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Blog: A Day Few Will Forget

It was May 4, 1970. Do you remember what happened on this day and where you were?
Kent State massacre via

Do you remember what happened on this day and where you were? It was during the Vietnam War era, and President Nixon had been coming under heavy pressure to assure the American people that the U.S. had not expanded bombing campaigns into Cambodia. 

However, days earlier, it became known that Nixon, in fact, had been doing just that- bombing Cambodia. In reaction to the revelation, students across the U.S. called for a nationwide campus strike on May 4.

Strike poster. public domain

Peaceful rallies were held throughout the country, protesting the now revealed bombing raids in Cambodia. However, on one campus- Kent State University in Ohio, the rally was anything but peaceful. The National Guard was deployed, and during the protest, they shot and killed four unarmed students and wounded 10 others.

Outrage spread throughout the entire country, reaching a boiling point for many. Over 450 colleges and high schools shut down as students voiced their outrage.
On May 8, over 100,000 gathered in Washington, DC, to protest the Cambodia bombing and student deaths. Protests kept spreading, and at one point, almost 900 campuses reported walkouts, demonstrations, or strikes. The tension was palpable.

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young wrote a song about the deaths at Kent State, called "Ohio."

I was attending Cañada College at the time. It, too, went on strike.

Students began cries for 'relevant education,' not just the typical curriculum. Many of the professors at Cañada sympathized with the student demands.
Yours truly hatched an idea. So, I called for a meeting with two English professors to share it with.

Film poster. public domain

I had a large collection of Bob Dylan songs, many of which were so-called "bootleg" recordings, which had begun hitting the market the year prior.

With 'relevant education' in mind, the idea was to offer a course on Dylan's lyrics and discuss the symbolism and meaning. There was another component- I asked if the course could be accredited or whether it would count toward graduation.

The two English professors embraced it. They scheduled a formal presentation to the District Board of Supervisors at their next session. The two professors presented my idea. However, there was another hitch. I was merely a student without a degree nor a teaching certificate.

The District Board of Supervisors indicated there had never been a situation where a non-degreed student had taught an accredited class. However, with the nationwide campus tensions, they felt the need to do something unprecedented.

They agreed to allow the idea to become reality.

Thus, in the upcoming Fall semester, yours truly wore three hats- a student, an employee (as I had a campus job), and an instructor. As an unexpected surprise, not one but two classes on Dylan were placed on the Fall schedule. They even gave me an office. Amazing!

The two classes were well attended. We had robust discussions as we dissected the lyrics of the poet laureate of our generation.

Additionally, I contacted D. A. Pennebaker, who made the 1967 documentary film on Dylan called "Don't Look Back," about showing it at Cañada. We negotiated a deal, and the school administration agreed to show it in the campus theater. I advertised the movie showing and could cover the rental cost as a result of solid attendance. The rest of the proceeds went to the school. Everyone was happy.

As the school semester drew to a close, I pushed the limit of my 'authority' as an instructor with the final exam. It was a party which was mandatory to attend! Needless to say, that was a memorable semester at Cañada.

Dan Calic

About the Author: Dan Calic

A product of Goodwin (JFK), Henry Ford, Roosevelt, Sequoia High and Canada College, Dan has deep Redwood City roots. He’s witnessed Redwood City transform from a sleepy peninsula town into a thriving high-tech hub.
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