Yesterday was the 51st anniversary of Kent State—or as we Kent State students called it, “May 4.”
When I think of May 4, I think of Dr. Thomas Lough, my sociology professor when I attended Kent, around the 20th anniversary of the shooting.
Dr. Lough (pronounced “Luff”) was present that day, and remembered one of his own students running toward him with blood pouring out of his mouth.
In fact, Lough was more than present that day; he was the only member of the “Kent 25″—professors and students accused of various crimes—actually indicted, on a count of inciting students to riot.
His wounded student—”a good radical,” Lough called him—lived.
And after charges against Lough were dropped, he taught on, eventually introducing a young upper-middle-class kid from a conservative, WASPy little town to his astounding theory that President Richard Nixon actually ordered Ohio Governor James Rhodes to send the National Guard to send a message at Kent State that all war-protesting American college students would hear.
Yes, Lough believed there was a good chance that Nixon ordered the shooting. And he spent much of the semester—far more of the semester than the official curriculum called for—making the elaborate case.
He also educated us on his far-left political philosophy—notions like, the highest-paid jobs shouldn’t be those of CEOs and bankers, but those of people who do work described by the what he called “Three D’s”: Dangerous, Dirty or Dull.
Conservatives complain a lot about “liberal indoctrination” on college campuses, and I guess they have a point. But it seems to me that lots of college-class kids get a capitalist, conformist indoctrination every time they turn on the fucking TV or update their “streaks” on Snapchat.
And college students aren’t five-year-olds. They have minds, and other points of reference. I didn’t swallow Dr. Lough’s theories about Kent State or Karl Marx whole. But I was forced to confront them—and made to realize they were both strange to my callow sensibility and politely apolitical upbringing, and pretty compelling, I had to admit. I was never as sure about anything again in my life.
Left, right, or unseen center, that’s one of the great purposes of a liberal arts education: Confusing cocksure kids, permanently.
Tom Lough died in 2008, having done his job.
Jim Reische says
The idea that educators can just stand up at the front of the classroom and deposit their ideologies into students’ empty melons will (hopefully) someday be recognized as the deeply corrosive and shameless political myth that it is.
As anyone who has actually tried to teach knows, that teaching stuff is hard!
And as anyone who has been a student knows, that student-ing stuff is pretty damned hard, too!
I doubt there was one teacher in my entire career who successfully made me think what they wanted me to think (although a few tried). But then there were the ones who got me to think, period. Those are the ones, like Thomas Lough, whom we should remember and celebrate. And make a lot more of.