists and educational ideologues. “There is really a lot of anger over what is going on with our public institution,” says Sanchez, who represents 200,000 hard-hit students. Since 2001 U.C. student fees have spiked 160 percent, not counting the regents’ most recent hike of 32 percent, which threatens to push more underrepresented students out of the system. “Opportunity is dwindling,” Sanchez explains. “Right now you are seeing a lot of mobilization around the resistance of it turning into more and more of a private university system like structure.”3 In solidarity, over one hundred far-flung organizations, including sixteen chapters of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), signed onto a pledge to make March 4 a “National Day of Action to Defend Education.”4

The University of California has become the touchstone of a “new student movement,” Sanchez and others believe. For members of the original student movement, a key point of contention was the system’s too-rapid expansion, whereas today’s problem, especially in California, is its precipitous contraction. Mario Savio’s incendiary December 1964 slam against the “multiversity”—“You’ve got to put your bodies upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop”—is being replayed for inspiration and historical context. Channeling Savio, reports connecting old-to-new are prone to focus on the frisson of civil rights sit-ins, Vietnam protests, and errant rabble-rousing without recognizing some of the deeper cultural connections that join the two. What is taking place is not simply a revolt over tuition fees, although there is something to that. Rather, the university and the public are being asked to own up to a widening deficit of trust that calls into question the commitment of the republic to an educated citizenry.

Master Planning

Fueling today’s Recession-sparked crisis is a toxic interplay between institutional policies and practices and a perceived deficit of leadership. U.C. president Mark Yudof has become deeply unpopular among Californians. In an interview this past summer, he near fatally shot off his own political foot. When asked, “What do you think of the idea that no administrator at a state university needs to earn more than the president of the United States, $400,000?” Yudof, whose base salary starts at $540,000, retorted by joking, “will you throw in Air Force One and the White House?”5 Yudof so far remains a far cry, however, from the bête noire of the sixties and seventies, his predecessor as U.C. president, Clark Kerr. For years his name was a national anathema.

For paradoxical reasons, the former CEO of U.C. continues to haunt the aims of education debate. Activists like Sanchez defend their right to education by invoking Kerr’s greatest achievement, California’s 1960 Master Plan for Higher Education. Anticipating the baby boomer generation, it established the state’s three-tier system and (theoretically) opened up higher education to the state’s entire citizenry. The raising of student fees is, Sanchez argues, “directly in defiance” of the Master Plan.6 Still, to accomplish the nobler aims of this grand strategy of universal education, the “Master Planner,” Kerr, recognized that he would have to turn the state’s disparate colleges and universities into a more seamless, bureaucratized, “multiversity,” to use his term. The Master Plan created a multi-billion dollar education empire that serviced not only hundreds of thousands of undergraduates, but a mélange of disparate interest groups. Through size, revenues, and constituencies, the Master Plan’s multiversity had to mimic the modern state and thus codify an interest-group approach to university politicking. This is the great irony. The very “system” these new and old student movements (read: interest groups) battle is the very system that gives and gave them life.

Kerr laid out his defense of the Master Plan in an infamous set of Harvard University lectures—the Godkin lectures—which were soon afterward published with the same title, The Uses of the University (1963). An inspiration for other administrators, nothing would unify disaffected students as effectively and efficiently as Kerr’s unblinking defense of the system he had just created. In Uses, Kerr said to the nation that if it wanted to prepare its baby boomers for the emerging “knowledge economy,” it had to stop trying to recreate quaintly medieval Oxbridge copycats. Instead, America ought to imitate the California system, which was being optimized to operate along the lines of a modern-day, multinational conglomerate, where, Kerr explained,

many parts can be added and subtracted with little effect on the whole or even little notice taken or any blood spilled. It is more a mechanism—a series of processes producing a series of results—a mechanism held together by administrative rules and powered by money.7

This was the vision of the Master Plan. As a result of integration, the U.C. could boast of employing approximately 40,000 workers (“more than IBM”), teaching nearly 300,000 students (200,000 by extension), offering 10,000 courses, delivering 4,000 babies, and being “the world’s largest purveyor of white mice.”8

The nation was certainly paying attention to California. Media outlets, capitalizing on the U.C.’s meteoric growth, helped to inject Kerr’s corporatist vision with a sense of inevitability. For its October 17, 1960, issue, which surveyed the state of public higher education, Time slapped Kerr on the cover. Inside it focused almost entirely on the great gains of the Golden State. The challenge, Time divined, was “to keep mass education from becoming mob education.”9 California’s size and speed of growth would test its capacity to deliver on mass over mob. Already it had the nation’s biggest public school system and the nation’s highest number of collegians, 80 percent on public campuses. The rate of growth was phenomenal: each minute it was adding an additional person to its population by birth or migration, which was translating into the need for a new school every year. Such explosive growth was inspiring vast educational empires and “an impulse towards empire building,” Time observed.10 Thankfully, though, the state had in Kerr, opined the magazine, a brilliant, persuasive, courageous “Master Planner,” who ran California’s empire on “green ink, inner logic and hope.”11 The piece ended as an encomium to this assiduous, liberal-leaning, Quaker president who stood on the cusp of fulfilling Jefferson’s ideal of an educated citizenry.

Kinks in the System

Time’s picture of a humming machine glossed over the reality of a Leviathan empire that was convulsing its way into the future. Kerr himself recognized its many kinks and painted a far less ennobling portrait of his own reign in Uses. This was not an unswerving august monarch, to be sure. U.C.’s CEO wore the hat of an initiator and educator when he could, but he admitted to being mainly an “officeholder, care-taker, inheritor, consensus-seeker, persuader, bottleneck,” and mostly a mere “mediator.”12 Coming out in Uses looking more like a mid-level manager in an unwieldy bureaucracy than the president of the nation’s largest and most ambitious public education empire, Kerr projected his own other-directed mediator-presidency outward onto the multiversity that was under his charge.

Despite its legion accomplishments, the U.C. of Uses is not the shiny ivory tower of lore. The multiversity’s competing interests include not only the usual alumni association or territorial faculty member, but so, too, wealthy foundations, the federal government, as well as, Kerr conceded, the “surrounding and sometimes engulfing industry.”13 As a consequence, U.C.’s president dropped any notion of the university having some sort of uniquely unifying purpose toward which all its efforts ought to be directed. “Intellect” had already become, he wrote, “an instrument of national purpose” and “a component part of the ‘military-industrial complex.’”14 Given its connection to California’s booming defense contracting economy, there was much truth to this. What alarmed so many readers of Uses beyond this bald admission was its author’s acquiescence. “The process cannot be stopped. The results cannot be foreseen. It remains to adapt,” he wrote.15 Kerr was writing about the crouching hegemony of the sciences and engineering, although this distinction was lost in translation. Protestors took this as emblematic of Kerr’s general (non)leadership.

Promising to educate California’s booming citizenry, the Master Plan indeed opened the floodgates. Berkeley cranked up its intake of first-years by 37 percent over the course of a single year (1963–4), for example. But what kind of education could the university deliver working at this break-neck rate? In a June 1965 CBS News Special Report called “The Berkeley Rebels,” the nation saw a side of higher education that was truly uninspiring.16 Kate Coleman, an attractive, well-dressed, disillusioned fourth-year, complains, “I learned, but I learned in spite of the university. I got the great bureaucratic education. I learned by beating the system.” Some of her courses had mushroomed to well over a thousand—“body after body just sitting there.” Some were so large in fact that lectures had to be recorded then broadcast later in annex classrooms. Lecture halls were too small. “I sit there and wonder what the hell am I doing here?… Neither one can see one another in the TV classes, and neither one can communicate. It’s really like. It’s really like looking at one another through a screen. Or it’s like one movie being brought to see another movie and vice versa,” she explains plaintively. “And having gone through this is a horrifying, impersonal experience, where you start asking yourself why should I sit in class?”

What threw a match on the kindle was an early autumn 1964 clamp down on student organizing at Berkeley. Administrators closed a previously sanctioned free-speech zone near campus but off grounds, on Telegraph Ave., to all forms of organized proselytizing (conservative or liberal). A “Free Speech Movement” (FSM) as if by spontaneous combustion organized itself around the issue and sprung into action, and before the end of the term, a spattering of civil-disobedient outbursts churned into a greater conflagration. FSM’s influence far outpaced its membership as it quickly capitalized on the general student disaffection of not only the Colemans but, more dangerously, the underpaid graduate students contracted to keep the system lurching along. Their greatest political asset, though, was the man standing at the helm. His Godkin lectures, observed one commentator, were “converted into an ideology of justification for the revolt.”17 The students were “among its most avid readers,” said another.18

No one more persuasively and effectively harnessed Kerr’s multiversity ideology as the president’s chief opponent, Savio, an earnest-looking philosophy major and civil rights activist. In early December 1964 in a catalytic movement, Savio marched up the steps of Sproul Hall and, in front of several thousand spectators, ignited the student movement:

if President Kerr in fact is the manager, then I’ll tell you something: the faculty are a bunch of employees, and we’re the raw material! But we’re a bunch of raw material[s] that don’t mean to have any process upon us, don’t mean to be made into any product, don’t mean to end up being bought by some clients of the University, be they the government, be they industry, be they organized labor, be they anyone! We’re human beings!19

The crowd went wild, thundering with applause; in Mario they had found their leader. In the coming weeks, months, indeed years, the wounded president tried to walk back what he had said in his lectures, claiming that their tone was originally “wry and semi-humorous,” and he was being misunderstood and misquoted.20 Still, the keg was lit.

Amidst all the bobbing placard, roaring sirens, shouting criminations, recriminations, and arrests, one could easily miss the essential point that the FSM’s moral critique of this Brave New World multiversity was basically, as Savio claimed, “anti-liberal.”21 Indeed, it was precisely Savio’s conservative defense of higher education that would grant this buttoned-down twenty-something a wide hearing beyond the hills of Berkeley. To report on 703 arrested U.C. demonstrators, Life magazine sent its San Francisco correspondent, Jack Fincher, for a sit-down with the FSM leader. Fincher walked away from the conversation convinced by Savio’s indictment, either that or he knew he had gotten sellable copy. “Savio’s rebellion is not so much political as against schools—and a society—where everything seems to be geared to ‘performance and award, prize and punishment—never to study for itself,’” ran the editorial atop Savio’s excerpted interview.22 Berkeley’s rabble-rouser appears as a saintly true believer—a “moral nonconformist” who self-professedly takes “serious questions seriously.” “Being interested in ideas means you have no use in American society…unless they are ideas which are useful to the military-industrial complex,” Savio rues. “The business of the university is teaching and learning. Only people engaged in it—the students and teachers—are competent to decide how it should be done.”23

Had Savio not had a sympathetic audience beyond the Bay Area, the Rebellion would not occupy the place that it does in our nation’s collective memory. After witnessing protestors on a campus tour, Harper’s long-time editor, John Fischer, dismissed commentators who had superficially chalked up the rebellion to “clumsy, indecisive academic administrators” and a “handful of romantic New Leftists.” Fischer was struck that many of the agitators were “ordinary, nonrevolutionary, usually-well-behaved undergraduates” who “felt a deep sense of grievance.” Fischer was won over. “What is going on is not just a passing commotion which can be put down by firmer discipline. Neither is it a revolution,” he wrote.

Instead, I believe, it is the beginning of a counterrevolution by students—against a quiet, almost unremarked revolution which has changed the whole structure of American higher education within the last two or three decades.… Only recently have these students begun to understand how they are victimized—and their protest is likely to swell until at least some of the results of the earlier revolution are reversed.24

Sympathetic students started sporting lapel buttons upon which the handling instructions of the bureaucratically ubiquitous IBM punch card had been reprinted—“Do not bend, fold, spindle, or mutilate” (to which some added, “I am a human being!”). This widely repeated mantra well captured the “counterrevolutionary” spirit of the movement. As FSM’s Jeff Lustig recalls, “we began to insist that the original and still primary purpose of public higher education was political, in the broadest sense, not economic. It was to prepare people for democratic citizenship.”25

The Graduate and “The Sound of Silence”26

The Graduate (1967) became an iconic film of the era for having exploited the “purpose” and aims of education debate. The protagonist, Benjamin Braddock, played by Dustin Hoffman, is an award-winning student who, still not knowing what to do with his life, is forced to return to the comfortable, claustrophobic home of his Southern California childhood. Clueless, he does nothing and instead falls into an affair with the wife of his father’s business partner, the seductive Mrs. Robinson. Benjamin only finds his purpose after inexplicably falling head over heals for Mrs. Robinson’s off-limits daughter, Elaine. The plot is well enough known. The movie ends in a final dramatic scene of rebellious conquest: Benjamin crashes Elaine’s arranged marriage—at the church, after the vows—steals her away, and jumps on a passing public bus. Presumably, they will elope.

As it was originally photographed, the film was supposed to open with a different scene than the one audiences watched. The image of Benjamin floating along an LA airport walkway—the one everyone saw—was initially to be preceded by the graduate’s graduation. The camera cuts in on Benjamin delivering his valedictory. “Today it is right that we should ask ourselves the one most important question: what is the purpose of these years, the purpose for all this demanding work, the purpose for the sacrifices made by those who love us?” Benjamin asks, the crowd basking in the sun, staring blankly back. “Were there NOT a purpose, then all of these past years of struggle, of fierce competition and of uncompromising ambition would be meaningless. But, of course, there is a purpose and I must tell it to you.”

The entire speech has led up to this pinnacle moment. “The purpose, my fellow graduates—[he pauses]—the purpose is—[he pauses again, searching for the words]—there is a reason, my friends, and the reason is—the purpose is….” Benjamin fumbles along as he searches for the answer in the sheaves of paper set before him. Out of nowhere a gust of wind swoops down, snatching the answer from under his sweaty palms. And the scene ends. Viewers will never hear the “purpose.” Fast forward now to a later scene in the movie, which did make it to screen. Benjamin has shrugged off all of his youthful striving for grades and success. His once proud father is annoyed that his slothful son now spends most of his time sunning in the family’s backyard pool. “Would you mind telling me then what were those four years of college for? What was the point of all that hard work?” Mr. Braddock asks. Vacuously, the graduate replies, “you got me.”

The Graduate’s director, Mike Nichols, wisely made the decision to address the counterrevolution not directly but obliquely by focusing on what had emerged as its subtext critique: the “failure to communicate.” Recall for a moment Kate Coleman’s experience of viewing her lectures through closed-circuit television: “Neither one can see one another in the TV classes, and neither one can communicate. It’s really like. It’s really like looking at one another through a screen.” In CBS’s report, Harry Reasoner interviews the U.C.’s mediator, an assistant dean, Thomas Barnes. Befuddled, Barnes says, “I am not sure what this generation is trying to say to us, because it has never come through loud and clear. I am not sure what the message is.” In his ears the message was only about “immediacy”—the “now.” Reasoner cuts in: “The message of this generation may not be clear to some, but it is certainly coming through loud.”27 The leftist author Paul Goodman understood that the failure of communication was the message. “There is a limitless amount of information, polling, data-processing, and decision-making by objective computation” in the university’s knowledge factory, “yet when the chips are down,” writes Goodman, “it turns out that nobody has expressed himself or been understood.”28 Of course this was also the obvious political position of the “Free Speech Movement”: fighting the university’s attempt to “silence” their speech.

Unlike Stuart Rosenberg, the director of Cool Hand Luke (1967), Nichols worked the “failure-to-communicate” motif into a subtler, more evocative filmic concept, which the movie’s Simon and Garfunkel theme song made famous: “The Sound of Silence.” Those attuned to the student rebellion would have noticed, and heard, that the film was riddled with the theme. Verse three of the song introduces the idea of double-edged silence, of no one speaking, no one listening:

And in the naked light I saw

Ten thousand people maybe more

People talking without speaking

People hearing without listening

People writing songs that voices never

No one dared

Disturb the sound of silence
          “Fools,” said I, “you do not know

Silence like a cancer grows

Hear my words that I might teach you

Take my arms that I might reach you”

But my words like silent raindrops fell

And echoed in the wells of silence

“Hear my words that I might teach you” struck a deeply resonant chord with collegians. “If you look carefully, if you bring along your opera glasses, you can see that famous profile, that great fellow,” lecturing you and five hundred other students, Savio explained to Life’s Fincher. “Well, yes, he gives you something that is uniquely his, but it’s difficult to ask questions. It’s got to be a dialogue, getting an education.”29

In nearly every scene of The Graduate, almost every character is misunderstood, misheard, or ignored. Hoffman had his own flourish on the theme by interspersing his lines with “umphs,” groans, or some other verbal sigh to indicate incommunicability. The script itself is littered with question marks, by my count around 450. This is how Nichols and his screenwriters delivered the laughs. Large chunks of the script read like a “Who’s on first?” skit. This, also, is the premise behind Benjamin allowing himself to be seduced by Mrs. Robinson. She evades and misleads; he misunderstands. It is how he first falls into her trap of seduction: through evasions and misunderstandings. The miscommunication in their relationship is mostly comical, although it does draw in the student movement’s moral message. Before making love one evening, well into the affair, he finally demands that they first talk. “I mean are we dead or something?” he asks her unnerved. “All we ever do is come up here and throw off the clothes and leap into bed together.” When she opens up, against her intentions, Benjamin hears the story of a bored, alcoholic housewife who has not slept with her husband in five years, a husband she only married because of an accident in the back of a Ford. “Why are you asking me all this?” she retorts. “Because I’m interested, Mrs. Robinson,” he replies. This is what it means to “talk”—to ask questions, to want to know, to divulge—to be interested.

Nichols wrapped all of these unending questions, umphs, groans, and sighs within a kaleidoscope of visual and auditory cues. The most important of these is the symbolically rich, brightly lit aquarium that sits at the center of Benjamin’s childhood bedroom. Throughout, the movie returns to the tank and its metaphorical doppelganger, the family’s backyard swimming pool. Separated by a wall of glass, there is no communication inside or outside the aquarium, only the sound of gurgling bubbles. Benjamin is like the fish trapped within: exposed, vulnerable, with nowhere to hide. While conveying the social pressures of the graduate’s parents and their cheek-grabbing friends, who are all waiting and watching to see what he will make of his talent and good fortune, it does evoke the possibility of escape: through an inner retreat. When Benjamin needs to withdraw from the world, to think and meditate, or when he is simply bored, he can return to the water and stare blankly into its bubbling void, absorbed in his own inner silence.

Glass and water appear throughout the movie, but nowhere more than in what must be regarded as one of the iconic moments of the filmic sixties: when the graduate is forced to give a “practical demonstration” of his parents’ twenty-first-birthday present, a two hundred dollar scuba suit. The demonstration is as funny as it is brilliant. “Dad, can we just talk about this for a second?… I’d like to discuss this,” a resistant “birthday boy” implores his unbending father. “Dad, can you listen?” Ultimately Benjamin caves and, covered from head to toe, lumbers out of the house and over to the pool. Through his goggles he can see his parents yelling instructions at him while wildly gesticulating. But encased he cannot make out a word of what they are saying, and neither can the movie’s audience, because the microphone and camera have been repositioned inside the suit (as it were). From within, all that can be heard is the graduate’s breathing mechanically through the suit’s air tanks. The final version of the film script captures the intention: “SOUND: the rhythmic PUMPING of air, obliterating the SOUND of the people around the pool who seem to be applauding and chattering noiselessly.”

Benjamin, ignoring everything else, unceremoniously plops into the pool and, instead of performing amazing feats, allows himself to slide gently downward into the murky turquoise water until he lands at the pool’s expansive bottom. As Benjamin stands there expressionless, motionless, the sound of his labored breathing gives way to the gentle metronomic rhythm of the gurgling bubbles that emit from the suit’s outtake valve. Slowly the camera pulls away, panning out. All that is heard as the plastic-wrapped graduate fades into the greenish-blue distance is the continued rhythm of the bubbles unabatedly rising to the pool’s surface, recalling harmless waves lapping tranquilly against a quiet desolate beach: “SOUND of Ben’s BREATHING APPARATUS, fading into the SOUND of the WIND” reads the script. The Frank Halpingham Award Scholar is now alone.

“But you must see it at least three times,” a Columbia graduate student commented at a brunch given by her literature professor. “You see, it has meanings and nuances you don’t get on just one viewing.” During their raid on the university, members of SDS were said to have snuck out of the university’s administration building in small groups to view the movie at a nearby theatre, where lines wrapped around the building and down the street. As the film critic Hollis Alpert, who reported this exchange, observed, much of the conversation over brunch centered on Nichol’s use of glass and water, as it signified to them the graduate’s inability to “get through,” “to communicate with the generation that has produced him.”30 The twenty- and thirty-somethings who flocked to the movie, viewing it not once or twice but in some cases a dozen or more times, well understood the film’s moral message, for it had certainly gotten through. It was that the system had let them down.

By avoiding the obvious politics of protest, Nichols could feed a more encompassing cultural critique of “the system,” which would come to incorporate not only the “military-industrial-educational complex” but eventually seemingly all institutions. While on a national campus tour to promote the film, Nichols was asked one question over and over again: “Why isn’t the movie about Vietnam?” Nichols recalled, “you had to be outraged about Vietnam or it was shit. No matter what you were doing—if you ran a laundry, your shirts had to be outraged about Vietnam.”31 This omission was not the film’s weakness but, ultimately, its cultural strength. The Graduate’s most quoted line comes out of a comical exchange between Benjamin and one of his father’s plaided friends, a Mr. McGuire. With the pool shimmering in the background, the paternal McGuire reverently councils the bemused graduate, “I just want to say one word to you—just—one word.… Plastics…. There’s a great future in plastics.” (Benjamin is then “silenced”: “Shh! Enough said. That’s a deal,” says McGuire.) Younger audiences roared, with repeat viewers shouting in mocking unison with McGuire: “Plastics!” It, plastic, symbolized everything that the Benjamins found so objectionable and phony about Mr. McGuire’s Establishment.

The “Now” Generation

Will present-day Berkeley rival its sixties antecedent? Working against it, none of the students will have politically loaded draft cards to wave over barrels of flame. Still, a lesson of the sixties is certainly worth heeding: as goes public education, so goes the nation. President Obama on the campaign trail promised “hope” and “change,” while JFK on the trail promised “purpose.” Capitalizing on an economic recession and a Sputnik-inspired “national purpose” debate, fueled by the Soviet launch (Did America have an equally ambitious and competitive unifying purpose as the Soviets seemed to posses? If not, why not?), Kennedy made the need for a new national purpose a cornerstone of his campaign. It, too, was wielded as a rhetorical referendum of a sitting, seen-as-ineffectual president—IKE. It, too, would help elect a young, idealistic-looking commander-in-chief. The silencing of “purpose” in Kennedy’s assassination reverberated across the nation. It was after this event that Simon and Garfunkel wrote their elegiac, silent lament. Sixties rebels in debating the purpose of education were in tandem casting a referendum on the nation—the Establishment—and its broken promises of a new day. Now is not so different.

As courses are canceled and protestors take to “direct action,” what will today’s message be? “We have to change the language of the university from an economic exchange into the language of public good,” says Carlo De La Cruz, a Berkeley student.32 There is a great irony in that the same people who want to save California’s Master Plan are drawing inspiration from those who fought tooth and nail against it. But De La Cruz has hit upon a ponderous question: can the university’s current language of economic exchange become again one of public good? Scrambling public universities needing to close budgetary canons are feeling the pressure to accelerate, not reverse, the rate of privatization. Otherwise there will be no competing with the still-endowed privates. While further privatization makes sense practically, no one can conceive of its long-term unintended consequences. Yudoff has promised to “fight like hell” with Sacramento. What students are asking for is not more financial aid alone. They also want assurances of the public’s commitment. California’s Master Plan to educate its citizenry hangs in the balance.


  1. Thomas Jefferson to John Tyler, 1810: <>.
  2. Victor Sanchez, comments delivered at “Is College Only for the Rich? Student Organizing for College Affordability Event,” Campus Progress Forum (2 December 2009): <>.
  3. Sanchez.
  4. March 4, National Day of Action to Defend Education: <>.
  5. Deborah Solomon, “Questions for Mark Yudof: Big Man on Campus,” New York Times Magazine (24 September 2009): <>.
  6. Sanchez.
  7. Clark Kerr, The Uses of the University (1963; Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001) 15.
  8. Kerr 6.
  9. “Master Planner,” Time (17 October 1960): <,8816,895026,00.html>.
  10. “Master Planner.”
  11. “Master Planner.”
  12. Kerr 22, 27.
  13. Kerr 92.
  14. Kerr 93.
  15. Kerr 93.
  16. “The Berkeley Rebels,” CBS News(1965): <>.
  17. Michael V. Miller, “The Student State of Mind,” Dissent 12 (Spring 1965): 176.
  18. Nathan Glazer, “What Happened at Berkeley,” Commentary 39 (January 1965): 43.
  19. Mario Savio, public address, 2 December 1964: <>.
  20. Clark Kerr, “An Exchange on Berkeley,” New York Review of Books 4 (8 April 1965): <>.
  21. “Angry Words from Mario Savio, Spokesman for California’s Students Now Facing Trial,” Life (26 February 1965): 100.
  22. “Angry Words from Mario Savio,” 101.
  23. “Angry Words from Mario Savio,” 100.
  24. John Fischer, “The Case for the Rebellious Students and Their Counterrevolution,” Harper’s 237 (August 1968): 9.
  25. Jeff Lustig, “The FSM and the Vision of a New Left,” The Free Speech Movement: Reflections on Berkeley in the 1960s, ed. Robert Cohen and Reginald E. Zelnik (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002) 218.
  26. Quotations are transcribed from the film, unless otherwise noted as coming from the script. Buck Henry, “The Graduate,” screenplay, final draft, 29 March 1967, The Internet Movie Script Database: <,-The.html>.
  27. “The Berkeley Rebels.”
  28. Paul Goodman, “Berkeley in February,” Dissent 12 (Spring 1965): 168.
  29. “Angry Words from Mario Savio,” 101.
  30. Hollis Alpert, “‘The Graduate’ Makes Out,” Saturday Review (6 July 1968): <>.
  31. Quoted in Sam Kashner, “Here’s To You, Mr. Nichols: The Making of The Graduate,” Vanity Fair (March 2008): <>.
  32. Quoted in Tad Friend, “Protest Studies: The State is Broke, and Berkeley Is In Revolt,” New Yorker (4 January 2010): 25.

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