By Frances Clause
The Youngstown State University community experienced intellectual civil discourse with a discussion on the question, “Was the 1960s Counterculture good for America?” in the Bresnahan Suite of Kilcawley Center.
Adam Fuller, assistant professor in the Department of Politics and International Relations, and Michael Jerryson, professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, led the first installment of this dialogue series March 27.
“Jerryson approached me about starting a dialogue series so that we can discuss our political differences, while at the same time, show students how decent people can disagree and still remain civil to one another,” Fuller said.
Both professors shared selected readings to argue their views during the hour-long discussion. Fuller’s excerpt, “The Sensibility of the Sixties,” was about the normative changes that occurred in America as expressed through art and literature, and Jerryson’s excerpt, “Reflections on Racial Patterns in America,” focused on civil rights.
“Conservatives and liberals look to the 1960s in different ways, but they both impute value on the countercultural revolution,” Jerryson said. “This is the decade of the Immigration Act, Civil Rights Act and Voting Act, which completely changed our demographics and political system.”
Fuller and Jerryson agreed it is disheartening to see how angry everyone becomes with one another when discussing politics, especially over Facebook and other social media platforms.
“People should strive to not block or friend people on Facebook or follow people on Twitter that are simply like-minded,” Jerryson said. “More importantly, we need to work on listening to each other.
“When people are fearful, listening to them reduces their fears. Arguing and dismissing only intensifies fear, and this leads to anger,” he added.
Fuller hopes students will learn to become more open-minded to differing perspectives and civil with those they disagree with through these discussions.
“People need to stop screaming at each other across the room and instead, sit down together at the same table and hear each other out,” he said. “When we do that, we see that we don’t necessarily disagree with each other as much as we thought. We all want what’s best for our country, even if we disagree about how to get there.”
Jacob Labendz, assistant professor of Judaic and Holocaust studies, said he left the discussion inspired.
“My main takeaway from the discussion had less to do with its content than with the event itself,” he said. “I think YSU students are hungry for opportunities like this. Our students tend to be very busy just like our faculty members, yet we all made time to sit, learn and think together.”
Labendz said he found the discussion of advantage, disadvantage and privilege to be important because of living in a society mired in racism and inequity, despite all the wonderful aspects that may also be true of it.
“It can even be hard for people with privilege to notice how racialized and class hierarchies function in our society,” he said. “Events like these help students to pause and reconsider their assumptions without dictating to them what conclusions they must draw. That’s the purpose of a college education.”