Bill Ayers has a new book coming out and is doing the lecture circuit on college campuses. He was invited to speak on “Democracy and Education: Teaching for Liberation” at Elgin Community College in Elgin, Illinois, on September 26, and on Tuesday, October 1, he will be speaking at Gettysburg College on “Queering Education.”
Some people remember Ayers’s real past and are objecting. ECC alumni Robert and Barbara Haase, in a letter to the editor, wrote: “William Ayers’ viewpoint should not be included in the ‘variety of viewpoints’ in the marketplace of ideas you propose to expose. . . .”
They said that he deserved jail time for setting bombs at a time when their “friends and relatives in Vietnam [were] defending Ayers’ right to express his views without fear. Some of them never made it home. They were not there to defend anyone’s right to commit acts of terrorism.”
They are quoting an administrator who used the old saw of “variety of viewpoints” to justify inviting Ayers.
But college students, immersed in romanticized versions of 1960s history, will have little against which to challenge Ayers’s revised history. His new book, Public Enemy: Confessions of an American Dissident, appears to be an attempt to wipe away charges against him in 2008 with a series of lies, lies that are evident from his own blog promoting the book: “In the heat of the 2008 presidential election, Barack Obama’s opponents were spinning a chilling narrative that cast him as an enigmatic figure with a group of shadowy associates, including a Black Nationalist preacher, a Palestinian professor, and an ‘unrepentant domestic terrorist.’ That imagined terrorist was Bill Ayers, a one-time leader of the Weather Underground. . . .”
He claims that he is “a dedicated teacher, father, and social justice advocate.” His “‘shady past’” is actually “the story of an ardent antiwar activist.”
Is he really just an “ardent antiwar activist” demonized by the McCain campaign, as he claims?
Ayers himself in several passages in his earlier memoir Fugitive Days admits to participating in bombings. He posed for the book’s publicity photo by standing on an American flag.
The Weather Underground’s 1974 manifesto Prairie Fire, stated, “We are a guerilla organization. We are communist women and men, underground in the United States for more than four years,” and “Our intention is to disrupt the empire . . . to incapacitate it, to put pressure on the cracks, to make it hard to carry out its bloody functioning against the people of the world, to join the world struggle, to attack from the inside.”
In Fugitive Days, Ayers also describes hopes of a world communist revolution:
The world is in flames, we thought, the people of the world rising against the octopus of imperialism and cutting off its tentacles one by one. It was a compelling image, apocalyptic: Cuba, one, Korea, two, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Angola, Algeria, Ghana, and Viet Nam, of course, number eight, where the monster had overextended itself once and for all. National liberation movements active in Chile, Panama, Argentina, Guatemala, the Philippines, Jamaica, South Africa, Mexico—dos, tres, muchos Viet Nams—had heated up and the world’s aggressive policemen were pinned down in Southeast Asia. A pitiful, helpless giant.The U.S. is the “pitiful, helpless giant” in the face of a communist world revolution.
None of that is mentioned in his blog, nor was it mentioned last February when he spoke at the Association of Teacher Educators conference. Instead, he repeated lines from his nonsensical writings about education, like “We are finite beings plunging through infinite space,” and we are “world changers, one person at a time.” He advised fellow educators and graduate students on “how to survive till the revolution” by doing “anarchist calisthenics.” He had nothing to say about improving the performance of students in the “urban schools” for which he has trained teachers.
Colleges now are simply giving Ayers a forum to promote his upcoming book and his revisionist, self-glorifying history that was promoted to his college students, even on his syllabi. Consider this quotation from “Social Conflicts of the 1960s, Honors 201” for Spring semester 2006:
In 1965, just as the American catastrophe in Viet Nam was reaching full ignition, I was arrested along with 38 others for disrupting the normal operations of the Ann Arbor draft board, part of the bureaucratic machinery for sorting soldiers from civilians, the living from the dead, issuing we thought, warrants to kill and to die.U.S. political leaders on this syllabus are described as having been “blind and arrogant and cocksure as they took over the failed French colonial mission.” The U.S. enemy was “a poor peasant nation” that “refused their assigned role in Washington’s script . . . the National Liberation Front wouldn’t quit—they retreated when necessary, holed up underground as required, and reemerged suddenly to beat back the invaders.”
In a 19-page essay on the syllabus for a seminar called Conceptions of Teaching and Schooling (CIE 576), Ayers claimed that teachers are “cogs,” and students are “prisoners,” “compelled by the state to attend, handed a schedule, a uniform, and a rule book, sent to specific designated space of cell blocks, monitored constantly….”
The idea of schools as prisons was promoted by American communists in the 1930s.
The Weather Underground’s document “Bring the War Home” similarly stated, “Young people all over the country go to prisons that are called schools,” and “No longer will we tolerate ‘law and order’ backed up by soldiers in Vietnam and pigs [police] in the communities and schools.”
Now Bill Ayers’s own words, are being used in a K-12 curriculum put out by a non-profit called, ironically, “Americans Who Tell the Truth.” These supposed truth-tellers are mostly radicals, like Ayers, Medea Benjamin, and Howard Zinn. Gettysburg College even used the original oil portrait of Ayers produced by the non-profit in its poster for their event. Students in some schools today are reading such self-serving, heart-tugging prose by the bomb-setter, Bill Ayers: “I held tight to the romance that ordinary people have the capacity to eliminate the agony of exploitation and the intolerable suffering of the poor and the despised—to achieve justice in the public square and establish a beloved community.”
Has Bill Ayers changed his stripes? Is he simply someone who was an antiwar activist, but then became a respectable professor, as he would like naïve students to believe?
Bill Ayers failed in bringing about a revolution with the terrorist organization Weatherman he co-founded, so he tried to do it through education and by lying to the most vulnerable.
This is not about free speech, as Ayers’s allies, like the administrators at Elgin Community College, would like to make it.
Bill Ayers has not changed a whit.
He is still as arrogant as Weatherman informant Larry Grathwohl described him and as anti-intellectual as David Horowitz described him.
He’s not even smart enough to disguise the ideas expressed from his days in the Weather Underground. But given what they’re taught, students wouldn’t know this.