Mount Union College Holds ?Teach-In? for Freedom

April 16, 2010

Following in the footsteps of faculty members at the University of Michigan in 1965, Mount Union College held its first 'teach-in' in honor of the 40th anniversary of the Michigan event that showed constructive protest for the Vietnam Conflict by discussing the issue with students in class.

The two-day event at Mount Union, beginning today (Tuesday, March 27) and continuing tomorrow (Wednesday, March 28), will focus not on war and conflict, but on the idea of 'freedom.'

'After learning about the 40th anniversary of the teach-in at Michigan, I explored the idea of having a similar event at Mount Union,' said Angela Smith Alder, assistant professor of sociology and director of the legal studies program at Mount Union. As chair of the cross-curricular development committee, Smith Alder brought the idea to the other members and the decision was made to try a variation of the historic event at the University of Michigan.

According to the website of the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan, in March of 1965, a group of professors decided to cancel class in protest of the Vietnam Conflict. However, in light of a great deal of opposition, the group decided instead to hold a 'teach-in' where professors would not only teach their classes during the day, but continue teaching all through the night. The teach-in was not a discussion about the pros and cons of the Vietnam Conflict, but constituted 'a clear factual and moral protest against the war.'

The teach-in consisted of guest speakers, seminars and films. Over 3,000 students attended and 200 faculty members showed their support. Other schools across the country started using teach-ins on their own campuses, and at Michigan teach-ins were subsequently held on a wide range of topics such as the environment, drugs and women's issues.

Although the topic of war and conflict is certainly pertinent to today's world, the organizers of Mount Union's event decided to focus instead on freedom, giving students and faculty members the opportunity to discuss the topic in each of their classes, making it relevant to individual disciplines.

'This thought-provoking topic can be connected to all subject matter, all academic disciplines,' said Smith Alder in an article in The Dynamo, the Mount Union student newspaper.

Smith Alder was one of the first faculty members to incorporate the idea of freedom into a class, team-teaching a session with Dr. Ann Ritchey, associate professor of mathematics. The two combined for a group discussion, combining Smith Alder's Constitutional Law class with Ritchey's Math for Middle School course today.

'Dr. Ritchey had given an assignment to her students to locate an article on conflict and legal issues in education,' said Smith Alder. 'The article topics ranged from wearing t-shirts with slogans and logos to book censoring. They presented the articles and then we had a great discussion about how to balance the idea of academic freedom and the goals of education with the rights of individual students and freedom of speech.'

Many other members of the Mount Union faculty incorporated ideas of freedom into their classes and others will continue to do so tomorrow. The 'teach-in' also will involve tonight's Freedom Film Festival featuring The Patriot from 3 to 6 p.m., The Biography of Nelson Mandella from 6 to 7 p.m., Independence Day from 7 to 9:30 p.m. and Freedom's Song from 9:30 p.m. to midnight. The festival will be held in the Campus Grounds and refreshments will be served. The event is free and open to the public.

The 'teach-in' will wrap up Wednesday afternoon with a Fireside Freedom Chat in the East Room of the Hoover-Price Campus Center at 9 p.m. Refreshments will be served.

The 'teach-in' is sponsored by the Mount Union Center for Public Service.

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