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Unapologetic Former Terrorist Teaches Teachers; Is Vice President for Curriculum

Unapologetic Former Terrorist Teaches Teachers; Is Vice President for Curriculum

As a founding member of the Weather Underground, William Ayers bombed the New York City police headquarters, the U.S. Capitol Building, and the Pentagon in the early 1970s. Because of a procedural error in his trial, he was never punished for his crimes. "Guilty as hell, free as a bird - America is a great country," he later quipped.

Now, Ayers teaches teachers, as a tenured professor of education at the University of Illinois, Chicago. His wife and former Weather Underground associate, Bernadine Dohrn, teaches law at Northwestern University. The couple's friendship with Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has brought them under scrutiny in recent months. Obama reminded critics that he was only eight years old at the time of Ayers's and Dohrn's terrorist activities with the Weather Underground. But as Ed Lasky pointed out in American Thinker, Obama "elided the fact that they have no remorse for their actions and Ayers publicly wished there had been more of them."

In a strange twist of fate, Ayers's memoirs appeared in the New York Times on September 11, 2001. "I don't regret setting bombs," he wrote. "I feel we didn't do enough."

Although he no longer sets bombs, Ayers's political views are as radical now as they were in the 1970s. "Viva Presidente Chavez!" he cried in a speech in Venezuela in 2006, in which he also declared, "education is the motor-force of revolution." Ayers speaks openly of his desire to use the classrooms of America's public schools to train up a generation of revolutionaries who will overturn the supposedly imperialist regime of capitalist America.

In a 2006 interview with Revolution, the magazine of the devotedly "Marxist-Leninist-Maoist" Revolutionary Communist Party, Ayers decried American conservatives as "the most reactionary cabal of ideologues I've ever seen." According to Ayers, these ideologues control "all three branches of the federal government, control many state governments, control the media - the kind of bought priesthood of the media that does nothing but bow down to them and kowtow to them."

Ayers accuses these ideologues of waging "a whole frontal attack on the very idea of public education . . . an attack on the idea that there should be free common public education for all." He attributes to them the "zero tolerance" policies that have cropped up in schools across the nation. According to Ayers, we owe these irrational policies to conservatives who are relentlessly subverting democracy and working to create an authoritarian society.

One might assume these notions would place Ayers on the outer fringe of the political left and of the education school establishment. Although he certainly is more radical than most of his peers, those peers recently elected him to an important position in the American Education Research Association (AERA), the largest organization of education school professors and researchers. Ayers will serve as vice-president for curriculum. This post increases his already extensive influence; his books are already among the most widely used in America's 1,500 schools of education.

Sol Stern of the Manhattan Institute has written several articles exposing Ayers's radical ideas and plans for K-12 public education (City Journal, Summer 2006 and 4-23-08). "With Bill Ayers now part of [AERA]'s national leadership," predicts Stern, "you can be sure that it will encourage even more funding and support for research on how teachers can promote left-wing ideology in the nation's classrooms - and correspondingly less support for research on such mundane subjects as the best methods for teaching underprivileged children to read."

Ayers has pioneered the expansion of "social justice education." "Social justice" sounds like something everyone could agree on, but almost always become a highly politicized exercise in teaching children that our nation is oppressive and unjust, and that only socialism can solve these problems.

In Ayers's own classes, students seem to learn more about how resources should be redistributed than about "urban education" or "improving learning environments" (two of Ayers's course titles). "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," writes Stern.

It is relatively rare for a professor of education to openly favor instruction that transforms students' political views rather than informing students on subjects such as history, science, or math. Ayers, however, seems to strongly prefer the former to the latter.