The Student Movement and the Vietnam War
When your family thinks about people in the 1960s or early 1970s who were
your age (18 to 26, say), what seems most significant about those people?
To support your argument, get some family stories about young people in this
era. The following questions should elicit family stories that will be useful
to you. Composing your own questions might be even more successful, especially
if you base those questions on your knowledge of your family chronology and
- What did your family think of the war in Vietnam?
- Did you watch news of the war on television? Did children watch war footage?
- Did your family hear about American soldiers doing heroic things or doing terrible things? Was news on television
different from what they heard from soldiers or their families? Did they hear about the My Lai massacre on the news?
- What did you think when you heard about the Kent State shootings?
- In your family's community, in the 1960s or early 1970s, did people see
college students? Were there any "town and gown" problems? Were
the college students different from the people in your family of the same
- Did different generations respond differently to the Kent State shootings or news of the war in Vietnam? Did anyone in your family worry that the government had too much power, or that it was sending soldiers to kill and die for the wrong reasons? Do family members who remember that time feel differently about the government now?
For those who had family members in college:
- Who in your family was in college in the 1960s or early 1970s? Why did they
decide to go to college? why to the college(s) they chose?
- What did people get out of college in the 1960s or early 1970s?
- What is most memorable about college in the 1960s or early 1970s -- classes?
fellow students? professors? parties? sports? politics?
- How was campus life different then than now?
For those who served in Vietnam or who knew people who did:
- How are Vietnam veterans different from veterans of other wars?
- Did military service change your life in important ways? How?
- What was the first thing you noticed about Vietnam?
- What duties did you have?
- What was the scariest thing that happened to you?
- What made you and your buddies laugh?
- What was it like to come home?
- Do you like any of the movies made about the Vietnam war?
More general questions for further conversation:
- When you look back on your life, how much do you think the American government
has affected it -- the draft? veterans' benefits? social security? taxes?
public schools? the defense industry?
- How did you like school? What were your favorite subjects? Least favorite?
- How did students behave at school when you were young?
- Think about your favorite teacher. What do you see him/her doing? wearing?
What did his/her classroom look like?
- Did your school have any special celebrations (pep rallies, campus-wide
"snow days," special occasions at holidays, etc.)?
- Were you ever part of the PTA (or a similar organization), or did you ever
volunteer in your children's school? Did a teacher ever call your house to
discuss a problem or to report on a child's achievement?
- If your informant was in college some time other than the 1960s and early
1970s, this might be a good time to ask them about their college years (see
- What topic do you wish you had studied more? why?
- If you could go to college now (or go back to college), what would you like
to study? why?