Saturday, October 18, 2008

William Ayers: Educator

The following is a Letter to the Editor of the Norfolk Daily News, written by my Aunt Peg Timmer-Kathol, to our hometown newspaper. This came across the Borgmann-Family List-serve, and made me so proud of my auntie. Below, you'll find some family responses to my aunt's courageous writing.
Saturday, October 18, 2008, 9:24 AM William Ayers: Educator

Where do I begin??? When I realized that the Bill Ayers, who is the subject of concern in the Obama campaign was the same William Ayers, professor of education at the University of Chicago, innovative school reformer, inspiring speaker who I heard and met at a graduate school reunion in Chicago, I was upset, and angered. First of all because people were overlooking the good that he has done since he was 17, and involved in anti-war uprisings, and secondly because there did not seem to be much research done about him before public speakers picked up the ex-terrorist chant against him. Anyone who knows me knows that I do not advocate bombing, but I do advocate forgiveness. Seventeen, to say 57 is a long time to be unforgiven.

I did my graduate school work at a progressive education college in NYC called Bank Street College. On our list of books to read was "To Become A Teacher, Making a Difference in Children's Lives," edited by William Ayers with a Forward by Jonathan Kozol. Anyone in Education who has read anything about public school reform has read "Savage Inequalities" by Jonathan Kozol. William Ayers, coupled with Jonathan Kozol, along with many well-known educators put together an inspiring handbook for beginning teachers and graduate students. Now, according to the Norfolk Daily News dated Friday October 17, 2008, Bill Ayers had been invited to speak at UNL on Nov 15, 2008, last February, long before he became controversial in the Obama campaign. He will speak to a group of graduate students in the education department. That is, he will speak to them if his appearance is not canceled because UNL supporters are threatening to withhold funds. Also, our senator is suggesting that it is not a good idea to have him speak.

My concern with all of this is where is our freedom to speak and learn? Why are we sitting back and allowing someone to tell us who can and cannot speak, but we are all being asked to wait and see what happens to investments and retirement funds that are being sucked up by friends of politicians and government officials? Why is thievery more moral and accepted than freedom of speech?

I have just retired from teaching art for 20 years at Norfolk Catholic Schools and my history as an innovative teacher did not come from the "normal" college classes that we are all asked to take in our undergraduate programs, but from Bank Street College in NYC where we were asked to look at reformers like William Ayers.

Peg Timmer-Kathol


Jill Timmer Teehan said...

Way to to go, Peg! Open people's minds to all levels of education including those of people with backgrounds different than their own. Promote thinking, questioning and forward movement.

I would advise you, you may get some major feedback (mean phone calls, nasty letters, snide Norfolk mall looks, etc.) in ways you would not expect from people you thought you knew... There is a huge Sarah Palin contingency who are on the "corroborating with terrorists" bandwagon and you will now be in that camp simply by association regardless of Bill Ayers' subsequent reform work.

Keep up the good work.

Jill Timmer Teehan
Newbury Park, CA 91320

Queen Mab said...

Aunt Peg,

I'm echoing all of Jill's words here. And adding my own enthusiastic: "Goodness! WOOHOO!" Applause! Applause! "Here's to your voice! Your courage! Your candor! Your challenge toward critical thinking!"

I have to forward this...Yes...Your challenge for critical thinking, questioning and viewing is so rich and so necessary! The call to understand and navigate the complexity of this situation, beyond surface judgements -- is exactly the call to a more responsible and mature citizenry that we want to see here, and all over the world....As it speaks to the more complex circumstances of so many issues we face as humans, as voters, as engaged beings wanting the best for ourselves, our families, our collective, united global future.

Thank you, Love,

Beth Borgmann said...

Well- written letter Peg.
It just makes me wonder about where all of this controversy is coming from.


Melissa Borgmann said...

Welcome to the world of fear and hate, Mom. People fear what they do not know or understand from first hand experience-- it's human.

It's easier to judge and dismiss based on a simplistic label. (In this case: 'terrorist.')

Hate comes when the fear feels too threatening, and a response seems

Look at any controversy. The heart of any war. Fear. (Ignorance. Lack of empathy. Lack of inquiry.)=Hate.

Our best work is to always ask questions and approach with compassion, no matter what.

Marie Teehan said...

Good for you , Peg, I know it takes courage to stand up for what is right. Hate mongering has replaced reason and dialog because winning is more important than being right.

Ayers has done more than his detractors but they will never know or acknowledge that. It is their loss.