Whatever It Is That Is Wrong With America’s Public Schools…
…and clearly something is (most of the trouble comes from the three letters NEA), I bet, if asked to name the top ten problems, you wouldn’t come up with ‘capitalist hegemony’. Yet that’s exactly the diagnosis offered by Bill Ayers, former domestic terrorist with the Weather Underground and now…Distinguished Professor of Education and Senior University Scholar at the University of Illinois at Chicago. If you read that sentence without doing a double-take, and I’m sure some of you did, that only shows how far the radicalization of our universities has gone.
In the latest issue of the excellent City Journal, Sol Stern profiles Ayers as a case study in the burgeoning movement to bring ‘social justice’ theory to our nation’s classrooms:
…[C]ritical pedagogy theorists nurse a rancorous view of an America in which it is always two minutes to midnight and a knock on the door by the thought police is imminent. The education professors feel themselves anointed to use the nation’s K–12 classrooms to resist this oppressive system. Thus Maxine Greene urged teachers not to mince words with children about the evils of the existing social order. They should portray “homelessness as a consequence of the private dealings of landlords, an arms buildup as a consequence of corporate decisions, racial exclusion as a consequence of a private property-holder’s choice.” In other words, they should turn the little ones into young socialists and critical theorists.
All music to Bill Ayers’s ears. The ex-Weatherman glimpsed a new radical vocation. He dreamed of bringing the revolution from the streets to the schools. And that’s exactly what he has managed to do.
Here’s what a young educator taught by Ayers will take to the job:
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. The reading list for his urban education course includes the bible of the critical pedagogy movement, Brazilian Marxist Paolo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed; two books by Ayers himself; another by bell hooks, a radical black feminist writer and critical race theorist; and a “Freedom School” curriculum. That’s the entire spectrum of debate.
For students who might get bored with the purely pedagogic approach to liberation, Ayers also offers a course on the real thing, called “Social Conflicts of the 1960’s.” For this class Ayers also posts his introduction to the soon-to-be-published collection of Weather Underground agitprop that he edited with Dohrn—called, with no intended parody, Sing a Battle Song: The Revolutionary Poetry, Statements and Communiqués of the Weather Underground, 1970-1974. “Once things were connected,” Ayers’s introduction recollects, “we saw a system at work, we were radicalized, we named that system—imperialism—and forged an idea of how to overthrow it. We were influenced by Marx, but we were formed more closely and precisely by Che, Ho, Malcolm X, Amílcar Cabral, Mandela—the Third World revolutionaries—and we called ourselves small ‘c’ communists to indicate our rejection of what had become of Marx in the Soviet Block [sic]. . . . We were anti-authoritarian, anti-orthodoxy, communist street fighters.”
Don’t think you can take comfort from the belief that Ayers is acting in isolation, either:
Though no one has as yet surveyed how far social justice teaching has pervaded America’s 1,500 ed schools, education researchers David Steiner (now Hunter College ed-school dean) and Susan Rozen did a study two years ago on the syllabi of the basic “foundations of education” and “methods” courses in 16 of the nation’s most prestigious ed schools. The mainstays of the foundations courses were works by Paolo Freire, Henry Giroux (a leading critical pedagogy theorist), and the radical education writer Jonathan Kozol (“America’s Most Influential—and Wrongest—School Reformer,” Winter 2000). For the methods courses, Bill Ayers’s To Teach: The Journey of a Teacher tops the bestseller list. Neither list included advocates of a knowledge-based and politically neutral curriculum, such as E. D. Hirsch Jr. or Diane Ravitch.
Is there any doubt where the young ‘progressives’ are coming from? Bad enough that colleges and universities put out this claptrap regularly, but to bring up a generation of educators under this regime? Almost unthinkable. I have no answers (though Stern takes a stab at a solution at the end), but after reading this outstanding piece, I have plenty of disturbing questions…