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William Ayers Writes An Open Letter To Barack Obama

By Samantha Abernethy in News on Nov 7, 2012 4:40PM

Political lightning rod William Ayers wrote an open letter to President Barack Obama congratulating him on a win and urging him to take education reform seriously.

To some, Ayers is an "unrepentant terrorist." In a 2008 post-election editorial in the New York Times, Ayers said in the 2008 election he "was unwillingly thrust upon the stage and asked to play a role in a profoundly dishonest drama," as conservatives depicted Obama as "palling around with terrorists," including Ayers and Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

To others, Ayers is an education reform scholar and a professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Now Ayers thrusts himself into a different role: Education critic. In an open letter to the president, Ayers says the major flaw in current education police lies in the theory that "Education is a commodity like any other—a car or a refrigerator, a box of bolts or a screwdriver—that is bought and sold in the marketplace." Instead, Ayers says education should be treated as "a fundamental human right, not a product."

Ayers also points out that the administration's educations policies differ from those of the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, where Ayers, Obama, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Mayor Rahm Emanuel have all sent their children. Ayers writes:

In a vibrant democracy, whatever the most privileged parents want for their children must serve as a minimum standard for what we as a community want for all of our children. Arne Duncan attended the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools (as did our three sons); you sent your kids to Lab, and so did your friend Rahm Emanuel. There students found small classes, abundant resources, and opportunities to experiment and explore, ask questions and pursue answers to the far limits, and a minimum of time-out for standardized testing. They found, as well, a respected and unionized teacher corps, people who were committed to a life-long career in teaching and who were encouraged to work cooperatively for their mutual benefit (and who never would settle for being judged, assessed, rewarded, or punished based on student test scores).

Good enough for you, good enough for the privileged, then it must be good enough for the kids in public schools everywhere—a standard to be aspired to and worked toward. Any other ideal for our schools, in the words of John Dewey who founded the school you chose for your daughters, “is narrow and unlovely; acted upon it destroys our democracy.”

Read the full letter on