UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. —The year is viewed as one of the more pivotal moments in U.S. history. A time of turmoil highlighted by a president with approval ratings hovering in the low- to mid-30s, American troops fighting unpopular conflicts, and women’s rights and civil rights being the main topics of many conversations — and protests. It is also a time marked by technological advances and other innovations that transformed the way Americans live, work and play, and college campuses finding themselves at the epicenter of the country’s social, cultural and economic evolution — and revolution.
Welcome to … 1968.
Similarities to modern-day America notwithstanding, “we just happen to be 50 years removed from one of the most momentous eras in history,” notes Paul C. Taylor, professor of philosophy and African American Studies and associate dean of undergraduate studies in the Penn State College of the Liberal Arts. “The year 1968 in particular — with its rebellions, assassinations, political developments and cultural innovations — epitomizes that decade-long era of change.”
The College of the Liberal Arts and Penn State Department of History have teamed to commemorate the anniversary of this significant year by creating “Moments of Change: Remembering ’68.” The series will feature panel discussions, movies, lectures and other programs throughout the year that give individuals a better understanding of, and greater appreciation for, how events that took place in 1968 have helped shape America since then. The college also has developed a “Moments of Change: Remembering ‘68” website (1968.psu.edu), which includes a calendar of upcoming events; links to issues of The Daily Collegian from 1968; and pages where alumni and others can submit audio and visual materials from 1968 into an online archive and view materials submitted by others.
In order to integrate the yearlong series and its theme into the classroom, the college will offer a Liberal Arts Edge Seminar this spring with the goal of making it a permanent course. The purpose of this and previous Liberal Arts Edge Seminars is to take timely, topical issues and give students the chance to explore them from a broad, multi-dimensional perspective. Previous seminars examined public reaction to, and issues raised following, the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014; explored Donald Trump’s presidential campaign from different cultural perspectives and examined the impact of his campaign on future political campaigns; and analyzed one of America’s most popular cultural phenomena — football and other “big-time” sports — from unique critical perspectives.
“The purpose of a world-class, 21st-century liberal arts education is to give people the tools to think creatively, constructively and critically about the lives they are living now,” Taylor said. “Our Liberal Arts Edge Seminars do this by focusing on a single topic that a variety of disciplines can explore. Students participating in the ‘Moments of Change’ course will have the opportunity to learn about key moments from that time period and analyze how they still impact us today.”
As part of the course, students will meet with and produce oral histories of Penn State alumni who were students during that era. Those stories will be added to the “Moments of Change: Remembering ’68” website so they can be read by everyone and preserved for future generations.
Additional information about “Moments of Change: Remembering ‘68” and its upcoming events can be found on the web at 1968.psu.edu.