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rojo's avatar

For anybody but particularly those out of high school/college within the last 10 years or so; were you taught about Kent State and Jackson State and if so, what was said?

Asked by rojo (24159points) September 24th, 2014

Listening to some old music (Yep, Ohio) earlier and this question came to mind.

When did you graduate? Is it taught in school? What grade did you hear about it, if you did? How is it presented? In what context? Is it emphasized or glossed over? Is it just a footnote, sentence, paragraph?
What is said about the killing of American students by their own government? Who is blamed, the students or the government?

Just wondering.

I would appreciate the input from any teachers as well.

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31 Answers

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

Hmmm. This should be interesting. Great Question, rojo.

stanleybmanly's avatar

I was out of school in 68. It is a great question for a variety of reasons.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I graduated HS in 1976. I don’t recall any particular lessons about Kent State. Of course, I remember when it happened, though.

As a teacher for an adult HS Diploma Completion Program, I don’t recall any lessons that covered Kent State.

dxs's avatar

In my US History II class, 2nd semester junior year of high school (2012) we were taught about Kent State. My teacher even played CSN&Y. What was it…the first time the National Guard opened fire on a protest?

Dutchess_III's avatar

Yes. Kent State. Killed 4 unarmed students “and wound(ed) nine others, one of whom suffered permanent paralysis.”

dxs's avatar

I knew it was four. Four dead in Ohio.

syz's avatar

I was never taught about Kent State, I learned it on my own (82, 87).

Darth_Algar's avatar

I graduated in ‘97 and don’t recall any of my school classes covering it.

Dutchess_III's avatar

It does underscore something…Republicans today are so damn convinced the government is conspiring against them. I say the government is more under control now by its people than it ever has been.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Back in class what I got from it, and it was not much info, it was the protester’s fault (those hippy sympathizers), and the campus/government were in the right (not that there was any truth to it, but the government has more control in pulling the strings and covering their dirt).

bossob's avatar

I was a junior at a high school that was 21 miles from Kent when the shootings happened. We never discussed it.

livelaughlove21's avatar

Graduated from high school in 2008, college in 2013. No clue what you’re talking about, so I assume it was never covered in school.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Never learned about it in school.

@Dutchess_III No. Republicans don’t generally think this way. Extreme right-wing nuts and sensationalists however do. Liberal leaning people outside more conservative circles often think this because conservative talk radio and other media outlets are so over the top and do not accurately represent 90% of republicans or conservatives. It’s a skewed perception not grounded in reality. That polarized viewpoint is quite unhealthy.

Darth_Algar's avatar


Then perhaps that 90% needs to start talking its party back from those media outlets and those who unquestionably follow them, because it’s those people who are speaking for Republicans.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

I wish they could. Sensationalism seems to rule the media, so does fear. Especially fear on the far right. It would also be good if people regardless of their ideology would put away tribalism like this. It’s damaging to discourse on real issues. It’s apparently just too hard for people to see and navigate through grey.

sinscriven's avatar

Graduated high school in 2002, and it was never taught.

It must have been out of the collective conciousness long enough for Urban outfitters to think that a blood stained kent state sweater would make a good idea.

rojo's avatar

Damn @sinscriven anything for a buck I guess.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

I finished high school in 2007, then university in 2010 and 2012, and I don’t even understand the question. Is this a US thing?

Aethelwine's avatar

I graduated high school in 1989. I don’t remember this being taught in school. I learned about Kent State when it was mentioned on the news during one of the anniversaries of the shootings.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@dappled_leaves Thanks. I shall now turn to the omniscience of Wikipedia for enlightenment.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh Then listen to Neil Young’s Ohio again.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

Knowing what led up to Kent State is extremely important in order to understand the full ramifications of the event and the aftermath. The Kent State anti-war demonstration was a direct reaction to the March 16, 1968 My Lai Massacre, where U.S. Army troops of Company C of the 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 11th Brigade of the 23rd Infantry Division.under Lt. William Calley massacred between 347 and 504 unarmed civilians in South Vietnam, including men, women, and children. Althought there were journalists on the scene and the aftermath, including photographers, the story was buried for almost two years.

In November, 1969, the story finally broke. Newsweek, Time and Life magazines led with pictures of slaughtered babies in a ditch, a young girl, naked and in shock running down a road away from the burning village, her arms outstretched, her body burned and covered in blood, her face wrinkled in an agonizing scream.

This threw every college campus in the United States into anti-war overdrive. People who had never dreamed they could question this war began to do so. Our parents, who had survived the Depression and fought WWII with a value system they believed was infallible, began to falter in their blind allegiance to the American system. Massacring innocents was not what America was supposed to be about, and people were sickened and in shock by the slaughter in this village.

The protests became a lot more emotional after My Lai. They weren’t just something to do on the weekend that might get you laid. Not anymore. This was serious shit now and the war needed to end. Something was really fucked up.

Protests and demonstrations became more numerous, larger, the mainstream media began to report more on the people behind the anti-war movement and that there were young FBI operatives imbedded into nearly every peaceful demonstration, as provocateurs, with orders to start violence. . And then in the following spring, Kent State happened.

The SDS, the nationwide organizers of simultaneous campus protests, broke into two factions over this. One wanted to begin no-holds-barred violent revolutionary operations immediately, the other—the surviving group that won the argument—continued as a non-violent group, professing Gandhi-like tactics, and retained their name. The others went off and formed groups such as the Weathermen and were eventually annihilated, their survivors imprisoned.

This by no means was the first time the U. S. military had fired on a peaceful political demonstrations in the U.S. The most notable instance before Kent State would be the attack on the Bonus Marchers in Washington, DC., in 1932, when regular U.S. Army troops under officers such as Douglas MacArthur and George S. Patton led their men on horseback through a crowded, temporary tent city of peaceful protesters swinging sabers, shooting men, women, and children at random, and lighting fires.

There are a lot more instances that I never learned about in High School history class, such as the Ludlow Massacre, the Battle of Blair Mountain, the Haymarket Riot, the Homestead Massacre, etc., etc., mostly workers trying to form unions against exploitative monopolists. Mostly the people who shed a lot of blood in order to get us the five-day workweek, the eight-hour working day, our worker’s safety laws, and the child labor laws that we have today. Things we, the grand- and great-grandchildren of these people, seem bent on giving up without a fight. I suppose there isn’t any room in the textbooks or any time left in the classroom for such trivia.

hominid's avatar

I graduated in 1989, and it was covered briefly in a class or two. But I believe the song had brought my attention to it far before the class material.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Oh, God. That was an incredible summary @Espiritus_Corvus. Here is the picture of the little girl he referred to. It’s seared in the memory of anyone who ever saw it.

I was 11. I remember asking my father what My Lai was all about. He said it was horrible, but it’s what Calley was given orders to do. You aren’t allowed to disobey orders, my Dad said. I was really confused and torn.

Darth_Algar's avatar


And of course there’s the lovely aftermath of the Haymarket Riot, where several innocent men were tried, convicted and executed not because they had planned, created or thrown the bomb, but because they did not say anything to discourage any would-be bombers in the crowd.

Strauss's avatar

I was still in Vietnam when it happened, and I did not hear about it until about a the following August, when I was transferred back stateside. I had a 30-day leave as part of the transfer, and I spent some of it visiting friends in the San Francisco area. I heard it on a FM radio that was playing. I was listening to the lyrics, and commented to one of my friends. He then told me about Kent State. I felt even more disillusioned, disappointed and distrustful about the government I had been “serving” for the past three years. I did not wear my uniform on that leave, from the first opportunity I had to get into civvies when I got off the plane, up to the day I reported to my new duty station. Given the intensity of the anti-war sentiment (with which I was generally sympathetic, but in a non-violent way) I did not feel like I wanted to subject myself to any harassing or worse, simply because I was wearing a military uniform.
(Several weeks later, during a casual conversation with a CPO at my new job, he couldn’t understand why I was so reluctant to wear my uniform off base.)

@Dutchess_III To speak of My Lai as a tragedy is a strong understatement. It was nothing short of a standard of war that bordered on genocide. Calley’s assertion that he was “just following orders” reminds me a lot of the Nuremberg Trials.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I didn’t call it a tragedy. I said it was horrible.

rojo's avatar

Another item that seems to be a recurring theme from reading accounts on the internet is that history classes seem to come to a grinding halt immediately after WWII with all subsequent activity for the past 70 plus years just given a brief mention if anything. The main reason given is that the classes just run out of time.

Funny how here in the US we can’t fit in 500 years of history (glossing over or completely ignoring the previous umpteen thousand where western civilization had no involvement) yet in Europe it seems they manage to get a couple of thousand years of history into their classes.

Dutchess_III's avatar

When I was teaching we gave Vietnam and Iraq as much attention as the World Wars.

Strauss's avatar

The “band” class is doing “Ohio”! I made sure to point out the historical references.

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