Who’s Behind the Academic Cabal Supporting Bill Ayers?

bill ayers looking like hell

For a brief history of Bill Ayers and public education, check out “Revisiting AERA, Bill Ayers, the Weather Underground and Public Education.” It’s a 3,500-word crash course in Ayers, AERA, the Weather Underground and why it all matters for public education.

About a thousand academics have signed the petition over at

Name and institution are required when signing. Oddly enough, the cabal behind this site has decided to stay in the shadows. Who’s behind the site? The domain registration information is currently inaccessible.

Is it connected to AERA? I’ll be shocked if it isn’t.

Michael Tomasky of the UK’s Guardian excerpted from the Ayers Loyalty Oath and reacted:

“America’s educators, or 633 of them as I write, have signed a petition in support of Bill Ayers. Read the whole thing here.

Some of it is unobjectionable. It seeks to establish his bona fides as a credible education pedagog. And there’s general rhetoric about academic freedom. Fine, fine, fine. Then they get to this:

The current characterizations of Professor Ayers—”unrepentant terrorist,” “lunatic leftist”—are unrecognizable to those who know or work with him. It’s true that Professor Ayers participated passionately in the civil rights and antiwar movements of the 1960s, as did hundreds of thousands of Americans.

Participated passionately? He tried to set bombs. Martin Luther King participated passionately in the struggle for justice. The Freedom Riders. But the Weather Underground?

This is why I’m liberal and not a leftist (there is a difference, right-wingers, and please don’t ask me to explain it; go read some books). But I understand that, very broadly construed, this does emanate from “my side.” I don’t think this document will have any impact on the presidential race, but I just want to go on record as saying I would never sign something with a sentence like that in it.”

Same here, Michael. And, yes, some of us further right than you do have a pretty solid understanding of classical liberalism [as well as understanding that advising people to "read some books" is a rotten thing to say].

The sentences excerpted by Tomasky are bad, but the second paragraph of the statement is worse.

Here’s the Ayers Loyalty Oath in full. Are you going to sign it? Have any of your colleagues?



We write to support our colleague Professor William Ayers, Distinguished Professor of Education and Senior University Scholar at the University of Illinois at Chicago, who is currently under determined and sustained political attack. Ayers is a nationally known scholar, member of the Faculty Senate at UIC, Vice President-elect of the American Educational Research Association, and sought after as a speaker and visiting scholar by other universities because of his exemplary scholarship, teaching, and service. Throughout the 20 years that he has been a valued faculty member at UIC, he has taught, advised, mentored, and supported hundreds of undergraduate, Masters and Ph.D. students. He has pushed them to take seriously their responsibilities as educators in a democracy – to promote critical inquiry, dialogue, and debate; to encourage questioning and independent thinking; to value the full humanity of every person and to work for access and equity. Helping educators develop the capacity and ethical commitment to these responsibilities is at the core of what we do, and as a teacher he has always embraced debate and multiple perspectives.

All citizens, but particularly teachers and scholars, are called upon to challenge orthodoxy, dogma, and mindless complacency, to be skeptical of authoritative claims, to interrogate and trouble the given and the taken-for-granted. Without critical dialogue and dissent we would likely be burning witches and enslaving our fellow human beings to this day. The growth of knowledge, insight, and understanding— the possibility of change— depends on that kind of effort, and the inevitable clash of ideas that follows should be celebrated and nourished rather than crushed. Teachers have a heavy responsibility, a moral obligation, to organize classrooms as sites of open discussion, free of coercion or intimidation. By all accounts Professor Ayers meets this standard. His classes are fully enrolled, and students welcome the exchange of views that he encourages.

The current characterizations of Professor Ayers—“unrepentant terrorist,” “lunatic leftist”—are unrecognizable to those who know or work with him. It’s true that Professor Ayers participated passionately in the civil rights and antiwar movements of the 1960s, as did hundreds of thousands of Americans. His participation in political activity 40 years ago is history; what is most relevant now is his continued engagement in progressive causes, and his exemplary contribution—including publishing 16 books— to the field of education. The current attacks appear as part of a pattern of “exposés” and assaults designed to intimidate free thinking and stifle critical dialogue. Like crusades against high school and elementary teachers, and faculty at UCLA, Columbia, DePaul, and the University of Colorado, the attacks on and the character assassination of Ayers threaten the university as a space of open inquiry and debate, and threaten schools as places of compassion, imagination, curiosity, and free thought. They serve as warnings that anyone who voices perspectives and advances questions that challenge orthodoxy and political power may become a target, and this, then, casts a chill over free speech and inquiry and the spirit of democracy.

We, the undersigned, stand on the side of education as an enterprise devoted to human inquiry, enlightenment, and liberation. We oppose the demonization of Professor William Ayers.


“We oppose the demonization of Professor William Ayers.”

I don’t.

13 Responses to “Who’s Behind the Academic Cabal Supporting Bill Ayers?”

  1. The people opposing Ayers don’t care one whit that he used bombs. These are the same people who happily drop throusands of tons of bombs on people they don’t like. So they understand – and even embrace – Ayers methods.

    They are attacking Ayers now, long after the fact, long after he has been by every account rehabilitated, solely as an effort to smear Barak Obama. As Bill Burton says, he was an eight-year-old child when Ayers and the Weathermen were active, and any attempt to connect Obama with events of almost forty years ago is ridiculous.”

    Your own tactics here – the “who’s behind the academic cabal” – are of concern. What will you be doing, compiling a ‘list of sympathizers’? Are you supposing that the ‘cabal’ of people who oppose the tactic of smearing Obama are some sort of modern-day Weathermen, upon which you will unleash your police?

    The real tragedy of recent American politics and society is the unremitting partisanship that has emanated from the right over the last twenty years, a campaign of hate – as instantiated in the present post – that has caused far more damage than any threat, real or imagined, that it was intended to counter.

    But hey, I guess it’s beer money, hm?

  2. Stephen,

    You’re nearing bat-shit crazy.

    Relax, buddeh.

  3. Josh V. says:

    Matthew’s post is entirely legitimate.* When a dubious man achieves professional accolades — and is formerly a newsworthy person who’s in the press again — there is some curiosity as to what his peers think of him. In the case of Ayers, one might find it rather frightening that some molders of young minds indirectly endorse bombing as a political tool. It might also strike one as mindlessly partisan. Matthew often, and admirably, points out campaigning-in-the-classroom stories.

    The validity debate of the Ayers/Obama attacks is silly and one from which I’ll keep a distance. For better or worse, I’m no partisan. I would’ve voted for McCain had his VP selection gone differently and am now a reluctant Obama supporter, but I digress. This is America, and we dole out forgiveness and redemption by the spoonful. Whether or not Ayers is deserving of those is obviously a matter of opinion, but his case is hampered by his own impenitence. For college professors to sign intellectually dishonest and potentially dangerous statements such as those articulated in the petition, for what might be electioneering purposes, is a scandal on its own merits.

    *Full disclosure: I’m a long-time friend of this blogger.

  4. I will sign the petition, and this and that. I will throw the bomb, said the Cat in the Hat.
    With apologies to Dr. Seuss… HUGE apologies
    Sorry…. I couldn’t resist. ;-)

    As for me… I am very much keeping myself away from Ayers and ACORN. I was getting so sick of hearing the “Jesus was a community organizer”, then I learned about what ACORN was nothing but a bunch of bullies forcing banks to loan money, and if the bank didn’t, then ACORN would cry ‘racist’ Community organizer my ass.

  5. Josh V.,

    Thanks for your support. I’m sure I’ll have a Matthew K. Tabor Loyalty Oath online someday, too. I’ll send it to you first!

    As I wrote on another site, my thoughts on Bill Ayers have been the same since long before anyone outside of Illinois had ever heard of Barack Obama. For me, this issue has nothing to do with the election, and I’ll continue to argue against Ayers and his credibility long after November and independent of who wins.

  6. Michelle,

    We’ve got to look on the bright side. If we aren’t registered to vote, we don’t have to bother – ACORN has likely already registered us. And our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and all the signers of the Mayflower Compact.

  7. Tomasky is spot-on here: “Participated passionately? He tried to set bombs. Martin Luther King participated passionately in the struggle for justice. The Freedom Riders. But the Weather Underground?” I’ve blogged about Ayers a few times and don’t feel I have any real skin in this game, but the idea that what Ayers did was merely to “participate passionately” is curious, to put it mildly. Stifling free thinking and critical dialogue? Well goodness, what is a bomb if not a device intended to stifle free thinking?

    It would be a lot easier to say forgive and forget if Mr. Ayers, even once, said, “You know what, maybe setting bombs wasn’t the brightest idea. My bad.” But it’s a little hard to take seriously a protest on free speech grounds from someone who felt perfectly justified about infringing upon the rights of others in such a complete, emphatic and irreversible way. Someone who has been so — here comes that word again — unrepentant. Frankly, I couldn’t care less about his ties, real or imagined, to Mr. Obama. It’s bad enough that he’s a “distinguished” professor of education. It doesn’t speak well of our profession that so many can overlook his past, and suggest it’s “history.”

  8. Robert,

    You bet.

    Ayers has too much fun being the Clown Prince of the pseudo-intellectual left to come clean. That, and I don’t think he has any interest in it. I believe he’s been fairly honest over the last 20 years. What we get from him is very likely the real, honest Ayers – except if it’s about public education.

    What’s gotten to me today comes from the EdWeek article here:

    I’m getting a bit tired of opposition of and criticism toward Ayers being tied with this election – and the opening sentence of the piece echoes it one more time. I don’t think more of Senator Obama for associating with this scoundrel, but my opposition doesn’t have a whit to do with this election. Suggesting that all the criticism is politically-motivated is either a profound misunderstanding or an attempt to undermine the argument. I’m not ok with either.

  9. Clyde says:

    Oh right. Like any of you would be devoting all this ink to a ’60s radical professor if there wasn’t an election campaign. Right. Suddenly you’re all so passionate about the Weather Underground. And Tabor, talking about being a clown prince of pseudo-intellectualism–give me a break. I think he sounds a little jealous of Ayers. I mean, he’s just a little too much into this. What’s up with that Tabor?

  10. Clyde,

    To show you how wrong you are – and you desperately need to be shown – consider a Sol Stern piece on Ayers from City Journal, Summer 2006:

    You’ll see many, if not all, of the same themes in that piece – and you won’t see the name “Obama” or even a reference to the Democrats or the upcoming election.

    You’re welcome to charge me with Ayers-envy or with jumping on the bandwagon/frothing at the mouth. But suggesting that Stern is writing on Ayers because of the campaign is not only wrong, but refuted by plenty of evidence.

  11. “ACORN already registered for us” ROFLMAO… they probably registered my 7-year-old twin boys, too. ;-) Bwhahahaha

  12. kathy stewart says:

    I was just curious as to how a man like william ayers was put in a position of influence on our children. I would not have allowed my child to attend a school with an agenda like that!! Would like to know any site available to view the list of signatures. If my college is represented, I certainly want to know!!

  13. Kathy,

    If one is a scoundrel and wants a career, he’s always welcome in higher education. If he wants the easiest path to that career – and the easiest job once he’s there – he heads toward education.

    Entire schools/colleges/universities aren’t all bad. The important thing for students and parents is to know that if you research well, you can spend 4 years at a college working only with the best – and avoiding the third-rate scholars, politically-charged morons and, of course, the scoundrels. It takes a lot of time and it isn’t easy, but it pays off.

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