Around 1968, the time bomb exploded and worldwide the student revolutions broke loose, buildings were occupied and on campus, mob rule reigned. The revolution was successful in the sense that, when the dust had settled, the old university was no more. Under slogans like “Education for the People by the People”, maintaining intellectual standards was presented as something immoral and striving for perfection —traditionally the raison d’être of the academic enterprise— was discarded as “elitist” and hence “undemocratic”. For a lecture course on a formal topic like program correctness, the climate had become less than ideal, for the whole preposterous idea that programs should meet formal specifications was clearly only pushed by an older generation that wanted to stay in power and to that end tried to prolong the circumstances in which their better education gave them the upper hand. Political sloganeering knew no limits; half a decade later, an Australian columnist would relate mathematical discipline to fascism and would explain that from Wirth and Dijkstra, coming from Germanic countries, you could expect no better than sympathy for such stifling rigour, but that he totally failed to understand how the freedom-loving Anglo-Saxon Hoare could join that crowd.

EWD #1298

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