A colleague recently asked what I think about Bill Ayers and his role in democratic education.
Bill Ayers, like all the education celebrities, offers the challenge of notoriety: if we could examine his role regardless of his history, his politics or anything else, whenever he opens his mouth he risks representing more than himself. Instead he suddenly becomes the voice of many. I see that happen repeatedly, and since we can’t distinguish his celebrity from his history or politics, and for the sake of saying it, I don’t honestly see him as the mouth of democratic education.
I read Education Week and Educational Leadership, and when he’s mentioned there its simply with regard to his professorship and other notoriety. The good part about democratic education is that it is a widespread movement, and I thoroughly disbelieve it can be encapsulated by any one person or organization, Bill Ayers or otherwise.
If I believed that, I wouldn’t be as engaged with the democratic education movement as I am, primarily because there are organizations that aren’t universal. I guess I’m saying to forget about Ayers – he doesn’t represent me or what I’m working for. Also, about his past, I am almost wholly dismissive, as he has roundly dismissed it and the educators I know have moved past it, as well.