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THE CHICAGO TRAIL AND JUDICIAL PROCESS

The events preceding and including the trial of the so-called “Chicago Seven” have been in the news since The Democratic Convention of the summer of 1968. It was then that a large group of students, radicals, hippies and rebels tried to disrupt the Democratic Convention by rioting. Seven of the leaders of that turmoil in Chicago were imprisoned and have been on trial for several weeks. The charge is conspiring to cross state lines into Chicago with the intent of inciting violence.

The defendants have done all they could to make the trial a farce. They have been unruly in the courtroom; they have openly defied the judge and the marshals; they have shouted obscenities and indignities repeatedly; they have tried by every means to destroy the judicial process.

Fully expecting to be found guilty they have done all these things deliberately in an attempt to goad the judge to do things which could force a decision in a higher court calling the trial a mistrial. But now it becomes clear that their purposes in disrupting the court room proceedings had a broader goal. By their rowdy and insulting manner they have deliberately and consciously shown their contempt for the whole judicial system of this country. Their argument, according to Newsweek goes something like this. They have every right in the world to engage in activity such as they engaged in at the Chicago Democratic Convention. The Constitution of this country under which they live guarantees them freedom of speech. And they have the right to use this freedom of speech to advocate overthrow of the established order. If the judicial system of this country is capable of producing a law which condemns such conduct as they engaged in, then the judicial system also needs to be overthrown. The very fact that they are being tried under a law condemning the crossings of state lines to incite violence is proof to them that the judicial system needs destroying. Further, the whole history of events in Chicago which gave rise to the arrests and the trial is so complex that the present judicial procedures are utterly incapable of getting at the truth of what actually took place. Hence, the whole legal process of this country is rigged to deny these men their Constitutionally guaranteed rights. All of this is supposed to be what they are saying by their intolerable conduct at their trial. They are saying in effect: “We couldn’t care less what this court decides because the whole system which is trying us is, so corrupt that it is incapable of giving us a fair trial. Hence we will act as if it is worthy only of our contempt. We will show our desire to destroy it by our conduct.”

We are not now particularly interested in the validity of their line of argumentation, although it seems clear that these men could stand a few lessons in elementary logic. What is disturbing is that the whole issue comes down to the fundamental question of respect for and obedience to God-ordained authority. These men are totally lacking in this. Not only was this evident in their court-room antics; it was evident in their conduct during Chicago’s Convention.

But even more disturbing is the fact that their antics have, in the opinion of many sound and apparently sane lawyers, raised a very fundamental question of constitutional law. That question is this. Can a man receive a fair trail by a judicial system which, in his opinion is rigged to deny him his constitutional rights in the first place? Or, to put it a little differently, are not these men condemned by the judicial system which is trying them even before they come to trial? The altogether disturbing part of the whole business is that there are lawyers who think that this is true.

What would be the conclusion of such a position? In the first place, the conclusion would be that our entire judicial system has to be overhauled and reorganized along entirely different lines. In the second place, this reorganization of our judicial system would have to be along such lines as would recognize the right of an element in our society to seek deliberately to overthrow the present government and to defy at will any laws which would happen at the moment to meet with their disapproval. In other words, the reorganization of the judicial system would have to give the right of freedom to break the law when one chose to do this.

Lawyers who are inclined to support the contention of these rebels do not talk about these conclusions in so many words, but recognize that this is the thrust of the matter after all. And, if this should happen in this fair land, every one would be given a carte blanche to do as he pleased.

The Scriptures speak of the fact that lawlessness and a great increase in it must be considered by the faithful as a sign of the imminence of the return of the Lord. That lawlessness is increasing goes without saying. That the courts of the land should legally and officially condone such lawlessness only brings this sign of Christ’s return in sharper focus.

TROUBLE IN THE HIGH SCHOOLS

We have become accustomed to hearing about campus rioting and student disorders in higher institutions of learning. The news has regularly brought to our attention events at various colleges and universities in which students went on strikes, took over various buildings on campuses and imposed demands of their own on faculties and administrations. We have almost come to expect this thing from students who have gone beyond high school in pursuit of an education. It came as somewhat of a shock therefore, to learn from the February 16 issue of Newsweek that the same thing is happening in high schools.

In a feature article, Newsweek calls attention to the fact that the high schools of this land rate right along with colleges in student disorders and are, as a result, in deep trouble.

In high schools too there are incidents of racial strife, arson attempts, free-speech movements, underground newspapers, organizations of students dedicated to the radical change of the schools they attend, strikes, sit-ins, and the inevitable lists of student demands which high school administrators are being forced to meet. And, as is also becoming increasingly common, drugs are an integral part of high school life. On this latter point, Newsweek gives some frightening statistics.

Last month, surveys by both high-school students and administrators pointed up just how widespread drug use really is. At Greenwich (Conn.) High School, the student newspaper took a sample of homeroom classes and reported that 46 per cent of all seniors had smoked marijuana, 10 per cent had tried LSD and 3 per cent had used heroin. “‘We do it,” said a Greenwich senior who has already been accepted at the University of Connecticut, “because it’s there, because we like it and because it’s one way to tell the grown-up world to go to —-.” In Grosse Pointe Park, Mich., a wealthy suburb of Detroit, school officials surveyed 2,650 students from the fifth through twelfth grades and ended up with similar findings: about half the seniors had used drugs at least once; frequent users often start in the eighth and ninth grades, and most students obtain drugs from friends without spending money and usually get them in their own or friends’ homes.

Newsweek tells a little story in this connection which, if not so tragic, would be funny. School officials were interested in educating their student body on drugs and held a session with junior-high students. To show these students what marijuana cigarettes looked like, the officials passed out four such cigarettes to the students to examine. At the end of the session, the officials asked the students to return the cigarettes, but were surprised and startled to receive back a total of seven.

In an obviously sympathetic article, Newsweek tries to examine precisely what the main objection of students is to existing high schools. The researchers wanted to know what was wrong with the schools to trigger such repeated and wide-spread violence. The answers to this question took the larger part of the article. But the disconcerting thing is that one can read the article as many times as one will and there just are not any real complaints which the students have. Newsweek doesn’t assert this; rather the magazine rather naively makes every effort to support the case which the students have. But read as you will you can’t find any real gripes.

In fact, about all the student complaints amount to is a rather angry charge that the schools are not “relevant”. To quote some of the exact words:

Some of the more reform-minded students wonder whether, despite the new rules and courses, any of the essentials have really changed—whether students are any more “responsible for their own lives” and whether the school experience is any more “relevant” to the outside world. . . .

. . . American city school systems have not really come to grips with the problems of educating a new kind of student. Piecemeal reform and concessions to the student pressure, most educational experts agree, will not be sufficient. What is needed is a frontal assault on the existing school structure that will replace outmoded teaching methods, impersonal or authoritarian teacher-student relations and obsolete behavior codes with new forms and ideas more in tune with the times.

This is about as specific as the whole article gets. And I frankly confess that I still do not know what “relevant” means in this context.

But some apparently do. Various experiments are once again being tried. Newsweek tells of one such experiment in Oregon. An entirely new high school was built incorporating all the newest and latest ideas of seven young Ph. D. candidates at Harvard. The school is operated along these lines. Students are, within certain limits, allowed to pick their own subjects. They are encouraged to spend half their day in studying the traditional subjects in small groups, but doing their studying in their own way. For example, one such course, in a traditional subject, is described as “What’s going on? What can be done to change it? You pick the time and the area. But think in terms of social problems.” The other half of the day students can do as they please. They can study, read, do research, take different courses among which are “bachelor cooking” and “ecological action planning” or, as the magazine says, “wander around the hallways, smooch in the school boiler room or trade drugs in a nearby park.” The students are happy here we are told. It is not surprising though. Classes are informal; there are few rules, no dress codes and almost no discipline; students call teachers by their first names, paint on classroom windows if they like and have a committee that interviews future teaching prospects.

I had thought that after the disastrous results of the experiments in modern educational methods of a couple of decades ago, the idea of free education had been once and for all abandoned. But a new group of recent graduates from Grad School has come along with their untested and untried ideas, and the country has to go through the process again.

Yet, at the bottom of it all is the simple fact that students are not rebelling because they have justified complaints to register with the school authorities. Rather they are rebelling for rebellion’s sake. It’s the “in” thing to do. Everyone is doing it; why should not we? And besides, it’s lots of fun. And mirabile dictu, the school administrators cave in before such asinine student demands, give way to student radicals and jump about in a frenzy of activity trying to give students what they want. Sad to say, the hickory switch has been permanently retired just at the time when it would do most good.

The trouble is that authority has completely broken down in the school systems. This is not surprising. The schools only reflect the situation in the homes of the land. It is not strange then that the effects of all this are felt in all the social relations of life.

What a strange world we live in. How foolish is the wisdom of the world. And it is foolish because it is the moral and spiritual foolishness of hatred of God and His commands.