Education

A Terrorist Under the Tent?

By Debra Viadero — April 17, 2009 1 min read

The closing of the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association always signifies a changing of the guard. New presidents and vice presidents take over. Outgoing officials go home to catch up on lost sleep.

One of the new officers stepping into the job today is William C. Ayers, the 1960s radical who was at the center of a presidential-election controversy over the extent of his ties to President Barack Obama. A prominent education professor, advocate for social-justice teaching, and commentator, the scholar from the University of Illinois at Chicago will be one of 14 new division vice presidents taking office. His division is curriculum studies.

Ayers attracted attention for his ties to the Weather Underground, a Vietnam War protest group that was involved in several bombing incidents. (No one was injured by any of the bombs set by the group, but three Weather Underground members were killed in 1970 when one accidentally exploded in New York City.)

You’ll recall that Ayers’ election to the AERA post last March ignited a firestorm in the blogosphere, with some bloggers calling on the organization to oust Ayers and others suggesting that their fellow bloggers ought to leave the guy alone, already. To get a flavor of those posts, see here and here.

The AERA has a very big tent, though, and here in San Diego, Ayers has been just another badge-wearing member of the crowd.

According to the meeting program, he was scheduled to take part in three sessions, including one on “public pedagogy and social action,” and he served mostly as a discussant. He also advised graduate students in a “fireside chat” and attended his division’s regular business meeting. The low profile probably suited the AERA just fine.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Inside School Research blog.