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The Bill Ayers/Obama Idea Of Education

More on the educational theories of the domestic terrorist Bill Ayers from a Summer 2006 City Journal article by (the great) Sol Stern):

The Ed Schools’ Latest—and Worst—Humbug

Sol Stern

Summer 2006

Teaching for “social justice” is a cruel hoax on disadvantaged kids.

In 1980, Bill Ayers and his partner Bernardine Dohrn came up from the underground—the Weather Underground, that is. It had been a wild ride for the Bonnie and Clyde of the sixties New Left. They first went into combat during the 1969 “Days of Rage” in Chicago, smashing storefront windows and assaulting police officers and city officials in the fantasy that they were aiding their Vietnamese allies by “bringing the war back home.” They spent the next few years planting bombs at government buildings around the country, including in restrooms at the Pentagon and the Capitol…

Ayers has acknowledged committing crimes during his underground days—crimes that arguably amounted to treason. Yet thanks to procedural complications and a lack of witnesses, he never went to trial or to jail. A few years after stepping out of the shadows, Ayers reflected on his odyssey in a conversation with journalists Peter Collier and David Horowitz: “Guilty as hell, free as a bird—America is a great country,” he exulted…

Ayers’s spectacular second act began when he enrolled at Columbia University’s Teachers College in 1984. Then 40, he planned to stay just to get a teaching credential. (He had taught in a “Freedom School” during his pre-underground student radical days.) But he experienced an epiphany in a course taught by Maxine Greene, a leading light of the “critical pedagogy” movement. As Ayers wrote later, he took fire from Greene’s lectures on how the “oppressive hegemony” of the capitalist social order “reproduces” itself through the traditional practice of public schooling—critical pedagogy’s fancy way of saying that the evil corporations exercise thought control through the schools

Greene told future teachers that they could help change this bleak landscape by developing a “transformative” vision of social justice and democracy in their classrooms. Her vision, though, was a far cry from the democratic optimism of the Founding Fathers, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King Jr., which most parents would endorse. Instead, critical pedagogy theorists nurse a rancorous view of an America in which it is always two minutes to midnight and a knock on the door by the thought police is imminent. The education professors feel themselves anointed to use the nation’s K–12 classrooms to resist this oppressive system. Thus Maxine Greene urged teachers not to mince words with children about the evils of the existing social order. They should portray “homelessness as a consequence of the private dealings of landlords, an arms buildup as a consequence of corporate decisions, racial exclusion as a consequence of a private property-holder’s choice.” In other words, they should turn the little ones into young socialists and critical theorists

In record time Ayers acquired an Ed.D. with a dissertation titled “The Discerning ‘I’: Accounts of Teacher Self-Construction Through the Use of Co-Biography, Metaphor, and Image.” There wasn’t much biography, metaphor, or image in the 180-page text. Ayers’s research consisted solely of a few days spent interviewing and observing the classroom practices of three nursery school teachers he knew personally. (In Ayers’s own autobiographical section of the text—de rigueur for Teachers College dissertations—he reminisced about growing up in a wealthy Chicago suburb, about his warm family, and about having been arrested in campus antiwar demonstrations. Of his bomb-making skills or his ten years in the underground he said not a word.)

With his Teachers College credential in hand, Ayers landed an ed-school appointment back in Chicago, where his father was CEO of Commonwealth Edison and nicely plugged in to the city’s political establishment. These days, Ayers carries the joint titles of Distinguished Professor of Education and Senior University Scholar at the University of Illinois at Chicago. One of his several books on the moral imperative of teaching for social justice is a bestseller in ed-school courses. Like many other tenured and well-heeled radicals, Ayers keeps hoping for a revolutionary upheaval that will finally bring down American capitalism and imperialism. But now, instead of planting bombs in bathrooms, he has been planting the seeds of resistance and rebellion in America’s future teachers, who will then pass on the lessons to the students in their classrooms.

Future teachers signing up for Ayers’s course “On Urban Education” can read these exhortations from the course description on the professor’s website:

“Homelessness, crime, racism, oppression—we have the resources and knowledge to fight and overcome these things.”

“We need to look beyond our isolated situations, to define our problems globally. We cannot be child advocates . . . in Chicago or New York and ignore the web that links us with the children of India or Palestine.”

“In a truly just society there would be a greater sharing of the burden, a fairer distribution of material and human resources.”

For another course, titled “Improving Learning Environments,” Ayers proposes that teachers “be aware of the social and moral universe we inhabit and . . . be a teacher capable of hope and struggle, outrage and action, a teacher teaching for social justice and liberation.”

The readings that Ayers assigns are as intellectually stimulating and diverse as a political commissar’s indoctrination session in one of his favorite communist tyrannies. The reading list for his urban education course includes the bible of the critical pedagogy movement, Brazilian Marxist Paolo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed; two books by Ayers himself; another by bell hooks, a radical black feminist writer and critical race theorist; and a “Freedom School” curriculum. That’s the entire spectrum of debate.

For students who might get bored with the purely pedagogic approach to liberation, Ayers also offers a course on the real thing, called “Social Conflicts of the 1960’s.” For this class Ayers also posts his introduction to the soon-to-be-published collection of Weather Underground agitprop that he edited with Dohrn—called, with no intended parody, Sing a Battle Song: The Revolutionary Poetry, Statements and Communiqués of the Weather Underground, 1970-1974. “Once things were connected,” Ayers’s introduction recollects, “we saw a system at work, we were radicalized, we named that system—imperialism—and forged an idea of how to overthrow it. We were influenced by Marx, but we were formed more closely and precisely by Che, Ho, Malcolm X, Amílcar Cabral, Mandela—the Third World revolutionaries—and we called ourselves small ‘c’ communists to indicate our rejection of what had become of Marx in the Soviet Block [sic]. . . . We were anti-authoritarian, anti-orthodoxy, communist street fighters.”

Ayers makes clear that his political views haven’t changed much since those glory days. He cites a letter he recently wrote: “I’ve been told to grow up from the time I was ten until this morning. Bullshit. Anyone who salutes your ‘youthful idealism’ is a patronizing reactionary. Resist! Don’t grow up! I went to Camp Casey [Cindy Sheehan’s vigil at the Bush ranch in Crawford, Texas] in August precisely because I’m an agnostic about how and where the rebellion will break out, but I know I want to be there and I know it will break out.”

In 1997, Ayers and his mentor Maxine Greene persuaded Teachers College Press to launch a series of books on social justice teaching, with Ayers as editor and Greene serving on the editorial board (along with Rashid Khalidi, loyal supporter of the Palestinian cause and the Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia University). Twelve volumes have appeared so far, including one titled Teaching Science for Social Justice.

Teaching science for social justice? Let Teachers College professor Angela Calabrese Barton, the volume’s principal author, try to explain: “The marriages between capitalism and education and capitalism and science have created a foundation for science education that emphasizes corporate values at the expense of social justice and human dignity.” The alternative? “Science pedagogy framed around social justice concerns can become a medium to transform individuals, schools, communities, the environment, and science itself, in ways that promote equity and social justice. Creating a science education that is transformative implies not only how science is a political activity but also the ways in which students might see and use science and science education in ways transformative of the institutional and interpersonal power structures that play a role in their lives.” If you still can’t appreciate why it’s necessary for your child’s chemistry teacher to teach for social justice, you are probably hopelessly wedded to reason, empiricism, individual merit, and other capitalist and post-colonialist deformities…

One by one, the education schools are lining up behind social justice teaching and enforcing it on their students—especially since they expect aspiring teachers to possess the approved liberal “dispositions,” or individual character traits, that will qualify them to teach in the public schools. The National Council on the Accreditation of Teacher Education, the main accreditor of education schools, now monitors how well the schools comply with their own social justice requirements

With the caveat that not all education schools have yet joined the trend, here is a sampler, going from east to west.

Brooklyn College of the City University of New York recently declared: “Because democracy requires a substantive concern for equity, the faculty of the School of Education is committed, in theory and practice, to social justice. . . . We believe that an education centered on social justice prepares the highest quality of future teachers. . . . Our teacher candidates and other school personnel are prepared to demonstrate a knowledge of, language for, and the ability to create educational environments based on various theories of social justice.”

The teacher education program at Marquette University in Milwaukee proclaims that it “has a commitment to social justice in schools and society” and to using education “to transcend the negative effects of the dominant culture.” It requires that all education degree candidates demonstrate a “desire to work for social justice, particularly in an urban environment.” Similarly, the University of Kansas ed school declares that “addressing issues of diversity includes being more global than national and concerned with ideals such as world peace, social justice, respect for diversity and preservation of the environment.”

On the West Coast, the highly regarded Claremont Graduate University not only requires teacher candidates to commit to social justice teaching but screens applicants to make sure they have that essential “disposition.” According to a recent university publication, “CGU’s recruitment efforts focus upon individuals who have an understanding of societal inequities. . . . By reflecting the cultures and languages of the student populations in area K–12 schools and by caring about issues of social justice, CGU’s teachers are role models to their students in a variety of ways.”

At Humboldt State University in northern California, the social studies methods class required for prospective high school history and social studies teachers best demonstrates the school’s commitment to social justice teaching. The professor, Gayle Olson-Raymer, states the course’s purpose right up front in her syllabus: It is not an option for history teachers to teach social justice and social responsibility; it is a mandate. History teachers do their best work when they use their knowledge, their commitment, and their courage to help the students grapple with the important issues of social responsibility and when they encourage them to direct their lives towards creating a just society.”

There is much more in this great article. We recommend that everyone take the time to read the full piece.

And then ponder on what our education system will look like under a President Obama administration.

(Thanks to Albertafriend for the heads up.)

This article was posted by Steve on Friday, October 10th, 2008. Comments are currently closed.

12 Responses to “The Bill Ayers/Obama Idea Of Education”

  1. 1sttofight says:

    Exactly how are the Ayer’s any different from the majority of teachers in the US education system?

    They remind me of two year olds, not good for anything other than disrupting dailey life. I had two of them so I am speaking from experience.

  2. Curmudgeon says:

    Hey 1st, you are being unjust to two-year-olds, who are quite often charming and amusing; people who have swallowed this BS are neither.

  3. A Mad Pole says:

    “They remind me of two year olds, not good for anything other than disrupting dailey life. I had two of them so I am speaking from experience.”

    It almost sounds like you feel the kids had been a punishment for your life’s mistakes ;-)

  4. 1sttofight says:

    They turned out OK, 20 years later. ;)

  5. coffee260 says:

    Steve, Rush made a fantastic point today. What’s the difference between being friends with Bill Ayers as opposed to being friends with Timothy Mcveigh? The body count.

    I added the body count part. But seriously, would the Obama apologists be fine if Obama had close ties with Timothy Mcveigh? Probably. But that’s besides the point.

    Timothy Mcveigh and Bill Ayers are both domestic terrorists; They both used bombs against the government; They were both at war with the federal government; and they both killed innocent people.

    I think it’s fair to ask, what is the difference between Ayers and Mcveigh?

  6. Liberals Demise says:

    Jesus, after reading this puke socialist pig shift….all I could come up with is,”An education is a terrible thing to waste on socio-anarchists.”

  7. Liberals Demise says:

    ” I think it’s fair to ask, what is the difference Ayers and McVeigh?”
    McVeigh served his country first; in the 1st Gulf War!
    He wasn’t after the govt per say, he was pissed at the Clinton Administration for killing women and children at Waco. Reno will answer to God for that one. Timmy is paying his fine in HELL!!

  8. coffee260 says:

    Liberals Demise–

    Point made. But why is Obama getting a pass for paling around with a domestic terrorist akin to a Tim Mcveigh? Of course that was a rhetorical question.

    My point is that when people wonder who’s Bill Ayers. The best way to describe him is another Timothy Mcveigh minus the military service.

    You could say they are coming from opposite ideological spectrums but both meet in the middle with terrorism.

  9. A Mad Pole says:

    “Timmy is paying his fine in HELL!!”

    Off topic but I have to ask, Liberals Demise: and you know this how?

  10. Liberals Demise says:

    For 2 Presidential Obama Coins …you get a 10 second glimpse of hell. BTW….I saw the only Nobel Peace Prize winner there too! ( Hint: He was the leader of the PLO )

  11. A Mad Pole says:

    LD, are you saying you have the power to condemn people to hell? If you are kidding, then sorry, I am Polish, I do not get most of American jokes.

  12. Liberals Demise says:

    It was a joke my friend. Did you see the link about Brotha HO being immoralized on a coin made in England?

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