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.