Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Getting to the Point with Ayers

We'll see how effective McCain's negativity towards Ayers and Rezko works tonight. One might say it didn't do too much for Hillary, but she won a lot of races in the final stretch, so the jury is out. Naturally the Obama campaign is still defending itself using the "Obama was only 8 when Ayers was doing his stuff" routine, purposely missing the point but deemed by conservatives as a closed case until today, when a major media figure attempted to challenge it. Mark Halperin's exchange followed a report on CNN this morning.

They really had no choice. McCain is set to go on national TV and let the Ayers cat out of bag, leaving little ignorance in the electorate about the story but leaving the mainstreamers buck naked as to their past coverage.

Anyway, the central question has nothing to do with Obama's 8th birthday but rather why he didn't say "heck no" to working with the former terrorist back when they first met, whenever that occurred (and we don't know for sure). There seem to be three possibilities, none of them good for Obama. One, he agreed with Ayers and shared his visions of reform. Two, he didn't know Ayers was one of the Weathermen (a dodge attempted yesterday by Axelrod) but had no problem working with him anyway once he did know. Or three, he shamelessly used Ayers to get where he is now.

Ayers' Curriculum Vitae is online. He appears to be a garden variety liberal college professor except for that little unrepentant background thing. From his CV one can search around and find some of his writings. Here's a sample taken from Rethinking Schools.org. He begins with an analogy about the value of facts in the classroom using Charles Dickens, then launches into personal theory, such as this anecdote:
There's much in the school, of course, that you can't immediately get right — although you can get together with colleagues, kids, and parents to figure out effective ways to work for some hopeful change. There's also much that you can resist, and always much more that you can control if you pay close enough attention. One of my happiest acts of resistance occurred when I was teaching in New York City: The intercom had interrupted my class countless times on that first morning, and so when the kids were at lunch, I cut the wires, and then dutifully reported to the office a non-working PA. It took them five years to get around to repairing it.
Once a revolutionary, always a revolutionary. He ends with some advice:
Humanistic teachers need to develop an entirely different rhythm, sometimes in the cracks and crevices of the classrooms we are given. We begin with a many-eyed approach: an eye on your students and an eye on yourself, an eye on the environment for learning and an eye on the contexts within which your work is embedded. You need an eye on reality and another on possibility.
The word humanistic stands out for obvious reasons, but more importantly Ayers seems to be espousing the potential for societal reform through the classroom as opposed to just stuffing our kids' heads with "facts". It's quite subtle and many might agree, but it entirely depends on the content being passed. For instance, stuff like the 10 Commandments or various manifestos. We need to be assured by Obama that while school reform can be positive he's not pushing Ayers' version of school reform as part of the change we need.

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