The sixties is a term used to refer to the decade of the mid-twentieth-century; in some cases nostalgically to describe the counterculture and revolution in social norms about patriarchy, colonialism, civil rights, clothing, music, drugs, dress, sexuality, formalities, and schooling; and in others pejoratively to denounce the decade as one of irresponsible excess, flamboyance, and decay of social order.
- The current generation  of students is unique and very different in outlook from its teachers. I am referring to the good students in the better colleges and universities, those to whom a liberal education is primarily directed and who are the objects of a training which presupposes the best possible material. These young people have never experienced the anxieties about simple physical well-being that their parents experienced during the depression. They have been raised in comfort and with the expectation of ever increasing comfort. Hence they are largely indifferent to it; they are not proud of having acquired it and have not occupied themselves with the petty and sometimes deforming concerns necessary to its acquisition. And, because they do not particularly care about it, they are more willing to give it up in the name of grand ideals; as a matter of fact, they are eager to do so in the hope of proving that they are not attached to it and are open to higher callings. In short, these students are a kind of democratic version of an aristocracy.
- In the early sixties that what was wanted was a liberal education to give such students the wherewithal to examine their lives and survey their potential. This was the one thing the universities were unequipped and unwilling to offer them. The students’ wandering and way-ward energies finally found a political outlet. By the mid-sixties universities were offering them every concession other than education, but appeasement failed and soon the whole experiment in excellence was washed away, leaving not a trace. The various liberations wasted that marvelous energy and tension, leaving the students’ souls exhausted and flaccid, capable of calculating, but not of passionate insight.
- Alexander W. Astin’s research tells us that in the mid-1960s, more than 80 percent of entering college freshmen reported that nothing was more important than “developing a meaningful philosophy of life.” Astin, director of the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA, reports that “being very well off financially” was only an afterthought, one that fewer than 45 percent of those freshmen thought to be an essential goal. As the years went on, however, and as tuition shot up, the two traded places; by 1977, financial goals had surged past philosophical ones, and by the year 2001 more than 70 percent of undergraduate students had their eyes trained on financial realities, while only 40 percent were still wrestling with meaningful philosophies.
- William M. Chace, “The Decline of the English Department,” American Scholar, Vol. 78, Issue 4, Autumn 2009
- I thought inside “I must really be crazy, now—because craziness is where everybody agrees about something—except you!” And yet I felt saner than I had ever felt, so I knew this was a new kind of craziness or perhaps a new kind of saneness.
- Ram Dass, Be Here Now (1971)
- All the Sixties were complicated, you know. On the one hand it was funny too, you know; on the other hand it was cruel, you know. The communists are so cruel, because they impose one taste on everybody, on everything, and who doesn't comply with their teachings and with their ideology, is very soon labeled pervert, you know, or whatever they want you call it, or counterrevolutionary or whatever. And then the censorship itself, that's not the worst evil. The worst evil is — and that's the product of censorship — is the self-censorship, because that twists spines, that destroys my character because I have to think something else and say something else, I have to always control myself. I am stopping to being honest, I am becoming hypocrite — and that's what they wanted, they wanted everybody to feel guilty, they were, you know... And also they were absolutely brilliant in one way, you know: they knew how effective is not to punish somebody who is guilty; what Communist Party members could afford to do was mind-boggling: they could do practically anything they wanted — steal, you know, lie, whatever. What was important — that they punished if you're innocent, because that puts everybody, you know, puts fear in everybody.
- Miloš Forman, GWU interview (1997)
- My advice to myself and to everyone else, particularly young people, is to turn on, tune in and drop out. By drop out, I mean to detach yourself from involvement in secular, external social games. But the dropping out has to occur internally before it can occur externally. I'm not telling kids just to quit school; I'm not telling people to quit their jobs. That is an inevitable development of the process of turning on and tuning in.
- Timothy Leary, The Politics of Ecstasy (1968)
- Sixties radicals rarely went on to graduate school; if they did, they often dropped out. If they made it through, they had trouble getting a job and keeping it. They remain mavericks, isolated, off-center. Today's academic leftists are strutting wannabes, timorous nerds who missed the Sixties while they were grade-grubbing in the library and brown-nosing the senior faculty. Their politics came to them late, secondhand, and special delivery via the Parisian import craze of the Seventies. These people have risen to the top not by challenging the system but by smoothly adapting themselves to it. They're company men, Rosencrantz and Guildensterns, privileged opportunists who rode the wave of fashion.
- Camille Paglia, “Junk Bonds and Corporate Raiders: Academe in the Hour of the Wolf,” Arion, Third Series, Vol. 1, No. 2 (Spring, 1991), pp. 176-177
- I see today’s parents as terrified of their children, not least because they have been deemed the proximal agents of this hypothetical social tyranny, and simultaneously denied credit for their roles as benevolent and necessary agents of discipline, order and conventionality. They dwell uncomfortably and self-consciously in the all-too-powerful shadow of the adolescent ethos of the 1960s, a decade whose excesses led to a general denigration of adulthood, an unthinking disbelief in the existence of competent power, and the inability to distinguish between the chaos of immaturity and responsible freedom. This has increased parental sensitivity to the short-term emotional suffering of their children, while heightening their fear of damaging their children to a painful and counterproductive degree. Better this than the reverse, you might argue—but there are catastrophes lurking at the extremes of every moral continuum.
- Jordan Peterson, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos (2018)
- San Francisco in the middle sixties was a very special time and place to be a part of. Maybe it meant something. Maybe not…but every now and then the energy of a whole generation comes to a head in a long fine flash, for reasons that nobody really understands at the time — and which never explain, in retrospect, what actually happened.
My central memory of that time seems to hang on one or five or maybe forty nights — or very early mornings — when I left the Fillmore half-crazy and, instead of going home, aimed the big 650 Lightning across the Bay Bridge at a hundred miles an hour...booming through the Treasure Island tunnel at the lights of Oakland and Berkeley and Richmond, not quite sure which turnoff to take when I got to the other end...but being absolutely certain that no matter which way I went, I would come to a place where people were just as high and wild as I was...
There was madness in any direction, at any hour. If not across the Bay, then up the Golden Gate or down 101 to Los Altos or La Honda...You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning...And that, I think, was the handle — that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil...We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave...
So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes, you can almost see the high-water mark — that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.
- If anything, the sixties was a decade of change, with the lines often drawn between those who embraced change and those who resisted it. And time after time, it was those who embraced it who prevailed.
- Tim Wendel, Summer of ’68 (2012), Chapter 5 (p. 135 in the paperback edition)
- Although the '60s counterculture has been much maligned and discredited, it attempted to provide what we still desperately need: a spirited culture of refusal, a counter-life to the reigning corporate culture of death. We don't need to return to that counterculture, but we do need to take up its challenge again. If the work we do produces mostly bad, ugly, and destructive things, those things in turn will tend to re-create us in their image. We need to turn to good, useful, and beautiful work. We need to ask, as Thoreau and Ruskin did, What are the life-giving things? Such important questions are answered for us in the present by the corporate state, while we are left with the most trivial decisions: what programs to watch on TV and what model car to buy.