An Exploratory Comparison between Student Activists of the 1960s and Today
Iott, Allison M.
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While few studies have looked at current student activists, a large body of research has been conducted around the activists of the 1960s. The agency that these activists possess to work for social change appears especially prominent compared to the lack of efficacy felt by much of society (Braungart, 1984). Braungart and Braungart (1990) found that politics played a large role in the identity development of activist leaders. The political socialization of the activists, including their parents’ political orientation, values, and ethics, strongly influenced the political pathways and involvement of the activists, debunking the notion that activists undergo a rebellion against their parents that serves as the primary factor in movement involvement. Generational effects attached to events occurring during that particular period of history were present. With some alterations, particularly becoming less extreme on issues, there was a general continuity present in the politics of the activists. Jennings (1987) compared protesters to non-protesters and found that enthusiasm for activism occurred during late adolescence and a political mellowing transpired during adulthood. Although the protestors and non-protestors are part of the same generation, the protestors and non-protestors shifted in opposite directions in support or against issues, each group representing a distinct generation unit. Keniston (1968) discovered that 1960s activists displayed a high degree of moral inclination and cognizance of social issues from an early age. Adolescence was marked by isolation from peers. Many of the activists remembered their first experience with inequality as highly influential. They lacked formal ideology, were open to conflicting ideas, and desired to identify with others. Finally, Keniston identified that the activists sought personal relationships and despised power-relationships.