One of the undying truths is that campus censorship and protests seem limited to the left seeking to stop those from the right from speaking. We all know of the difficulties faced by people such as Clarence Thomas, Ann Coulter and others when they venture onto a campus. Yet, when the most virulent left-winger shows up, there is nary a peep to be heard. I am distressed when anyone is shouted down by protestors regardless of their views. Imagine then how I felt when some on the right thought it was somehow inappropriate for Bill Ayers to be keynoting a teachers' conference in Atlanta next month. Yes the same Bill Ayers who was Obama's friend and mentor (of course denied by the president) and who was on the FBI's 10 most wanted list along with his wife the equally notorious Bernardine Dohn. Needless to say there has been some outrage expressed on the right that such a figure should be speaking to the Association of Teacher Educators annual conference that bills itself as "devoted solely to the improvement of teacher education both for school-based and post-secondary teach educators." Hum. I wonder if they keep pushing the oppressive "whole language" teaching method that has failed miserably to teach our kids and amongst the teaching establishment refusing to change that education paradigm? Ah. But that's another story. Sure I understand the knee jerk reaction to the name "Bill Ayes" but like it or not Bill Ayers is probably one of the most qualified persons to keynote such a conference. He is a retired professor education at the University of Illinois at Chicago and was a senior university scholar. He was active in public school reform in Chicago (an obvious failure) so he has just not an ivory tower academic. Ayers taught courses in interpretive and qualitative research, urban school change, and the modern predicament (whatever that is). Ayers has written extensively about social justice, democracy and education, the cultural contexts of schooling, and teaching as an essentially intellectual, ethical, and political enterprise. He is currently the vice-president of the curriculum studies division of the American Educational Research Association. He has an impressive vita with articles in journals such as the Harvard Educational Review, the Journal of Teacher Education, Teachers College Record, Rethinking Schools, The Nation, Educational Leadership, the New York Times and the Cambridge Journal of Education. He is also the author and editor of over 20 books. Ayers has written " Central to an education for citizenship, participation, engagement, and democracy -- an education toward freedom -- is developing in students and teachers alike the ability to think and speak for themselves. The core curriculum -- explicit and assumed -- of a liberating education is this: we each have a mind of our own; we are all works-in-progress swimming toward an uncertain and indeterminate shore; we can each join with others in order to act on our own judgments and in our own freedom; human progress is always the result of thoughtful action. This means that a central requirement of teaching and curriculum becomes the development of a distinct and singular voice in every student." Who among us would disagree with that?
Harold A. Black is professor emeritus in the Department of Finance, University of Tennessee, Knoxville having retired after 24 years of service. He has served on the faculties of American University, Howard University, the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill and the University of Florida. His government service includes the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and as a Board Member of the National Credit Union Administration. He also has served on the boards of directors Home Savings of America and its parent company, H. F. Ahmanson & Co., Irwindale, California prior to its merger with Washington Mutual Savings Bank, on the board of New Century Financial Corporation, Irvine, California, then the nation’s largest real estate investment trust and as director and later chairman of the Nashville Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. He writes an occasional article for the Knoxville News-Sentinel at http://www.knoxnews.com/staff/dr-harold-black/. His web page is haroldablackphd.com