Barack Obama has a new entanglement with unrepentant Weatherman Bill Ayers which I detail below. The gist is this – back in the mid-90’s Bill Ayers was instrumental in the creation and early operation of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, an effort committed to the reform of Chicago’s public schools. Barack Obama was Chairman of the Board of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, which suggests he worked closely with Ayers for several years.
Yet in his recent nationally televised appearances and at his website, Obama fails to mention this Ayers entanglement. Why so coy? It’s hard to believe he actually forgot his executive role in this important foray into public policy; that said, the Chicago Challenge foundered on the hard rocks of Chicago politics and was widely viewed as ineffective, so perhaps he would prefer not to highlight his failure to bring people together and produce real change.
Or maybe Obama was a do-nothing figurehead who honestly forgot that Bill Ayers was running the show. Awkward spin, that. In any case, there is also a question of shared values. Ayers brings a highly progressive approach to education – dare we ask whether Obama shares his values?
Read the rest of Maguire’ s post.
For more an Ayers consider this. In September, 2006 Hugo Chavez insulted President Bush at the United Nations, saying:
The devil is right at home. The devil, the devil himself, is right in the house.
“And the devil came here yesterday. Yesterday the devil came here. Right here.” [crosses himself] “And it smells of sulfur still today.
Yesterday, ladies and gentlemen, from this rostrum, the president of the United States, the gentleman to whom I refer as the devil, came here, talking as if he owned the world. Truly. As the owner of the world.
Two months later, Ayers spoke in Venezuela at an education conference that included Chavez:
I’m honored and humbled to be here with you this morning. I bring greetings and support from your brothers and sisters throughout Northamerica. Welcome to the World Education Forum! Amamos la revolucion Bolivariana!
This is my fourth visit to Venezuela, each time at the invitation of my comrade and friend Luis Bonilla, a brilliant educator and inspiring fighter for justice. Luis has taught me a great deal about the Bolivarian Revolution and about the profound educational reforms underway here in Venezuela under the leadership of President Chavez. We share the belief that education is the motor-force of revolution, and I’ve come to appreciate Luis as a major asset in both the Venezuelan and the international struggle—I look forward to seeing how he and all of you continue to overcome the failings of capitalist education as you seek to create something truly new and deeply humane. Thank you, Luis, for everything you’ve done.
He goes on to describe his worldview:
I began teaching when I was 20 years old in a small freedom school affiliated with the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. The year was 1965, and I’d been arrested in a demonstration. Jailed for ten days, I met several activists who were finding ways to link teaching and education with deep and fundamental social change. They were following Dewey and DuBois, King and Helen Keller who wrote: “We can’t have education without revolution. We have tried peace education for 1,900 years and it has failed. Let us try revolution and see what it will do now.”
I walked out of jail and into my first teaching position—and from that day until this I’ve thought of myself as a teacher, but I’ve also understood teaching as a project intimately connected with social justice. After all, the fundamental message of the teacher is this: you can change your life—whoever you are, wherever you’ve been, whatever you’ve done, another world is possible. As students and teachers begin to see themselves as linked to one another, as tied to history and capable of collective action, the fundamental message of teaching shifts slightly, and becomes broader, more generous: we must change ourselves as we come together to change the world. Teaching invites transformations, it urges revolutions small and large. La educacion es revolucion!
I taught at first in something like a Simoncito—called Head Start—and eventually taught at every level in barrios and prisons and insurgent projects across the United States. I learned then that education is never neutral. It always has a value, a position, a politics. Education either reinforces or challenges the existing social order, and school is always a contested space – what should be taught? In what way? Toward what end? By and for whom? At bottom, it involves a struggle over the essential questions: what does it mean to be a human being living in a human society?
Ayers speech was translated by his son, Chesa Boudin.
His mother, Kathy Boudin, actually got someone killed while in the Weather Underground and did time. Chesa is the author of a couple of books including Letters from Young Activists: Today’s Rebels Speak Out and The Venezuelan Revolution: 100 Questions-100 Answers.
What bearing does any of this have on Barack Obama? He’s a cipher whose bland rhetoric (“Change”) provides little to explain his mindset. So the company he keeps matters.
Let’s put it this way: ifMitt Romney were the Republican nominee and it turned out he had been friendly with the leader of the Texas polygamist sect, the news media — and voters — would find it extremely relevant.