A petition in support of Bill Ayers

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“We write to support our colleague Professor William Ayers, Distinguished Professor of Education and Senior University Scholar at the University of Illinois at Chicago, who is currently under determined and sustained political attack. Ayers is a nationally known scholar, member of the Faculty Senate at UIC, Vice President-elect of the American Educational Research Association, and sought after as a speaker and visiting scholar by other universities because of his exemplary scholarship, teaching, and service. Throughout the 20 years that he has been a valued faculty member at UIC, he has taught, advised, mentored, and supported hundreds of undergraduate, Masters and Ph.D. students. He has pushed them to take seriously their responsibilities as educators in a democracy – to promote critical inquiry, dialogue, and debate; to encourage questioning and independent thinking; to value the full humanity of every person and to work for access and equity. Helping educators develop the capacity and ethical commitment to these responsibilities is at the core of what we do, and as a teacher he has always embraced debate and multiple perspectives.

All citizens, but particularly teachers and scholars, are called upon to challenge orthodoxy, dogma, and mindless complacency, to be skeptical of authoritative claims, to interrogate and trouble the given and the taken-for-granted. Without critical dialogue and dissent we would likely be burning witches and enslaving our fellow human beings to this day. The growth of knowledge, insight, and understanding— the possibility of change— depends on that kind of effort, and the inevitable clash of ideas that follows should be celebrated and nourished rather than crushed. Teachers have a heavy responsibility, a moral obligation, to organize classrooms as sites of open discussion, free of coercion or intimidation. By all accounts Professor Ayers meets this standard. His classes are fully enrolled, and students welcome the exchange of views that he encourages.

The current characterizations of Professor Ayers—“unrepentant terrorist,” “lunatic leftist”—are unrecognizable to those who know or work with him. It’s true that Professor Ayers participated passionately in the civil rights and antiwar movements of the 1960s, as did hundreds of thousands of Americans. His participation in political activity 40 years ago is history; what is most relevant now is his continued engagement in progressive causes, and his exemplary contribution—including publishing 16 books— to the field of education. The current attacks appear as part of a pattern of “exposés” and assaults designed to intimidate free thinking and stifle critical dialogue. Like crusades against high school and elementary teachers, and faculty at UCLA, Columbia, DePaul, and the University of Colorado, the attacks on and the character assassination of Ayers threaten the university as a space of open inquiry and debate, and threaten schools as places of compassion, imagination, curiosity, and free thought. They serve as warnings that anyone who voices perspectives and advances questions that challenge orthodoxy and political power may become a target, and this, then, casts a chill over free speech and inquiry and the spirit of democracy.

We, the undersigned, stand on the side of education as an enterprise devoted to human inquiry, enlightenment, and liberation. We oppose the demonization of Professor William Ayers.”

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6 comments on “A petition in support of Bill Ayers
  1. Keith says:

    I’ve met him twice, and he’s awesome.

  2. JH says:

    Yeah, well … this is the kind of factual news that tends to stay online and relatively buried, and is not (or rarely) used to counter the talking point repeated ad nauseum on the real news.

  3. McD says:

    The tactic of linking a “strawman” to a “red herring” is a gift for confusing voters and a test for the media to set the record straight.

    “Obama is palling around with terrorists.”

    Strawman: “Bill Ayres is a terrorist” OK. Would that make him a criminal? Well… he’s not a practicing terrorist. He’s actually a professor at the University of Chicago.

    Red Herring: “Obama servered on a board witj Bill Aryes”

    Classic politics of “guilt by association”.

    Can I play?

    John McCain was held and brain washed by communists for 6 years to hate America and eventually they deemed the job finished and released him to work for them here in America (see “The Manchurian Candidate”).

    How will McCain respond when tested to confront America’s enemies?
    Perhaps only the communists who trained him know for sure.

    Ugh… politics by paranoia is a nasty, nasty business. Connect dots of negative emotion and stir with e twist. It leaves the voters shaken if not stirred.

    Let’s put our faith in the inherent goodness of people and the wisdom of crowds. Otherwise, democracy is doomed. It does help to have strong advocates for truth consistently crying foul.

    There are other connections that can also be made… Bill Ayres linked to redemption, for example. Over 40 years a person can change. I’d be wary of someone that didn’t.

    I’m sure John McCain has changed too… unfortunately, he has changed by embracing the politics of Karl Rove: repeat the most damning lies possible because they wear down the opponent, the voter and the media until even the truth seems suspect.

  4. Alec says:

    If Bill Ayers and all you people- are working so hard to get absolution for Bill Ayers- all he has to do is REPENT.
    At least that will get the “unrepentent” part off the charge.
    Same way Obama could vindicate himself by handing over the documents asked for in the Philadelphia courts- instead of his attorneys filing motions to dismiss.

    Seems like there are easy answers to some of these problems.

  5. Bonaventure-Hercule Lapingaroux says:

    Repent! repent! The end of the world is nigh!

    Frank, he’s right. It’s about time you all embraced the wholesome goodness of proceduralism. Only in this way can you prove a negative! It’s quite simple. If you do, then you prove your willingness to accept your assigned penance in good faith. That ameliorates the worst of whatever it is that results from the charges. No, really. I mean it. I’m familiar with your qualms on this score, but if it saves the life of just one morbidly anal , self-loathing, moral relativist right wing collectivist crackpot, it will be worth it (with a few caveats, possibly).

    As you and and the good senator submit, try not to think of it as acquiescing to the bad faith pettifoggery of the sanctimonious yuppie jacquerie. Think of it instead as a great big delicious pastry, filled with real lamb’s blood, dusted with depleted uranium and chilled to perfection. Better living through euphemisms? Eh? Ha! I know you’re tempted!

    PS: I got tenure, at last.

  6. Papa Bear says:

    This is America where we (still) can speak freely about a man who hated this country and apparently still does. We can warn and plead with our fellow Americans not to vote for Senator Obama who was so closely associated with this domestic terrorist. It is no more plausable that he “was just a guy in my neighborhood,” or “these events occured when I was 8 years old,” than to think that after 20 years Senator Obama was shocked by Reverend Wright’s anti-American, anti-white rantings.

    Ayres introduced Obama to his friends in support of Obama’s first campaign for state office. Ayres apparently promoted Obama to head the Woods Foundation which then funded Ayres projects. They served together for 6 years on that board. Obama wrote an approving comment for the dust jacket or back page of a book by Ayres. Michelle Obama arranged symposia featuring Ayres and Barak together promoting the same radical education concepts.

    No one is suggesting Ayres be fired for his anarchistic and anti-American views. The stifling of free speech is being done by those who try to shut down the people seeking to expose the dangerous Obama Ayres connection.

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