The New York Times pretends to address the relationship between Barack Obama and Bill Ayers without mentioning the fundamental issue which is what exactly was the purpose, methodology and results of the Annenburg Challenge for which Barack Obama was the Chairman of the Board and that Bill Ayers founded and why has Obama not touted this one and only example of his executive leadership?
Yes, Bill Ayers was a radical who set bombs back in the sixties and is unrepentant about it even today but his actions in those days are not directly relevant to Obama’s campaign. What is relevant is Ayers views on what constitutes “school reform” and how he and Obama pursued those goals using $160+ millions of dollars and what resulted.
Bill Ayers believes that the educational system should be used for revolutionary purposes as he describes in his very own blog where he has posted his speech from one of his frequent visits to Venezuela where he addressed Hugo Chavez among others:
This is my fourth visit to Venezuela, each time at the invitation of my comrade and friend Luis Bonilla, a brilliant educator and inspiring fighter for justice. Luis has taught me a great deal about the Bolivarian Revolution and about the profound educational reforms underway here in Venezuela under the leadership of President Chavez. We share the belief that education is the motor-force of revolution, and I’ve come to appreciate Luis as a major asset in both the Venezuelan and the international struggle—I look forward to seeing how he and all of you continue to overcome the failings of capitalist education as you seek to create something truly new and deeply humane. Thank you, Luis, for everything you’ve done.
In contrast the New York Times describes Ayers as an “education professor” and “advocate of school reform.” This is how Ayers himself described the “reform” that interested him:
The CAC’s agenda flowed from Mr. Ayers’s educational philosophy, which called for infusing students and their parents with a radical political commitment, and which downplayed achievement tests in favor of activism. In the mid-1960s, Mr. Ayers taught at a radical alternative school, and served as a community organizer in Cleveland’s ghetto.
In works like “City Kids, City Teachers” and “Teaching the Personal and the Political,” Mr. Ayers wrote that teachers should be community organizers dedicated to provoking resistance to American racism and oppression. His preferred alternative? “I’m a radical, Leftist, small ‘c’ communist,” Mr. Ayers said in an interview in Ron Chepesiuk’s, “Sixties Radicals,” at about the same time Mr. Ayers was forming CAC.
Mr. Ayers is the founder of the “small schools” movement (heavily funded by CAC), in which individual schools built around specific political themes push students to “confront issues of inequity, war, and violence.” He believes teacher education programs should serve as “sites of resistance” to an oppressive system. (His teacher-training programs were also CAC funded.) The point, says Mr. Ayers in his “Teaching Toward Freedom,” is to “teach against oppression,” against America’s history of evil and racism, thereby forcing social transformation.
The real issue that the New York Times ignores is what type of “reform” was the Annenburg Challenge pushing in Chicago schools with the encouragement and support of Barack Obama and why has this 4+ year history of Obama’s only executive experience never been examined by the media?
How is it possible that Obama in writing two autobiographies could ignore his 13 year-long association with Ayers if he were not purposely trying to hide or downplay it? How is it possible that the media could continue to ignore the CAC story? How is it possible that American voters, who regularly indicate such enormous concern over educational issues, could be so long kept in the dark by the Fourth Estate about the educational project Obama ran into the ground while he aided his revolutionary pals in recruiting Chicago kids to their extreme left wing mission?
It’s clear that Obama and his friends, including those in the press, are trying to keep this all bottled up at least until after the election.
As CAC board chair, Obama was essentially authorizing the funding of Ayers’s own educational projects, and the projects of Ayers’s radical allies. And especially in CAC’s first year, Ayers was largely in charge of the process. One of CAC’s own evaluations notes that during 1995, CAC was a “Founder-Led Foundation.” That is, Ayers was not merely an ex officio board member that year, but as the key founder and guiding spirit of CAC, he was effectively running the show.
The CAC’s agenda flowed from Mr. Ayers’s educational philosophy, which called for infusing students and their parents with a radical political commitment, and which downplayed achievement tests in favor of activism.
Also, the Times also takes the Obama campaign’s word for it that Ayers, who founded the Annenburg Challenge, then had absolutely no input as to who would be chairman. The paper trail says otherwise:
One unsettled question is how Mr. Obama, a former community organizer fresh out of law school, could vault to the top of a new foundation? In response to my questions, the Obama campaign issued a statement saying that Mr. Ayers had nothing to do with Obama’s “recruitment” to the board. The statement says Deborah Leff and Patricia Albjerg Graham (presidents of other foundations) recruited him. Yet the archives show that, along with Ms. Leff and Ms. Graham, Mr. Ayers was one of a working group of five who assembled the initial board in 1994. Mr. Ayers founded CAC and was its guiding spirit. No one would have been appointed the CAC chairman without his approval.
How friendly were Ayers and Obama? Their mutual friend Mayor Daley tells us:
Daley on Obama and Ayers: ‘They’re friends. So what?’
And what were the results of Obama’s executive experience?
CAC’s own final evaluation carefully compared students at schools with Annenberg projects and schools without. According to CAC’s own report: “There were no statistically significant differences in student achievement between Annenberg schools and demographically similar non-Annenberg schools. This indicates that there was no Annenberg effect on achievement.” It also indicates that Annenberg failed, not because it’s altogether impossible to improve urban schools, but because CAC’s heavily politicized community-organizer partners weren’t any good at doing so.
The Chicago Annenberg Challenge stands as Barack Obama’s most important executive experience to date. By its own account, CAC was a largely a failure. And a series of critical evaluations point to reasons for that failure, including a poor strategy, to which the foundation over-committed in 1995, and over-reliance on community organizers with insufficient education expertise. The failure of CAC thus raises entirely legitimate questions, both about Obama’s competence, his alliances with radical community organizers, and about Ayers’s continuing influence over CAC and its board, headed by Obama. Above all, by continuing to fund Ayers’s personal projects, and those of his political-educational allies, Obama was lending moral and material support to Ayers’s profoundly radical efforts. Ayers’s terrorist history aside, that makes the Ayers-Obama relationship a perfectly legitimate issue in this campaign.
The New York Times puff piece on Ayers completely misses the point. Instead the NYT should be examining the efforts of Obama to change education in Chicago through Annenburg Challenge grants and the projects they funded.
UPDATE of related links: