A Defining Decade
A Defining Decade
Students in “1960s Media and Culture” class “turn on, tune in, and drop out” in honor of the College’s 50th anniversary
By Leona Baker | November 4, 2011
“All right, hippies and protesters, outside!”
It’s Halloween day, and Dr. Terry Lindvall, VWC Professor of Communications and Christian Thought and former Army reserve chaplain, is mustering the troops—AKA students enrolled in the “1960s Media and Culture” class he is co-teaching along with Professor and Coordinator of Communications Dr. Kathy Merlock Jackson—for an impromptu costumed photo session.
Lindvall is dressed as an antiwar Vietnam veteran, complete with army jacket, Led Zeppelin t-shirt, and unruly black wig. Merlock Jackson has opted for Old West-inspired cowboy boots and a fringed suede jacket, one of the nostalgic looks that were a hallmark of ’60s fashion. The students, who’ve been offered extra credit for dressing up to reflect a trend from this turbulent era in American history, are a motley crew of tie-dye and flower child accessories. One of them, junior Matt McNutt, has gone the extra mile by squeezing into an ill-fitting aqua green dress and tall pointy hat—a nod to the popular 1960s television show Bewitched.
It’s fun with fashion, yes, but it’s tied into a timely and relevant exploration of the effect of the media on our perceptions about our own history and collective identity. The class was created to coincide with Virginia Wesleyan College’s 50th anniversary. The school’s charter was established in 1961, just as America was plunging headfirst into a decade marked by social and political upheaval.
“The idea behind the class was to look back at the 1960s, the decade in which the school was founded, and explore the culture of that time through media representations,” explains Dr. Kathy Merlock Jackson. “The class has looked at movies, television, documentaries, recordings, fashion, advertising, books, magazines, etc. We have emphasized how the idealism of the early years—the Kennedy era—conflicts with the later years—a time of disillusionment and rebellion.”
As part of their work for the class, students have given presentations on individual years and written papers on key media artifacts of each year and what they reflect. As a group, the students are hosting “Woodstock,” an event on Saturday, November 12 in Batten Student Center, featuring a showing of the filming of Woodstock, a tie-dye t-shirt station, and a presentation by John Van Noate, who quit his job and hitchhiked from Seattle to attend Woodstock when he 19. Van Noate will speak about his experiences at the legendary festival. The event is free and open to the public.