Monday, March 08, 2010

Bill Ayers and friends eat their young

Mike Petrilli with a great story about a courageous young TFA alum publicly confronting leftist nitwit Bill Ayers, which has stirred up a hornet's nest in the echo chamber of other leftist nitwits:


Posted on March 5, 2010 at 4:33 pm by Mike Petrilli

Bill Ayers and friends eat their young

Amidst the Race to the Top excitement this week, an important story may have gotten lost in the buzz. On Wednesday, my colleague Jamie Davies O'Leary, a 27 year-old Princeton grad, liberal Democrat, and Teach For America alumna described her surprise bookshop encounter with former Weatherman and lefty school reformer Bill Ayers.

[Ayers] answered a young woman's question about New York Teaching Fellows and Teach For America with a diatribe about how such programs can't fix public education and consist of a bunch of ivy leaguers and white missionaries more interested in a resume boost than in helping students. Whoa.


As someone who read Savage Inequalities years ago and attribute my decision to become a teacher partially to the social justice message, I almost felt embarrassed. But that was before I learned a bit of context, nuance, data, and evidence surrounding education policy debates. It's as if Bill Ayers hasn't been on the planet for the last two decades.

Almost as soon as Jamie's essay was posted, the Klonsky brothers (Fred and Mike—both longtime friends and associates of Ayers, both involved in progressive education causes) went after her. Fred posted a missive titled, "File under misguided sense of one's own importance."  Mike tweeted that her depiction of the encounter was a "fantasy."

What Ayers and the Klonsky crew don't seem to understand is that Jamie and the rest of TFA Nation are, by and large, their ideological soul mates—their progressive progeny, if you will. Here's a group of young, idealistic, politically liberal people trying to "shake up the system" to address inequality and the lack of social justice in our nation.

Granted, when Ayers and company tried to shake things up, they wanted to bring down society's power structures themselves (with real bombs, no less). The TFA types, I'm surmising, mostly accept America's form of democratic capitalism as it is, but want poor and minority kids to have a shot at succeeding within it. You can call that misguided or even naïve, but it's a respectable position, and reflects the world the TFAers have grown up in. America in the 90s and 2000s—when Jamie and her peers came of age—was a very different place than America in the 60s and 70s: less racist, more meritocratic. Not perfect, but much improved.

Here's my guess: if Bill Ayers and Fred and Mike Klonsky were 22 again, they would be signing up for Teach For America, volunteering to work in America's toughest schools, going on to start charter schools and "shake up" the system. Bill, Fred, and Mike: today's young Turks aren't your enemy. They are you.

-Mike Petrilli

Related posts:

1.       My impromptu education debate with Bill Ayers

2.       Caprice Young – Fordham's newest board member

3.       Cutting back in Los Angeles

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