Former domestic terrorist-turned professor Bill Ayers was widely unseen during the 2012 presidential campaign -- a radical change from 2008, when the controversial figure's face popped up frequently in conservative media. On election night this year, though, rather than keeping himself out of the narrative, Ayers penned and released an open letter to President Barack Obama, congratulating him on his win and imploring him to bolster the public education system.
"Dear President Obama: Congratulations!," the note enthusiastically opens. "I’m sure this is a moment you want to savor, a time to take a deep breath, get some rest, hydrate, regain your balance, and take a long walk in the sunshine."
Former domestic terrorist-turned professor Bill Ayers (Photo Credit: AP)
Ayers continues, telling Obama that it might be "a good time to reflect, rethink, recharge, and perhaps reignite," while also urging the president to "put education" on his "reflective agenda." The unrepentant former terrorist also notes that education reform has been widely unsuccessful to date and that the Obama administration is partly to blame. Beyond this, though, he highlights that efforts to fix the system have been put forward and mismanaged by both sides of the aisle.
Perhaps the crux of Ayers' arguments, which he summarizes in three points, regarding how Obama and others have mishandled education policy can be found in the letter's following two paragraphs:
The three most trumpeted and simultaneously most destructive aspects of the united “school reform” agenda are these: turning over public assets and spaces to private management; dismantling and opposing any independent, collective voice of teachers; and reducing education to a single narrow metric that claims to recognize an educated person through a test score. While there’s absolutely no substantive proof that this approach improves schooling for children, it chugs along unfazed—fact-free, faith-based reform at its core, resting firmly on rank ideology rather than any evidence whatsoever.
The three pillars of this agenda are nested in a seductive but wholly inaccurate metaphor: Education is a commodity like any other—a car or a refrigerator, a box of bolts or a screwdriver—that is bought and sold in the marketplace. Within this controlling metaphor the schoolhouse is assumed to be a business run by a CEO, with teachers as workers and students as the raw material bumping along the assembly line while information is incrementally stuffed into their little up-turned heads.
Bill Ayers mug shot, Chicago, August 1968. (Photo Credit: FILE)
Clearly, Ayers is against privatizing education, which seems to take aim at charter schools and other private or public-private endeavors. Additionally, according to the text, the Occupy supporter also has an aversion to test scores and to attacks on public sector teaching unions.
"I urge you to resist these policies and reject the dominant metaphor as wrong in the sense of inaccurate as well as wrong in the sense of immoral," Ayers subsequently begs Obama in the letter. "Education is a fundamental human right, not a product."
Obama's "Race to the Top" education program is among the elements that Ayers shouts out by name, claiming that it creates unhealthy competition between states and teachers, alike. Interestingly, the former professor at the College of Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago also derides the president for purportedly speaking out against unions on occasion and urges him to reform and bulk up and fix the public education system.