Sunday, May 8, 2011

Was the Vietnam War the reason for the social, cultural and political upheavals of the 1960s?



Hard to believe this will be the last posting for the grant. It was a great three years! Please try and get all your postings in before the end of the week. Thanks!

26 comments:

R. Restifo said...

I thought the speakers yesterday were outstanding. Because of the question and its phrasing I think the answer is somewhere in the middle. Social and cultural changes were certainly taking place in the 1950s before the Vietnam War. However the political changes are not so clearly defined. As the speakers pointed out, Vietnam caused the Democratic party to split from the New Deal base of voter allowing for the conservative movement to grow. The Vietnam War was a rallying point event accelerating the social and cultural changes of civil rights, women's rights, etc. not necessarily the reasons for the changes. On a personal note, I truly enjoyed the three years. It was a great experience and opportunity to gather with and learn from wonderful group of professionals.

sryan said...

I cannot rightly say that the Vietnam War was the sole reason for the social, cultural and political upheavals of the 1960s. It, along with such movements as those for civil rights, women’s rights, environmental awareness, and major youth rebellion, brought about the significant changes during the 1960s. Yes, I was born towards the end of the Baby Boom Era, and have some indelible memories of those tumultuous years in American history. (See photo) Had these not been prosperous years for our economy, perhaps the changes in our Americana might not have been so radical.
I would like to close by remarking I truly enjoyed my involvement in the TAH grant workshops. The guest historians were always knowledgeable and passionate about their topics; and Mike and Mike were quite entertaining.

pcostell said...

This was another question that could not be answered definitively one way or the other. The best approach to the question was to imagine how the US might have looked if the involvement in Vietnam had never occurred. I believe the civil rights struggle would have been just as explosive, and may have achieved more without the backdrop of Vietnam. Northern white kids were flocking to the South to join in the freedom riders; if Vietnam doesn’t draw this group away, what might the confrontation in the South been like?
As a member of the disaffected baby boom generation, I remember the strong pull of the idea of dropping everything and heading to California in a VW van! I was a little too young to be part of that movement, but the rebellion of this action didn’t just stem from protesting Vietnam. Many of my generation heeded Timothy Leary’s siren call to “tune in, turn on and drop out”!
I try to explain to my students about the generation gap, where fathers and sons believed they had nothing in common. While our dads had fought WWII unquestioningly, Vietnam was a different war and was one cause of the discord between generations, but does not explain the huge rift between “the Geatest Generation” and the “Boomers”. Much more was happening socially! Today’s generations share much more. Many kids today listen to classic rock (thanks to rock band) and the Beatles, and fashions are worn by all. The line between what my kids listen to and enjoy and what I like is blurred, unlike the previous generation’s battles. We may disapprove of the piercings and tattoos, but the fights over hair and clothes back then were explosive and attested to the social upheaval of the times

Mrs. Cone said...

No, the Vietnam War was not the reason for the social, cultural, and political upheaval of the 1960s, but rather it was just one of the many factors that contributed to the spirit of activism that marked the decade. I believe, as did our guest speaker Matt, that there were two stronger elements that preceded the reactions to the Vietnam War. For one, the Civil Rights movement had much momentum in the early 1950s. By 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education had been decided upon, by 1955 the Montgomery bus boycott had taken place, and there were other instances where large groups had mobilized together to demonstrate for racial equality. The tactics, strategies, and ultimate successes of the civil rights movement helped to inspire others who realized that they too had the power to work toward change. In addition to the civil rights movement, there was a large youthful population that had grown up after World War II, lived in the suburbs, received an education, and either felt stagnant - like there was something more to do and almost rebelled for the sake of rebelling, while others felt empowered to make a difference in the world based on the knowledge and resources that they had at their disposal. This was a group that had the time to engage in activism and there were multiple causes that got championed. Women's rights, civil rights, gay rights, environmentalism, and the Vietnam War were all fodder for their organizations and demonstrations.

Mr. Cone said...

Was the Vietnam War the reason for the social, cultural and political upheavals of the 1960s?
No, the Vietnam Conflict did not bring about the social, cultural and political upheavals of the 1960s. However, it did help to push for a more radical turn in many movements that had already established themselves earlier.
If you look back at the roots of the modern civil rights movement, we can see that this started taking shape as early as the 1940s and 50s. The first Brown v. Board of Ed. case to be heard before the Supreme Court took place in 1954. So one can assume that if the Supreme Court decided on this case in 1954, the ground work was laid well before that time. Also occurring during this decade was the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955, this too was a monumental event that helped shape the movement.
Another movement that can be traced back to before Vietnam was the fight for equal rights for women. Women became a vital part of the American workforce during WWII. Rosie the Riveter was here to stay and she wanted to be on the same footing as Uncle Sam. Also, with the release of the Kinsey Report on men in 1948 and women in 1953, many younger people came to understand a new sense of sexual realism that was occurring which was much different than what was believed to be taking place at the time. Couple that report with the advent of the birth control pill and we see that a woman’s liberation was taking place which was much different than the world that was portrayed on Leave it to Beaver.
The Post War Consensus was something that most of the older generation found comfort in and hung on to as a way of life. The younger generation did not cling to this like their parents, however. The younger generation was one which found a much higher percentage attending college, mainly because of the GI Bill and the rise of the middle class. This seemed to change who they were and how they looked at the world. Once in college, many discovered a world unbeknownst to their parents. To many college kids, this experience gave them sense of purpose in life and left them searching for a cause to join. These factors, along with the free time college students enjoy, led to many of them becoming socially, politically and culturally active.
So did the Vietnam Conflict cause these upheavals, no. But one can postulate that it did help to fuel them because of the way that the media covered the war and the protests against it. When people of other movements saw this each night on their televisions, it helped to inspire them to take to the streets in an effort to voice their concerns and fight for justice.

Daniela McKee said...

The challenge with this question was the wording "the reason." It is hard to argue that Vietnam was the single reason for the upheavels of the 1960s. When my partner and I made the pro argument, we focused on the idea that Vietnam was a spark. One cannot separate Vietnam from the 1960s anymore than one can separate 09/11/01 from the last ten years. Vietnam defined a generation and was hugely important. It was not the single cause for upheavels but was certainly critical for the results of the time period.

On a different note, I would like to thank Mike and Mike for all of their hard work. I learned so much over the past three years, and I really enjoy using this method in my classroom. I especially enjoyed spending time with my high school colleagues and being a part a vibrant learning community. I hope we can continue this community moving forward.

Robin J said...

I was a bit dissapointed to get the "pro" side in this controversy because the other side looked like a no brainer. It was still fun to construct an argument that the Vietnam War was the reason for the social, cultural and poltical upheavals of the 1960's. I still think the events of the 1960's would've happened without the war, but perhaps at a later date and without the same intensity. The Vietnam War didn't really enter the average american's psyche until 1964-65, even though we had been involved with the area for ten or so years. while the middle class and wealthy went to college or dodged the draft, the lower middle class and minorities went to fight at a more rapid rate. It's interesting to think what groups were part of the social, cultural and politcal "upheavals" of the 1960's becuae when ever I think of this I picture Hippies sitting in a circle drawing anti-war posters with "For What it's Worth" by Buffalo Springfield playing in the back ground. I learned though that many diverse people were involved in the "upheavals" of the 1960's. The Vietnam War definitely impacted the music of the 1960's with groups like Country Joe and The Fish and CSN&Y among others writng many protest songs.I think the Vietnam War also indirectly caused the riots in Watts and Detroit since funding to could've help these areas was being used for the war and also because a large percentage of African males were fighting over seas. In conclusions, the social, cultural, and poltical upheavals of the
1960's and Vietnam impacted each other.

HSEMINTY said...

No. I do not think it was the force behind these movements. I think the force behind these movements was the social and demographic status set up by the New Deal after World War 2. Due to the creation of a large middle class in the post war years, you had a large number of baby boomers with the education, leisure time, and economic status who wanted to reject their backgrounds, socialize, and glorify rebellion. They had a host of reasons to rebel against conformity. I believe the civil rights movement, Vietnam, the gay rights movement and all these other social movements were just vehicles to express the rebellion of the 1960s. However I due believe the Civil Rights Movement, not Vietnam, was the most important of these movements because it shaped the way the other movements would be organized and executed. While Vietnam radicalized the tenor of future movements, the Civil Rights movement provided a framework for future movements to copy.

cmverycute said...

I found this session interesting. Like very class, the questionis posed to make you think of how it can be answered. Not being in an expert in this area, I enjjoyed reading about this time in history, getting others perspective, and listening to the professionals and their take on the question. Upheavals occur often in history and can be caused by various factors. To say that one specific event caused an upheaval is an understatement. I am sad not to be a part of this class again as I learned valuable information that could be brought back to the classroom. Thank you for such a great experience.

stapes1976 said...

I personally feel that the Civil Rights Movement was the main reason for the social, cultural and political upheavals of the 1960's. I feel that America's response to the Vietnam War was rooted in the social and cultural changes our nation was undergoing within its own infrastructure.

The Vietnam War acted as a catalyst in the radical changes that we were facing with such social issues as women's rights,and civil right's. It empowered young people to feel that their opinion might be heard. And with such and important issue as the war, that hit so many people close to home, the stage was set to voice these opinions in a rebellious way.

erica said...

This presentation was excellent. The question regarding Vietnam was extremely complex. The 1960's was a time of great social and political unrest. After particpating in the session, it is obvious that the causes ran much deeper than what occured in the 1960's. Most of the movements to bring about change began prior to the 60's. The Civil Rights movement really took off in 1954 post Brown vs. Board of Education. You could also agrue that the womans rights movement began with Margaret Sangers push for contraception during the 1920's. The movements did increase in number and became more radical throughtout the 60's. This could have been due to frustration in the lack of progress. The Vietnam Conflict defintiely percipitated the upheaval of the time but did not cause it. Vietnam also focused the attention of our youth to look at and question government actions. I believe it would be difficult to agrue that the conflict itself was the cause for the upheaval of the time. I would like to end this post that thanking Mike Chylstun for his hard work with the TAH grant. It has been a truly rewarding experience to be a part of.

Ms. Stewart said...

I think I’d be more able to say yes to this question if we adjusted the time frame – Was the Vietnam War the reason for the social, cultural, and political upheavals of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s? Yes. But there was upheaval earlier in the decade as well, and this cannot be attributed to Vietnam. We can’t discount the civil rights movement and its effect on culture, society, and politics, and that movement began even before the 1960’s; in class we even questioned when that was – the 1950’s? the 1940’s? way back in the time of the abolition movement? But as we head into the second half of the 1960’s Vietnam becomes the key issue. In many ways the Vietnam War represents the first time that Americans really believe that the United States is wrong on an issue – and if they’re wrong on this one, then what about other ones? Thus, people are led to challenge other social and cultural assumptions. Further, the Vietnam era made it more acceptable to participate in protest movements, especially for middle class youth, who in many ways are also the first generation to have the economic security which affords them the luxury of being able to do this. And so we see not only the Vietnam protest movement, but eventually movements for women’s rights, rights for gays and lesbians, and so on, but again, these movements really span into the 1970’s.

Mr. DeMatteo said...

Was the Vietnam War responsible for upheaval… yes, but to say that it was the only thing going on in the 1960’s, I would not agree. Post World War 2 America was fertile for change. Our soldiers fought a war against naked aggression and for peoples very right to exist. The Veterans who survived the War and the Great Depression in which they were exposed; wanted to create and maintain the American Dream for themselves and their children. It’s the baby boomers – that generation born to the “greatest generation” - where the seeds of discontent were planted by the safety and boredom of suburbia. The “upheaval” simmered under the surface of the Eisenhower 50’s. The American teenager was born. Conditioned by the mass media of television and Rock’n Roll Music on the radio. They were also armed with a disposable income and many had their eyes on a college education. The 1960’s provided both the flame and the accelerant. Another generation was entering the American consumer culture. Television provided the pictures – the radio provided the lyrics and the college campus helped spread the discontent, which trickled down to the High Schools through siblings and relatives. Its easy to assume a cause and protest from the comfort of suburbia. Vietnam Draft just added fuel to the fire.

Brian said...

There was alot of interesting statements made by our guest lecturers. I enjoyed "The Graduate" analogy. The upheaval that defines the 1960's does incluce a variety of issues beyond the Vietnam war, but I don't think it would have been on the grand scale it was without our increased role in Vietnam. The Liberal movement that comes about the 1960s, would not have been as popular with our the public outcry against the Vietname war.

Mr. Ferrante said...

This may be because I argued the side, but I do think that the Vietnam War led to the upheavals of the 1960's. Before the war, things were moving forward towards big change, but they were not upheavals. The 'pill' and other big changes were occurring without people taking to the streets. It was after the War started that people turned violent (for the most part). The war began to eat up resources that would have been used to move Civil Rights along but instead they were used to fight the war. Johnson wanted guns and butter but the money seems to have been spent mostly on guns.

Mr. Toth said...

I think the most interesting part of this past controversy was listening to Mike and Mike tell there stories of the Vietnam War, both very interesting, both very different. Overall I though the presenters were one of the strongest pairs. I felt that both the pro and con side had an argument they could make, but the question itself seemed to be one sided. I enjoy when there is a handout or a least a visual aid and felt that this could have helped the presentation on some level. I think when it comes down to the question, I do not think Vietnam was the reason for social, political and cultural upheavals, rather it was a focal point for all people wanting change to focus on. Ultimately I think America was due for some changes and Vietnam allowed people to express their discontent. What really made Vietnam unpopular where the fact that it became a living room war as well as the fact that the war was not fought by a professional army, but rather drafted Americans.

Mr. said...

I strongly felt that the Vietnam war was not the single reason for the changes that occur in the 1960s. When we look at the big picture change was already happening as early as the late 1950s. We can look at examples such as the Beatles and Elvis Presley, who were helping change the landscape of social and popular culture. Political upheavals were already in action by the early 1960s. To single out the Vietnam war as the leading cause of change is unfair to all of the other events that were already snowballing a movement for change. The war simply becomes a catalyst to aid in further changes against the old guard.

-L Zederbaum

Mr. Madeiras said...

One of the main reasons the Vietnam War was not the cause for the turbulent 1960s is because many of the social, cultural and political issues were already in place before the Vietnam War became as unpopular as it did. The 1950s was an era of tradition, higher standards of living, and very traditional values. The elements that caused upheaval in the 1960s were born in that era. Things like feminism, civil rights, beatniks, rock n roll, the growth of the liberal elite should all be considered a reaction to the traditions of the 1950s. The Vietnam war was only a part. It was one of many events that increased the level of upheaval during the 1960s.

bkilkenny said...

The cultural, social, and political changes of the 1960’s would have occurred without the Vietnam War. These changes may have occurred more slowly or later in the century, but they were already started during the 1950’s. The stable economic environment gave Americans in the large middle class the opportunity to enter universities at a much higher rate than ever before. People also had enough economic stability to look at other aspects of life rather than where the next meal or rent check was coming from.
The conservative conformist society of Post War America began to be questioned by the younger, Baby-Boomer generation. Young people began to look and move away from their parents stable conservative lifestyles.
Young people also looked at the Civil Rights movement of the 50’s and early 60’s and realized that they could make changes to America through social pressure. The development of TV allowed people to communicate ideas on a national scale through sound and pictures.
The culmination of economic stability, boredom with conformity, TV, Civil Rights Movements, etc. set the changes of the 1960’s in motion. The Vietnam War may have given the disparate movements a place to merge but it did not cause the changes.

Mr. Karmin said...

I think both speakers did a great job presenting both sides of the debate. I especially like the reference to the Graduate... I would have never even thought of that connection. I was happy to be on the con side because I thought this was one of the more straight forward debate questions. There were social, political, and cultural upheavals happening well before the Vietnam War so to say that the war was the cause seems wrong. I believe that the changes brought about by the war were part of a revolutionary culture that started over a decade earlier. The war was simply another event during these turbulent times. I would agree that the war did bring the revolutionary spirit into the spotlight. How can we ignore the other changes that took place before the war? Were they upheavals? I suppose that could be argued either way which makes this question a difficult one to answer with certainty.

Mr. Cummings said...

This is a difficult question to definitively answer because The Vietnam War was a major part of the social, cultural and political climate of the 1960's, but it can not be separated from all the other major changes that were taking place in the U.S. during this time period.
I think WWII was the impetous for many of the events that occured in the decades that followed. I think it became natural for people to question society as a whole after
the devastation of two World Wars. Add the growth of population during the "baby boom" and we had the availability of the educated middle class that throughout history have been the ones to question the status quo. The civil rights movements, environmental awareness,and women's rights were just a few of the movements that were born during this era.

Joan said...

Before posting this final blog for Year 3, I would like to say that the workshops and activities facilitated by Mike Chlystun and Mike Gatto through TAH grant have been an awesome experience and afforded an opportunity to ideas exchange insights with middle school and high school colleagues.

The Vietnam War was not the only reason for the social, cultural, and political upheavals of the 1960s. However, it was a significant factor. Changes were taking place in this country that had already begun in previous decades. Mass media was a great influence on society: the Vietnam conflict was seen daily on the evening news; Motown, Elvis, and the British music invasion influenced music and the ways that baby boomers dressed and grew their hair, (including The Beatles and Twiggy). Another important factor was the size of the baby boomer generation coming of age. Many were more affluent and better educated than their parents, “the greatest generation” who fought in and/or supported World War II. They also had the time and means with which to organize and become involved in grassroots movements, protests, and sit-ins for not just the civil rights movement and voter registration, but also work for women’s rights, gay rights, and the rising anti-war sentiment. In contrast to their parents, they questioned the status quo and the term “generation gap” resulted. Anti-war protests didn’t begin until the mid-1960s. In 1964, several hundred people marched in Times Square and San Francisco; public draft card burning began to occur. In 1965, SNCC led the first of several anti-war marches in Washington, D.C. with about 25,000 protestors. It was at this time that President Johnson announced an escalation in the number of U.S. troops sent to Vietnam. Still, public sentiment was more in support of U.S. involvement in Vietnam than against. In 1966 a Gallup poll indicated that 59% of Americans believed that sending troops to Vietnam was not a mistake. It was in 1967 that this sentiment changed, with 52% feeling that U.S. entry in the Vietnam War was a mistake and 56% believing that the war was at an impasse. Had the U.S. not become involved in the Vietnam conflict, social, cultural, and political changes would have still taken place in our country.

Thone said...

Vietnam did play a major role in the protest movements of the 60’s but it was a combination of factors that ultimately led to the social, political and cultural upheavals of the 60’s. While Vietnam may have been the most polarizing of the causes, how can one not include the Civil Rights movement that began years before Vietnam? In the South, the end of segregation and Jim Crow created a massive upheaval socially and culturally. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the 24th amendment also created political upheaval. This happened prior to the Vietnam and caused just as much of an impact, if not more. The growth of the middle class during the 50’s was also a crucial reason for unrest. This can be contributed to WWII, the New Deal and the G.I. Bill. Without this middle class there would have never been this large population of college students and middle class Americans that had the time to protest. Vietnam was a major source of protest but not the sole cause!

mgoldberg said...

The Vietnam War certainly exacerbated upheaval during the turbulent “60’s” but I do not believe it was the only reason that brought about social, cultural, and political movements of the times. After World War II, the United States slowly recovers from the deep wounds of the Great Depression and enters a new decade full of hope, dreams and prosperity-the 1950’s. The economy was good, the middle class was growing, there was money to spend, the war was being forgotten, the entertainment industry were in full bloom, there was still a certain amount of naivety, there were exciting things happening like the beginning of the space program..... life seemed hopeful after WWII as the US emerges as a Superpower. The 1950’s was also a time of conformity and people were holding on to the security of traditional life after experiencing years of uncertainty. The 1960’s brings about the next generation- the Baby Boomers which symbolized a time for change, rebellion against the accepted consensus and the values and traditions of their parents generation. They did not want to fit into the given mold or be a product of the cookie cutter generation-“plastics”. Many were college students who had the time and the means to help others as the ideologies of the past began to break up and they needed a cause- a purpose. They began to look elsewhere and connected for the rights for Women, minorities, African Americans, Gays and Lesbians, the Vietnam War etc. The Vietnam War was part of the turbulent 60’s but the ‘real force’ were the activists that had a mission, a passion to bring about change and awareness-they became the “voice” of the people
Thank you for providing me a learning experience that incorporated expert speakers, knowledge, understanding, and socializing with people that have taught me more than the books.

CTator said...

If we look at the 1960's specifically there was a significant social and political upheaval within the United States. The country was going through a movement of dissent and especially the silent majority was looking for any way possible to go against the social grain. I felt that the Vietnam War was an avenue for young America to rise and participate in something that they may never would have and that is change. The so called band wagon was in full motion and people young and old eventually took a ride.
Media played a crucial component to the upheaval that spread like wildfire. With the daily coverage of the war in peoples living room and the cultural assimilation through music and the arts all moved towards a public opinion of lack of trust towards the government and the rise of civil disobedience. All in all, Vietnam was not the sole purpose of the social and cultural upheaval but definitely played a role.

AFisk said...

The Vietnam War was not the reason for the social, cultural and political upheavals of the 1960s. That is not to say that the War did not play a role, it did, but it was the “reason” for all that went on in that decade. A broader picture of that decade shows a time period of rebellion as a wealthier, educated middle class youth reaches young adulthood with time and money on its hands. They have the “luxury” of being able to challenge the status quo from the comforts of their middle class existence. I think the presenters choice of relating the movie The Graduate highlights the social, political and cultural complexities of that time. Rebelling against the norm was the norm. The Vietnam War provided another venue for this generation to fixate their “moral” attention upon as they had the time and money and education to allow for a mobilization of their ideals such as civil rights and other social issues that inspired them during this period