Thoughts on teaching the 60’s

I was never really a Rolling Stones fan. I entered the sixties as a seven year old and ended the decade as someone about to become seventeen.

In those years I literally grew up. I had most of my secondary education (that ended officially in 1971). I saw the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King. I saw the Black Power salute at the 1968 Olympic games, I saw man finally land on the Moon. For many of those years I saw student unrest and remember London and Paris the most as I lived in one of those great cities and felt close to the “evenements” in the other.

This period is now history. Looking at the video above it struck me that there are excellent pictures of the time showing the protests against the main War of the period, The Vietnam War, the search for peace and the huge gatherings of students and others in that strange time of hippies, flower power, psychedelic trips as well as terrible violence on the streets, riots in the inner cities. It was a time of hope and of almost total despair. It was a fascinating time to live in.

For today’s students of that period there is the evidence of pictures, video and yes, the music. To me it invokes a strange nostalgia. This is a great example of where we need students to interact with the evidence and draw their own conclusions. I would not be happy with a taught version of someone else’s view of that period. There may be many of you right now who are not happy with my slant on the events and therefore we need to open up the argument about just what happened and how important the events were.

The Vietnam War is still a subject that can bring about passionate argument. To me, the best way to teach the war is to let the children explore, imagine and try to understand. The great thing is, as I have stated many times in this blog, the internet provides the modern student with an abundance of evidence. To teach the sixties I would point out the evidence, talk it through with students and then let them decide their own take on it all.

Let them watch “Gimme Shelter” and try and feel and experience the images and movements that made up a decade that I’m still very thankful that I lived through.


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