October 06, 2008

Barack Obama and Bill Ayers: Social Justice Is The Link

by Jerome du Bois

Most commentators on the Obama-Ayers relationship concentrate on the "unrepentant terrorist" meme. But Steve Diamond, Stanley Kurtz, and Sol Stern put the focus where it belongs: on the decades-long collaboration between the two to transform education into indoctrination; specifically, neo-Stalinist, anti-American indoctrination, using the feelgood rubric "social justice." Catherine and I encountered this phenomenon before we could put a name to it, when we saw the work of artists and literary people who embodied it. Later we ran it down to its sources. (See the new sidebar on "The Social Justice Dispositions.")

From Kurtz's October 4th piece rebutting Scott Shane's NYT article:

. . . Ayers sees his education work as carrying on his radicalism in a new guise. The point of Ayers’ education theory is that the United States is a fundamentally racist and oppressive nation. Students, Ayers believes, ought to be encouraged to resist this oppression. Obama was funding Ayers’ "small schools" project, built around this philosophy. Ayers’ radicalism isn’t something in the past. It’s something to which Obama gave moral and financial support as an adult. So when Shane says that Obama has never expressed sympathy for Ayers’ radicalism, he’s flat wrong. Obama’s funded it.

Obama was perfectly aware of Ayers’ radical views, since he read and publicly endorsed, without qualification, Ayers’ book on juvenile crime. That book is quite radical, expressing doubts about whether we ought to have a prison system at all, comparing America to South Africa’s apartheid system, and contemptuously dismissing the idea of the United States as a kind or just country.

From Steve Diamond's latest post about the Shane article, published today, October 6th:

Ayers is what political scientists call a "neo-stalinist." Neo-stalinism is an authoritarian form of politics which attempts to control and build social institutions to impose state control of the economy, politics and culture on the general population. It has similarities to the original Stalinism found in the former Soviet Union but it arose in other countries and used slightly different forms and in some instances created regimes that were at odds for various reasons with the Russian regime.

Classic examples of neo-stalinist regimes --regimes that Ayers and people in his political camp respect and support-- are the Chavez regime in Venezuela, the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua, the Castro regime in Cuba, and the maoist regime in China.

How could such a world view have anything to do with Obama? Well, the route that Ayers and his camp have followed to promote his form of authoritarian politics is a critical policy area: education.

Ayers advocates what he calls a "social justice" approach to education. What that means is the promotion of his authoritarian politics through our public school system.

Diamond then lists four key areas of this program, and notes that a lot of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge money went to fund them:

. . . among the most important projects of the Challenge were the very same four policies so critical to Ayers political strategy:

* promotion of local school councils,
* financial support for small schools,
* promotion of a "social justice" teaching agenda, and
* a race based approach to education policy.

And Barack Obama signed off on all of them.

The education scholar Sol Stern also commented on the Shane article, as well as a characterization by Tom Brokaw of Ayers as a "school reformer," in a piece posted in City Journal today, October 6th:

Calling Bill Ayers a school reformer is a bit like calling Joseph Stalin an agricultural reformer. (If you find the metaphor strained, consider that Walter Duranty, the infamous New York Times reporter covering the Soviet Union in the 1930s, did, in fact, depict Stalin as a great land reformer who created happy, productive collective farms.) For instance, at a November 2006 education forum in Caracas, Venezuela, with President Hugo Chávez at his side, Ayers proclaimed his support for “the profound educational reforms under way here in Venezuela under the leadership of President Chávez. We share the belief that education is the motor-force of revolution. . . . I look forward to seeing how you continue to overcome the failings of capitalist education as you seek to create something truly new and deeply humane.” Ayers concluded his speech by declaring that “Venezuela is poised to offer the world a new model of education—a humanizing and revolutionary model whose twin missions are enlightenment and liberation,” and then, as in days of old, raised his fist and chanted: “Viva Presidente Chávez! Viva la Revolucion Bolivariana! Hasta la Victoria Siempre!”

As I have shown in previous articles in City Journal, Ayers’s school reform agenda focuses almost exclusively on the idea of teaching for “social justice” in the classroom. This has nothing to do with the social-justice ideals of the Sermon on the Mount or Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Rather, Ayers and his education school comrades are explicit about the need to indoctrinate public school children with the belief that America is a racist, militarist country and that the capitalist system is inherently unfair and oppressive. As a leader of this growing “reform” movement, Ayers was recently elected vice president for curriculum of the American Education Research Association, the nation’s largest organization of ed school professors and researchers.

When we combine this information with what we know about Barack Obama's all-encompassing proposals on mandatory national service (detailed in these four posts on the Volokh Conspiracy), it's but a small sorry step to a horrifying conclusion: the picture, under an Obama Presidency, of William Ayers as the new Social Justice Czar of a gigantic National Service Agency which will make the Homeland Security Department look like a post office outlet in Snakenavel, Idaho.

If you admire the societies of China, Cuba, and Venezuela, then Barack Obama is your man. And when they tell you you're only allowed one child, or haul you off to cut sugar cane, or drag you into paramilitary training, don't you dare complain. As Ayn Rand wrote fifty-one years ago: "Brother, you asked for it!"

[Update]: For more on Barack Obama's educational ambitions, I refer the reader to this article by Marinka Peschmann in today's Canada Free Press. Here's an excerpt:

Obama’s education bill, S.2111, significantly redesigns and amends the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to allow, in part, for “State. . . local educational agencies, and schools to increase implementation of early intervention services, particularly school-wide positive behavior supports.”

According to Section 3, “the term 'positive behavior support' means a systematic approach to embed proven practices for early intervening services, including a range of systemic and individualized strategies to reinforce desired behaviors and eliminate reinforcement for problem behaviors, in order to achieve important social outcomes (emphasis added. . .)”

Posted by Jerome at October 6, 2008 05:15 PM | TrackBack