Mr. Simons is both a teacher in the New York City public schools and a graduate student at New York University.
As a member of the "freaked out" and "turned on" generation, I find little comfort in the mental attitudes of some of my peers. In fact, it is a consequence of their "drop out" awareness that makes one fearful of the kind of leadership potential coming from these anarchy-oriented visionaries. Such radicalism on campus is perhaps a sad commentary on the present educational atmosphere of permissive ideas and professors.
There is no "safe" campus if one equates safety and security with learning fundamentals and being free to think and experience new ideas. "But," you say, "isn’t this what it is all about in the campus mood today?" I doubt it. Serious consideration of contemporary values and judgments does not come in the form of riots, burning, and other antisocial activities. The breakdown of the school is the only achievement—if one feels this is a value.
Our nation is derived of different ideas and a competitive spirit. But responsibility always has been a factor in making constructive change a reality. Change, for itself, has no merit. That is like dumping last year’s automobile because it is not "new," or considering people "old-fashioned" because they are over 30 years old. Some of our most creative ideas and practical inventions have come because a man had experience and insight gained from years of living.
Perhaps our youth-oriented radicals do not realize that their claims of insight are far from unique; adventures and ideals have inspired men and events throughout history. But the youth of today seem so determined to make history, spending their energies and abilities as if there had been no past and is to be no future. The need to "blow one’s mind" and identify change with long hair and eight-button suits is a far cry from effecting realistic and constructive change. The "tuning out" and LSD thrills offer no escape from reality.
Change for the Better
Such attempts to change one’s life experience lead to considerations in which living becomes a true hell, and the only change is for the worse. There is no need to destroy one’s life in order to change the world as it appears, and as it really is—the difference between the two depending on one’s age and experience as well as maturity.
First of all, age affords no special insight—whether one be young or old. The capacity to care for others, to participate freely in an open and competitive economy, and to learn from one’s experiences can be a springboard to improved insight and skills. New ideas create new industries with new markets to serve. Man receives and acts upon ideas; and the work of applying ideas to production affords personal joy and objective rewards. Change thus flows from the discovery of potential within oneself and among one’s contemporaries.
The inventive minds create new needs. The electrical industry found itself needing people to fill jobs, which did not exist until Edison came along with the electric light. Other examples are endless. Change can be productive and effective in terms of social and economic benefits. Technological changes within the past fifty years stagger the imagination—and pending innovations are beyond anticipation. But this is fruitful change—requiring new "idea" men and women and creative personal insight and motivation. Business leaders do not want "dead-end" thinkers! They seek creative sensitive people to build and to make competitive change practical and effective. A David Sarnoff or a Tom Watson or a Henry Ford—these men brought about changes, but socially useful changes. A person of strong individuality and personality, Captain Edward V. Rickenbacker, put his stamp of special concern and participation in the aviation industry.
Faith in the Future
Who says we don’t want change, or that we would deny the ideals of those individuals with faith in the future! But faith in mankind is not the current rage on campus.
Unfortunately, a lack of faith persists and serves as a justification for anarchy and the rejection of respected institutions and ways of solving problems. All too common in the thoughts and practices of today’s college generation is the fear that our nation cannot adapt to growth and change and that they cannot find their identity by participating in the peaceful way of getting things done. But theirs is the most "old-fashioned" view of all, and it is not justified.
Soon, hopefully, our college generation may catch up to the modern, yet eternal, reality that there is never a lack of desire for new ways and new ideas of individual style and merit.
Free to Discriminate
If man is to continue his self-improvement, he must be free to exercise the powers of choice with which he has been endowed. When discrimination is not allowed according to one’s wisdom and conscience, both discrimination and conscience will atrophy in the same manner as an unused muscle. Since man was given these faculties, it necessarily follows that he should use them and be personally responsible for the consequences of his choices. This means that he must be free to either enjoy or endure the consequences of each decision, because the lesson it teaches is the sole purpose of experience—the best of all teachers.
When one’s fellow men interpose force and compulsions between him and the Source of his being—whether by the device of government or otherwise—it amounts to interrupting his self-improvement, in conflict with what seems to be the Divine design. Man must be left free to discriminate and to exercise his freedom of choice. This freedom is a virtue and not a vice. And freedom of choice sows the seeds of peace rather than of conflict.
F. A. HARPER, Blessings of Discrimination