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  • CommonCoreisSocialism

    Decent article, but you an admitted terrorist who bombed the Pentagon? Why should anyone take you seriously?

  • Betsy Kotsogiannis


  • Joe Hewitt

    Mr. Ayers - What do you think the best way is to measure both the success of students and the effectiveness of teachers? These concepts can be extremely important in deciding what a successful solution would be.

  • Alexandra Leigon

    I believe that elements of Mr. Ayers' statement here will be viewed by many as "leftist", but there are a great many of us who wish these concerns to at least be considered when the federal government is considering changing our education system. No one element of educational change is the only right way to make the system more effective and efficient. My personal support for President Obama's leadership in this effort is based my belief that he will attempt to provide a calmer voice in this maelstrom and that he may be the only person who can effectively promote a compromise between the many warring sides of this argument. All sides of the argument have positive and negative aspects to their intentions and assertions. An open and honest airing of opinions is what is needed. While we may not all agree on the result of such an airing, as in the case of the healthcare bill, I believe the majority of the American people have a clearer understanding of and generally support what the bill is intended to accomplish. I believe this can happen with an education bill. The result may not be the perfect bill to please everyone, but with President Obama serving as facilitator, I believe a bill that fairly and reasonably addresses the issues can be achieved, and it can then be used to further negotiate changes that make it more effective over time. In any case, I have resolved to participate as best I can in the conversation. Forwarding this statement, and others, to those charged with constructing this bill is my contribution to the conversation.

  • Vast Shadow

    One good thing about Obama being back in office is that the guy is very good people person and likes to help. Obama has said in countless of times, he would work with organizations that have good ideas.

    If Good organization and all their lil subordinates wanted to take a real initiative and have a plausible idea, in regards to economical changes... healthy Environmental changes... Social work initiatives... etc ... It would be a GOOD time to organize a plan that would be effective, efficient, reliable, and ploy-able that could help the government and the public.

    I see a few good ideas on the site and people, who seem like they want to make a difference. Obama is a very open handed guy for change and if you want to make something more then a pipedream... It would have a good chance with Obama in office.
    If you need some direction... You can check out few government sites. or -- They have 1,000s of programs that they are looking for incentive in.

    If you try to scheme or scam them... Not fulfil your end of the Bargain... They will take everything you own. It could be a Win - Win or Win - Epic fail . Either or... Just don't do that epic fail thing.

    • Meribeth Clearwater

      @vast... you seem a little cynical, or i might just not be catching the intent behind your words, it's difficult to tell through the written word... I was curious if you had a link for your idea? I would love to take a look - btw, awesome links! thank you!

  • Sydney Gurewitz Clemens

    I want to endorse what Bill Ayers says here, and add one more important point: Mr. President, you sent your daughters to a school very different from what your legislation is creating for the rest of the children! Many of us struggle to provide children with something better, and RTT and NCLB have been subversive of these aims. So, please make your plans for education of every American child to be that that education is on a part with those you're providing for your kids. Less isn't acceptable!

    • Betsy Kotsogiannis

      YES ! Great point. They all send their children to schools with class sizes of less than 18, but they want to pack ours in to over 30 OR as Bloomberg said,70 !

    • Stephen Price

      Then it MUST be everything he says wrong!

    • Kathy Barkulis

      They know who he is, mrds, but they don't care. Remember, these are the people teaching our children. Their hero is a terrorist.

      • Meribeth Clearwater

        i believe a couple people didn't notice the name of the website. If you can't help at least don't hurt. This is not the place for political opinion... For those who disagree with a certain "good" thing; its perhaps something that you will at least use as a way to learn from different points of view and refrain from taking jabs at those who find a different meaning behind the issue. No one said posting is mandatory... this is a place where we all try to educate, empathize, and create a better world for our kids and their kids. I think it's a very positive forum and it would be a shame if folks stopped visiting because it turns into a news forum rather than a think tank... Criticism is fine, but not in a place where there is hope and where some people may look away because we as a coutry have had plenty of politics this year. it's been decided and we should respect the decisions of our brothers and sisters... and respect our president or reserve judgment. if you have opposing values to what is brought forth, i would encourage a solution combined with constructive... solutions always are a good thing to bring to the table, rather than critiques...

        • Kathy Barkulis

          Meribeth-Where do you live? Certainly, you must not live in America. Every idea has a critique, because everyone has a right to their opinion in America. And everyone doesn't have to agree in order for their opinion to be GOOD. It seems to me that you're saying that people are only allowed to agree with the statements on this site, simply because the site is named GOOD. That's just silly.

      • Stuart

        Don't be dense.

        And that is how you seem when you over generalize and exaggerate in asinine statements like this.

        Agreeing with the general statements in this letter do not make this man a hero.

        I'm about to be a teacher, I'm 26, and I have zero clue who this guy is. But anyone who champions for better education standards and wants to challenge the president to include this in his agenda, I agree with.

        If you don't agree with it... honestly I have no clue what is wrong with you. Standardized testing is killing our education system.

        If you have a better idea, because apparently you must if you are so harsh to criticize these ideas, please come forward with it.

        • Kathy Barkulis

          Standardized testing is a necessary evil. No one gets through life without a standard to which they must adhere. There is no other way to determine whether teachers or students are performing. If you don't test you are left with a subjective analysis of a child's performance. It is not concrete, and it doesn't prove anything other than whether the teacher wants to promote that child further. It also leaves a student open to a non-performing teacher, which doesn't help that child. And if teachers are not given a guideline, how does anyone know whether that teacher is just pushing their own agenda? In terms of subjects like math and science, there must be a concrete measurement of that child's progress in order for her/him to move on to the next level.

          I am not saying that schools are using testing mechanisms wisely. I am just saying that testing has to be done, and perhaps it should be less than what it is now. But you can't do away with it.

          I am a product of a Catholic school from the early 60's. Very regimented, and very structured. Testing was the norm. In those days, it was very simple. You either passed the test and went on, or you were kept back until you learned it by memory. No calculators, no excuses. You had to learn it. These are basic skills that every child deserves to learn. This is the foundation for their future learning and their success. Once high school comes around if students don't perform well on tests they don't get into good colleges.

          Until college admission policies change, you are forced to test.

          • Sara Davis

            Using personal experience to explain the rest of the world's experiences is a rather narrow view. There were plenty of children who did not survive our experience in the late fifties and sixties. Who knows the talent and potential we lost because we defined learning with numbers.

          • Jet Presto

            How does one test really prove anything though? The standardized test essentially drove me out of school because it was super frustrating to know that I performed well in class - the readings, the homework, the critical thinking - but, for a variety of reasons, underperformed on the test. It's not very encouraging to be judged on one test score when you are doing work for the entire year. Why can't there be a more "big picture" look to the issue?

            • Kathy Barkulis

              Jet, you're right...there is no individual test that proves everything. And one of my sons had the same problem that you had, so I understand your frustration.

          • MarkovChaney

            I strongly disagree. Testing isn't necessary, particularly not the meaningless multiple-choice standardized money-makers that pass for real assessment and have a stranglehold on public education these days. There's a long history of devastating criticism of such tests that goes back to before I was born in 1950. You owe it to yourself to look at what physicist/mathematician Banesh Hoffman was saying about the SAT and College Board in THE TYRANNY OF TESTING, written before I was in high school. I suggest, too, that you read Stephen J Gould's MISMEASURE OF MAN for an incisive critique of the history and practice of intelligence testing and its racist roots.

            Where, exactly, is it written in the US Constitution, "Thou Shalt Measure, Compare, and Judge Children," let alone do so based on test scores?

            • Stuart

              Well from a teaching stand point, formal assessment is necessary but not anything near what we are doing today. But I am referring to more of one exit test at the end of the year is what we need. Not this constant all the time crap. Colleges should be forced to the accept the grades on this exit test in replacement of the SATS and ACTS....

        • Kathy Barkulis

          Stuart-You need to know who Bill Ayers is. And you need to research his life and his ideas. He is put on a pedestal in the education field, yet University of Illinois -Chicago refused to award him with a coveted retirement honor. There is a reason for that. You're a teacher. Do the research.

          • Stephen Price

            I know, teachers put the man on a pedestal rather than evaluating the arguments. Silly teachers. They need to do the research to discredit what he says.

          • MarkovChaney

            Ayers was denied emeritus status for one very simple reason: there's a person on the board of his university who happens to be the son of the late Robert F. Kennedy. And he apparently has the same sort of beliefs about people that you do, Kathy: something someone allegedly wrote in 1973 (and which, FYI, Ayers claims he didn't write himself: that is, he denies having specifically dedicated his book to Sirhan Sirhan, according to the Wikipedia article on him. Whether this article is accurate, whether he claim is true, I certainly can't verify, but it's something that requires, as you say, research): tells the entire story of that person's life. No one changes for the better, only the worse, and all good work is negated by one's youthful follies.

            That said, you might do well to read that Wikipedia article, Kathy. It suggests that some of Ayers' fiercest opponents in the '60s admire his work in education and acknowledge his growth. He has made apologies to a Chicago DA who was paralyzed (not by Ayers or Dohrn), during the Days of Rage and it seems that fellow harbors far less hatred in his heart than do you, Kathy. There's much more in that article, some of it critical of Ayers, and links to many sources of information.

            But here's what's NOT in that article as far as I can see: "The fact remains that Ayers decided one day to throw a molotov cocktail into a man's home where his wife and children slept."

            So where is your documentation for that claim. I've followed Ayers' career since 1969. I somehow missed that anecdote. The way you write that he "just decided" to do what you allege, I'd almost think you were there, in dialog with his thoughts. But then, if it never happened, you can also make up his motivations for what he never did.

            As long as we're on a debunking spree, let me mention that Professor Ayers has not been placed on any pedestal. Some educators, myself included, admire his work in education. Some don't. Most of his peers believe he's earned emeritus status, which is an honor that comes with nothing but a title. It was denied him not by a PEER, but by a multi-millionaire who sits on a board, and who apparently, like you, really knows how to hold a grudge for life (not my type of person). You may have missed my comment to another poster that I was very surprised by how impressive I found Ayers' talk at U of Michigan in the 1990s, given how negatively I viewed him from direct contact in the late 1960s (and what I read about him in the ensuing decade). But I think he's earned respect for his educational work in Chicago.

            Now, let's get to the bottom line: you don't like his views on education. That's what this is really about. So like Sarah Palin, you dredge up his alleged and actual past, and expect everyone to say, "Oh, well, that tears it: he's a BAD man." What a cheap, intellectually dishonest approach to critiquing the man's letter. You STILL haven't done that, have you? And as long as you don't (and, I suspect, can't), there's nothing to say to you but, "Dismissed."

          • Stuart

            I read all the information on that link that was posted above. Do I think hes a good man? No probably not. Can people change? Sure they can but its probably only because hes to old to get his ass out on the street and bomb things... has his mentality changed? eh no probably not, anyone who "admires" Chavez is a idiot.

            But does any of that change the validity of what he is calling for?

            I don't care who this man is. What I care about is the freedom that I will have to teach the students in the ways that I have been taught is best. Which is more hands on activities, more discovery learning sessions, more in-direct instruction. Teachers can't do that right now because they don't have the funding, or the class time. This man isn't going to be teaching all the children across the US if changes are made. I will. Thousands on young men and women like myself who only want to make our education system better, and better the lives of the children we teach. We can not do that if the testing standards and frequency stays the way it is. The president needs to be directly challenged to change our education system. Wonderful teachers quit every day because of standardized testing and move into private schools. It's ruining our children, our school system, and running off fantastic teachers.

            I think we can all agree something needs to be done.

            • Kathy Barkulis

              I am thankful you're out there in the trenches. You're right. You are the one who will be out there, not Ayers. He's finished. You're the future.

              • Stuart

                And I agree with you, testing and formal assessment is necessary. You have to test and compare to other students. But it is just done so much. Here in Texas where I am... its all the time it seems like. I'm going my pre-clinical hours at a well known private school here where I am. I worked with a wonderful teacher here the other day to do a hands on science activity. It was her first year there at the school and she told me she was coming from a public school. I intend to teach in public school so I was curious as to why she left. She taught 4th grade, for one year. She told me she came home every day crying and had so much work to do extra because of standardized testing, she was running on about 3 to 4 hours of sleep a night.

                Maybe its more often here in Texas or something, I'm not sure. But people always ask me "What grade do you want to teach?"

                My answer is always "1st grade because they take the least amount of TAKS test."

                That is a problem.

                • Jet Presto

                  I got a 920 on my SATs (back when they were out of 1600), but I was always a B to A- student. Not sure where students like me fit in - the standardized tests would judge us as failures, but the overall shows we weren't so bad. Surely we can strike a much more reasonable (and fair) balance?

    • MarkovChaney

      Nice knee-jerk attempt at deflecting the content of what Professor Ayers wrote. It doesn't stand or fall based on what he did to fight the United States criminal and reprehensible "police action" in Vietnam. I will assume that the vapidity of your "retort" is based on the fact that you have NO SUBSTANTIVE REPLY.

      • Kathy Barkulis

        The substantive reply, Comrade MarkovChaney, is that Bill Ayers is a rich, trust fund baby and proud heir of the 1% who hate America. He would rather indoctrinate children rather than teach them objective skills to make their own decisions. Oh yes, and he's a terrorist. Why should anyone treat him with respect unless you share his view of America as an evil empire.

        • MarkovChaney

          Sorry, Kathy, but that's not substantive in the least. It's simply ad hominem, as any literate person would recognize. Just as your red-baiting use of "Comrade" is ad hominem. You imply that I'm a Soviet-style communist, based on what, exactly? That I read what Professor Ayers wrote about education and, in spite of what he may have done 40-odd years ago, I find that his argument makes sense and find much to agree with.

          If you had something relevant to say, you wouldn't need to resort to cheap name-calling and would stick to the text above. So my suggestion that you have nothing of substance to say stands. I realize that comes as a deep shock to you, but some people are more interested in what gets written than in who wrote it.

          I'm not in the least bit worried about what names you dredge up, for Bill Ayers or for me. Because people who can't do better than play at schoolyard insults over the safe distance of the Internet are no threat at all. You tell me to stay classy? I suggest you try staying on point for once.

          • Kathy Barkulis

            You know what my point is, don't you? I've made it very clear. There is nothing that Bill Ayers says or does that will erase his actions. Nothing. The fact remains that Ayers decided one day to throw a molotov cocktail into a man's home where his wife and children slept. He is a terrorist. "Free as a bird." It is disgusting to me that he was able to work his way into the educational system to teach teachers how to indoctrinate their students. Because after all, that was his intention all along.

            He dedicated his book, "Prairie Fire," to Sirhan Sirhan, Bobbie Kennedy's murderer. This is who you revere? This is the man these young teachers on this board are admiring? No wonder the educational system in this country has gone down the tubes.

            • MarkovChaney

              Again, though it's like trying to convince a brick wall: one thing has NOTHING to do with the other. Either you believe, as I do, that people change - some for the good, some for the worse - or you believe that if a person does something you view as bad (regardless of whether you actually know for a fact that he or she did those things), then that person's entire life before or afterwards is irrelevant. And further, that you are relieved of the responsibility to make a cogent argument about what he wrote to Obama: you just have to say, "B-b-but this is written by someone who was a terrorist 43 years ago."

              That's really too bad, but you've got NOTHING worth reading regarding the letter. You repeat a bunch of things about which you really have little or no direct knowledge as if that's an argument against something written a few days ago.

              Let's not forget that Malcolm X said some pretty reprehensible things about JFK's assassination. He said them in 1963. But between that point and his own assassination, Malcolm had some rather transformative experiences that are reflected in his writing and speeches. Now, you, clearly, believe that all of that is irrelevant. I do not. So I guess we won't be on one another's holiday card list this year. I can live with that. Of course, I hope that some day, you undergo a change for the better. At that point, please drop me a note. But at this point, I wonder if you've even bothered to read Ayer's letter.

              • Stuart

                well said!

  • Glenn C. Koenig

    This is a hard one. On the one hand, we've known for years that the current public school system, in most places, stifles creativity and dumbs down our youth. Look back to John Hold, or recently to Sir Ken Robinson. We know that the 'factory model has been in place, more or less, for a long time, in spite of this knowledge. Why?
    I say it's because of fear throughout our society. I don't blame the president alone for this. Nor do I blame any other small group of public officials or rich folks. I don't blame anybody, as a matter of fact.
    What I hope we can do is challenge the current system as a whole, and move from fear (if we don't regiment our kids, they will goof off and never learn anything) to trust (if we support our kids, provide them with good models, create a good environment, encourage collaborative learning as well as solo efforts, etc.). Our only mistake, perhaps, is forgetting how incredibly intelligent, creative, energized, and dedicated to learning our children already are! And stop pretending that we have to lay a grid of structure and competition onto them just to facilitate "an education."

    • carolyn.m.scott

      a brilliant response Glenn! As a former educator (in low income schools in San Francisco, CA) I believe most educational systems control, manipulates the spirit of learning. We need a complete rethinking of what it means to acquire knowledge. I believe we need education that relates to the real world and offers connection and other words an education that brings the real world into the classroom but even beyond that putting children into the real world (albeit high school students doing internships and being mentored in the field). When a million teens drop out of school every year, you know something is terribly wrong. I believe we violate human beings but taking them out of nature (read Your Brain on Nature) by restricting their choices and desire to follow their own instincts in what they want to learn. the greater thinkers in education, people like A.S. Neil, Reggio Emilia, Rudolf Steiner (you mentioned Sir Ken Robinson YES) and others who think far outside the little school test box - trusted that humans want to learn and can all on their own, and must be allowed to discover themselves, while being guided by a trusted and intelligent "teacher".

    • Glenn C. Koenig

      Sorry. That's John Holt (not Hold), author of "How Children Fail" back in the 1960s. Also, John Taylor Gatto, author of "Dumbing Us Down" in the early 1990s, or, if you dare, Matt Groening's "School is Hell" for an irreverent look at it all.

      • Liz Dwyer

        Gatto's book is amazing.

  • 5905

    I called the department of Education, and Secretary Duncan's email is

  • RustedRoot

    Point of information: Did you intend to say Medicare, not Social Security, in reference to rejecting a "voucher plan?"

  • blackwilliam

    This is a letter that every teacher worth his/her salt would agree with or sign. Thanks.

  • 5905

    I tried to send the letter to Secretary Duncan. The address listed on this site made it bounce back twice. Could we get a better one? Thanks

    Ron Primeau

  • 5905

    I don't see anything in Mr. Ayers' letter except a deep understanding that education that education must be a safe space in which to learn, make mistakes, and grow--and NOT be forced into competitive models and standardized tests. Nothing "vindictive" here, just a very perceptive understanding of the disconnect between so many of the president's excellent policies and and an educational policy that seems governed by ideas we should be fighting off, not espousing. Mr. Ayers truly sees that everyone deserves the rights that the privileged seek. Readers will recall that Malcolm X's teacher told him he should be a mechanic. Nothing at all wrong with that except the preconceived glass ceiling on Malcolm's aspirations and potential. Led by Mr. Duncan, President Obama's policies are compromising the future of students and contradicting the president's over all programs. Mr. Ayers respectfully alerts us to so many of the contradictions he sees.

    • MarkovChaney

      I've seen Bill Ayers speak at the University of Michigan School of Education and was DEEPLY impressed with his insights. That didn't come easily, given my recollections of him from the late 1960s and early 1970s. The predictable attempts to dismiss him out of hand by citing things he did to oppose an immoral and illegal "police action" in Vietnam don't cut it with those who understand that era well.

  • Kathy Barkulis

    An Open Letter To Bill Ayers:
    I do not support President Obama's policies, but this letter is vindictive. It reeks of petty jealousy toward Duncan, and needlessly lectures the President. It sounds like a letter from a long lost friend who gave the recipient many favors so that he could achieve power and position, and then isn't grateful to the people who got him there. I am sure that you are resentful of Obama for so many favors you and your rich 1% father did for Obama to get him that power, but really, you just sound small in this letter. It took a leftist village to bring President Obama to the White House, but alas, he threw you under the bus with so many others who got him there. Life's a bitch, huh Bill?

    • MarkovChaney

      There's a bitch here, Ms. Barkulis, but it isn't "life."

    • Melissa Harness

      Really? Who's the jealous one here. You know nothing about education do you? Think before you write.

      • Kathy Barkulis

        Apparently, neither do most of the "educators" posting here. None of you have a very good track record when the United States keeps falling behind every other developed nation in educating its children, in spite of the fact that more money is spent per child here than most everywhere else. My suggestion to you, Melissa, and your fellow posters who are so fond of Bill Ayers would be "think before you teach."

        • MarkovChaney

          Ms. Barkulis, you really should do a bit more research before you cite "facts" that don't hold up under any degree of scrutiny at all. The late Gerald Bracey debunked your claim about money spent per child so many times that any anti-union, anti-public education person should hear the refutation echoing in his/her ears at night.

          But it's obvious from what you've contributed to this thread (and I am being generous) that your mind is completely closed. You've decided that Bill Ayers is nothing but what you read in the papers based on a very short period of his life. You're likely not old enough to have the smallest clue what was going on in this country in the '60s and early '70s (other than what you've read in the 'official story' you got from all those "radical" teachers you're so worried about, who undoubtedly taught from Howard Zinn's PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES. . . no? They taught you from big publisher's approved history texts in which the US is blameless throughout history, is always on the side of right, and surely had God's favor when it took land that didn't belong to it, no matter who died as a result. So why would you have the first clue about Vietnam and the Civil Rights movements of that era, any more than you have the first clue about social justice movements today?)

          It's just remarkable how much you seem to think you know about an era you didn't experience and a profession (education) of which you're not a member. You know all about the evil teachers unions, though you've likely never been a member of a professional union, never attended a meeting of a union chapter, and don't know the slightest thing about the history of the teaching profession in this country (any more than you know a thing about the history of labor). And yet you deign to pontificate on Bill Ayers letter (without, of course, ever addressing a single word in it.

          Good show. Stay irrelevant, Ms. Barkulis, and continue to name-call. You're excellent at both. But terribly short on substance.

          • Kathy Barkulis

            I was born in 1954. I will be 59 in a couple of months. So yes, I lived through the 60's and 70's. My older brother was in the Air Force during the Viet Nam war, and 7 members of our neighborhood came home from Viet Nam in body bags. Two more came back addicted to drugs and ended up living most of their adult lives in misery. I know of many suicides of returning Viet Nam vets. The war was hell, and it was unjust. None of the vets I know protested by throwing bombs into people's homes and businesses. They just did their duty.

            Bill Ayers never served in that war. Instead, he chose to become a terrorist. The ends don't justify the means. Not in my book.

            So no matter what drivel comes out of Bill Ayers mouth, I know it's no good. He's a coward. He doesn't know what bravery is. And his Marxist ideology is infested into our educational system, a system filled with waste, fraud, and lack of respect for teachers and students.

            My last words to you are that I have a right to state my opinion on education, unions, teachers, Bill Ayers, and anyone else I choose to write about. As do you. I don't really care whether you hate me, or disagree with me, or want my opinions suppressed. They won't be.

    • David Hickey

      Do you do this kind of magical psychic therapy on every author you read? Can you tell me who I resent? And why I resent them? I mean it: you have an amazing mystical power.

  • Stuart

    I just don't understand why it is so hard to say look we messed up, shoving standardized testing down these kids throats doesn't work. We need balance. Of course the students need to be formally assessed. And it does need to be on some sort of broad basis when it comes to standards for graduating or moving on to the next grade. But does it really need to be at the level it is at today? No, it doesn't.

    Give the teachers a chance to teach in a more hands on and inclusive classroom. Allow more time for discovery learning and collaborative learning groups and less pre-testing for the upcoming achievement test. These styles of learning are researched based and proved to encourage and excite learners!

    There is a time and place for a more direct-instruction style learning and it needs to be implemented in those schools that are at the bottom of the barrel and full of high-risk, high-needs children.

    You know...I'm about to graduate and go off to find my own teaching job...I'm in the process of student teaching right now. The more I read articles/blogs like this, the more it discourages me. I want to go into my classroom and teach what I need to, in a way that excites my students and makes them want to come to school and learn. I haven't spent years (to many years) and all this money to get into a school and hate my job.

    I don't like the president much, and I'm not shy about voicing that opinion. But if he can and will change the education system for the better... well just maybe I can over look everything else. Because who cares about political parties and the economy if the next generation on the way up isn't even bright enough to be a contributing part of society?

    • Liz Dwyer

      Amen to your last point, Stuart. If we don't raise kids to genuinely contribute to society, all the rest of the stuff is meaningless.

      Please don't be discouraged about becoming a teacher. I still have some of the sweet notes my students gave me and on days that I need a boost I pull them out and read through them--you'll get those notes too and they'll keep you going when the bureaucracy/drama is getting on your nerves. Also, what's encouraging now is that so many educators are standing up and saying that their students deserve better than this. Be one of those teachers and you'll go to bed at night with a clear conscience.

  • kimrroberts

    As a "traditional" educator working in the public schools, I resent that students in charter schools are somehow eligible for opportunities that the majority of our children do not get. How is that fair? Why can't all students have those opportunities? And ask yourself this: why are the richest Americans supporting charter schools with their bank accounts at the same time that public schools where most children attend are underfunded and over-regulated? Is it because they want opportunities for their children that others can't have? Please help us to make EVERY school a place for EVERY child.

  • Joe Hewitt

    Why is it that people in the traditional education community imply the existence of charter and magnet schools is some sort of sinister conspiracy? People are trying to pick up where the traditional model is failing. It does not mean their solution is the best one either. Pointing at short falls of aspects of charter and magnet schools does not magically mean the traditional model is the better solution. If you are a Republican and can point out flaws with a Democratic stance, it does not make the Republican stance correct either.

    I agree with a few of these comments that a total re-imaging of education has to happen. It has to take what isn't working from the traditional model and charter model while also acknowledging what is working from both. Even after that, we've still got to figure out challenges unique to the U.S. and each individual area of the country.

    Why do people seem to take things so black and white with these types of topics?

    • 5905

      The black and white is in the assertion that Mr. Ayers sees the current model as the best. His work for decades has shown otherwise. He always moves toward improvement--just not right now the backward steps that Mr. Duncan and Mr. Obama seem willing to settle for.

  • bepeople

    Welcome back, Bill. It is imperative the issues of creating and demanding conformity of young people be carefully considered. Historically it is just such behavior that was required to be considered an educated person -- consider Confucius as a starting point for a society that has transcended multiple rises and falls. Our Western ideas lay out before us the concept that everything and anything must and should be challenged, questioned, and willingly discarded if it doesn't meet the then momentary thoughts of what is or is not acceptable, good, or desirable.

    Although I too have been benefited by an ability to attend outstanding institutions, as have my children, I wonder if your assertion that everyone should be provided the tpe education you have sought for your own children as I too have sought for my own. Seeing children in a class environment, the biggest critique I see is that the "one size fits all" denies the individuality of the student and pushes onto them failure for their inability to conform.

    Where in your letter do you address morality as an important part of education? The goals that you push forward offer either success or failure but do not offer a better life when measured by human and societal wisdom, Pushing and demanding a person, in this case your point is about young people, to seek life satisfaction based on achievements that garner physical wealth to the detriment of spiritual well-being will certain continue the spiral of dissatisfaction and angst among those who succeed as well as those who fail in the educational system you both criticize and argue compelling to implement.

  • Vast Shadow

    The first sentence sounds tacky, it should be removed. The second sentence should remove "perhaps".

    This would be a better opening paragraph.
    "It might be a good time to reflect, rethink, recharge, and reignite. I sincerely urge you to put education on your agenda."

    You should limit illustrative words... It can allude focus and to much exaggeration is annoying and unrealistic. Keeping simplicity and being direct makes a sentence easy to read.
    Second paragraph, second sentence is too demeaning:
    "Sadly, your administration has contributed significantly to the mounting catastrophe."
    You should also write that in form of past-tense and not exaggerate the president's wrong doings, it is more insulting your way. This way sounds better...
    "Sadly, your administration did contributed significant catastrophe."

    You should also re-arrange paragraphs... The third paragraph is not very relavent too education reform... It splits topic and picks up the education topic back on the 4th paragraph. You should make the 4th paragraph the 3rd one.
    Paraphrasing builds conception... Splitting off topics make the direct message skewed into a clutter or jumbled idea.

    Thats all the free lessons you get. Other then that its a good letter... Needs some minor tweaks to grammar and paragraphing arrangement. Simple and direct is all you have to do. You have an illustrative means to the method of how you congregate words... Hmm think I seen that before... Either way.

    Good luck with that.

    • 5905

      Did someone ask Vast Shadow for this kind of critique? Is this a good site, or is this kind of response the norm?

      • Vast Shadow

        Did I ask for your opinion? Nope. In fact I could not care less, but since I'm bored I went ahead and checked back to this. An you will read what I got to say.

        My assertion was just to inform the individual who was writing a letter that it is not at all formal.

        Its a good, emotional-full, Charismatic letter... Which would not even get close to being GOOD enough for a Journalist article, nor would it be GOOD enough for a doctoral letter. Nor is the letter GOOD enough as a formal letter. It does make a GOOD blog entry... It does make a GOOD rant letter. It is GOOD enough as an opinion.

        But hey, if the writer is looking for a pen pal and just want to be seen as a rant. They don't have to listen to me. However, if they do want to appear formal the letter needs more direct accusations and better substance.

        What is with your multiple posting to me anyway? Is this going to be your normal routine?
        If GOOD site did not want opinions, they would possibly not allow comments.


    • freeforall

      Vast Shadow, I've noted a few grammatical errors of your own. I appreciate your ideas on the paragraphing arrangements, but urge you to proofread your own thoughts and fix your own grammatical errors before conducting someone else to do the same. Thanks.

      • Vast Shadow

        Oh all the passive and doctoral responses?
        How about you list a few or try to, evenly... I'm sure your automated grammar checker is well out of date.

        • freeforall

          There is no need to get defensive. You were asking someone to take your constructive criticism into account, and I'm doing the same for you. When you give someone advice on their grammar and then make mistakes of your own, it loses credibility.

    • Kathy Barkulis

      "You have an illustrative means to the method of how you congregate words... Hmm think I seen that before... Either way." Ha, that's brilliant, Vast Shadow. And so very funny.
      I found this line from Mr. Bill's letter to be so ironic:
      "It’s no wonder that cheating scandals are rampant in our country and fraudulent claims are commonplace." Yes, Bill Ayers would know that fraudulent claims are commonplace.

      • Vast Shadow

        Yea you should evenly more notice its offensive in many ways... But the tackyness can stay... It makes it look like someone is just `ranting in a letter.

      • 5905

        Is it common on this site to gloss over substance and attack contributors ad hominem?

    • Stuart

      Great edits!

    • Vast Shadow

      When you blog... You can be as open minded or non-exact as possible; but when there is a need for formality... You do not want to tatter to much expression and emotion into the letter or its main idea could be lost.
      Unless you are writing as a pen-pal... Then maybe it doesn't need much formality.

      It just really depends on the approach and the essential `reason for why you are writing.

  • mattlove1

    Hey Bill, peace activist, have you happened to notice also that your buddy keeps killing people with drones, and starting wars? Spying on us, and detaining us without reason? How is he going to pay for education when he has bloated the pentagon budget bigger than any of his predecessors? There's a lot of other things wrong with him and his policies, of course, I just thought I'd lead with a few of the impeachable ones...

  • mahinui

    Aloha Bill. Much as I am in agreement with your message, much of the delivery is sharp and as such deters the reader from embracing your ideas. I would love to see the collective idea of education and measurements re-examined and revamped. To move this agenda into the full light and attention of the president of the United States is worth all our efforts. Would you feel comfortable moderating your tone, if it means keeping the essence of your message fully intact?

    • 5905

      In my humble opinion. "moderating the tone" has fueled republican propaganda and given us arne duncan in the first place. Someone speaks out and they get whacked by people claiming to be supprters. Have we seen this movie for four years now?o

  • Hillary Newman

    Great piece Bill Ayers! Thanks for sharing this with the GOOD community.

  • cindraleehenry

    Thank you, Bill Ayers, for putting into clear, logical, and compelling words what many of us have been feeling. Thank you.

    We have created a monster. Magnet schools. Charter schools. Private schools. Parochial and faith-based schools. Where have our neighborhood public schools gone, what has happened to them? The public school system was once something we could be proud of, a cornerstone of democracy that leveled the playing field and provided opportunity for the enrichment and education of all children. Now, we act like our public schools are only for children who are not fortunate enough to attend school elsewhere.

    Here in Southern California families that aspire to the American Dream, who care about providing a good foundation for their children, do everything in their power to work hard enough to send their children to "good" schools rather than public schools, often driving vast distances to take and retrieve their children from schools nowhere near their neighborhood.

    What a change since I grew up in the 50's and 60's where everyone went to public school and we felt sad for the kids in private or parochial schools because they missed out on so much. And what a huge difference there is now in what schools provide for our children. Long gone are the enrichment programs that my generation enjoyed. Band, orchestra, choir, drama, art, sports, and all the clubs. Now, if a child wants to participate in these things the parents must be able to afford to pay for it, whether it's buying sports equipment, art equipment, musical instruments. And that's assuming there is even an instructor available to run the program...often there isn't.

    Of course, we have various funded programs (quite separate from the school curriculum) available for disadvantaged children. There are some wonderful programs...but of course they are dependent on the continuation of the funding sources. If the funding source goes away, so does the program.

    But enough of my ranting. William Ayers has said it more effectively. Please pass this plea along...perhaps it will make a difference.

    • 5905


    • Kathy Barkulis

      cindraleehenry, why do you suppose that the more money that gets fed into public education the worse it gets? And why are those private schools doing such a better job of educating kids with so much less money spent per student? Could it be, could it be, could it be.....THE UNIONS????

      • 5905

        Kathy, I don't think it is the unions. Your question is great and has so many many answers. Surely class size, racial and economic demographics, parental involvement, education level of the mother, level of competence of administrators--these would be good starts for discussion.

        • Kathy Barkulis

          My opinion is that the unions are the ones hurting the teachers and the students. The union leadership is about power. It is not about educating children and freeing good teachers to do what they do best. Yet teachers have blindly accepted in most cities that they must go along with their union to get along. That certainly sets a bad example right from the start for children.

      • 5905

        Kathy, I don't think it is the unions. Your question is great and has so many many answers. Surely class size, racial and economic demographics, parental involvement, education level of the mother, level of competence of administrators--these would be good starts for discussion.

  • remo.cosentino

    I couldn't agree more.

    As an immigrant of 8 from Italy, I was placed in the first grade of the local grammar school in Brooklyn, NY. There were no ESL programs: it was sink or swim with only my native intelligence and quiet behaviour to see me through. But there was more: dedicated teachers, accepting fellow students. I seamlessly became part of the class and hardly aware that my mode of communication became English and not Italian.

    It wasn't always untroubled; gradually I became just another student and no longer the "other". This was the ducational system in New York in the Forties: we learned geography and numbers, music and drawing, and most of all reading. We received the skills to advance: plan and paint a ten-foot mural about other cultures, write a school play and act and sing in it. Did we have tests? I suppose so, but it was not traumatic. Eventually, I went from the sixth grade to the the seventh and eight grade: the emphasis was to make us aware of as much as possible. Few of us were expected to go to college after high school, if we finished high school. But some of us did. We not only complet High School but went on to College: for me a BA and another degree in Fine Art. There were none of the "race to the top" programs, or any of the private initiatives that you disparage. I, and many of the children, of that generation did fine without them.

    Education should be for the students not a playground for educational reformers. Public Education should be taken back from the "merry band of billionaires". I was not in Education; now at 83 I am at a local Community College as a volunteer. I do see the challenges of a bad education. The problems won't be solved with programs that these "do-gooders" have imposed on the nation. Before they to race to the top, students should be given the tools to move on in measured steps with "… a deep and rich curriculum for all students regardless of circumstance or background" I consider myself a beneficiary of a deep and rich curriculum of the past.

    • cindraleehenry

      "...given the tools to move on in measured steps..." what a profoundly insightful declaration. You have summed it up perfectly. Whatever tools the individual needs to move forward one step at a time toward their individual best...that is key.


    This is better than good. It summarizes what educators and researchers have said in the many tweets, blogs, opinions, and pleas that have been shared. Dr. Ayres should get signatories to this letter. That would be revolutionary.

  • john.kantor

    The real problem is that society doesn't value real education any more - only vocational training.

    • cindraleehenry

      In a way, yes. In a way, no. We are not even preparing our young people for useful, fulfilling vocations these days. Both well-rounded educational training and vocational training have suffered. The "skill" that has suffered the most, that is the most over-looked in either educational environment is the skill of critical thinking. More than anything, we need to teach people how to think for themselves, how to problem-solve, how to pursue knowledge for a lifetime. And we need to instill a thirst for knowledge. That most valuable skill does not appear anywhere in current educational reform rhetoric.

      • graceadams830

        Of course not--the powers that be very much do NOT WANT the commoners to learn how to think for themselves--their thoughts might turn to rebellion--even armed rebellion.

    • Serge Lubomudrov

      True. THIS society. I hope there are some (like Finland?) around somewhere that still care.

  • Jillian Kirby

    This is a good article but it rambles on a little too long for a busy person I like what it has to say but it needs to be condenced.

  • CASAKimberlyS

    As the students of the United States continue to fall in the educational "standings" worldwide, it seems obvious that what has been deployed in the way of government standards into our classrooms as the next great solution has merely been the latest knee jerk reaction. In this day and age of instant information and highly accessible technology, I would love for someone to explain to me why we can not begin structuring our learning environments to support students as individual learners. I envision classrooms of students, each working at the pace that works for them, with teachers supplementing and encouraging each of them along. Utopia? Maybe so, but what is so wrong with striving for something extraordinary?

  • graceadams830

    I went through several weeks of drill on the alphabet, consonants, and vowels in first grade (fall of 1949) thinking to myself that it was like what my parents had said about freshman hazing when they were in college before being allowed to open the reading textbook. The first page said "a rat and a cat". The teacher allowed us to each take our copy back to our desk after reading group. I sat there reading the rest of that book until I finished it. I read whatever I could get my hands on for several years trying to find out what the big deal was about reading. When I tested at fifth grade reading level at the end of first grade, my teacher (bless her) suggested to my mother that she take me into the adult section of the public library, let me choose whatever I wanted, and take it our for me on her card. I suspect the rest of my education came from my father and the public library.

    • Stuart

      I understand what you are saying, but not everyone is like that. Some children who had reading and spelling disorders need those drills to learn the words and the patterns. I just spent a few hours observing a specialized reading and spelling class for children with problems and disabilities.

      I was shocked at the common things they could not do. Than I was shocked at the phonics and coding rules they knew... but the little girl I was sitting next to, couldn't figure out how to spell the word "take". In her mind it just didn't click. She needs to memorize those rules to figure it out in her head how to spell the word "take" and why the those letters make those sounds in combination.

      Back in 1949, they didn't know any better. Now we do, but drills of the alphabet, consonants and vowels are still relevant. Throw in vowel diphthongs, digraphs, coding and ends up being a very good thing for student's in todays world.

      You obviously were bored and advanced. But not everyone learns at the same pace or in the same way.

      • graceadams830

        My sister (two years behind me) learned to read in her summer between first and second grade in a New Albany Indiana public library summer reading program for children, earned her bookworm pin, and decided that she wanted to become a librarian when she grew up. I never did figure out what I wanted to become when I grew up and never did succeed at any sort of paid job.

  • Jlightfeather

    It is time to get rid of 'No Child Left Behind' totally. It has been the most destructive program ever initiated.
    My grand daughter after finished 1st grade summed it up when she asked:
    "Grandma, why do they put the answers after the question in the textbooks. We will never learn anything that way. I probably won't learn anything until at least 5th grade." In Texas they also cancelled all the creative classes like art, music, etc. Children need these creative times in school, not just memorizing facts to answer questions on a test. Our Charter schools are even worse, as they are all owned and developed and taught by men from Turkey. (no women teachers-no American teachers- yet we taxpayers have paid for over 38 of these Charter schools in Texas) We can thank former Pres. Bush for that gift. Teaching to the text is a dumbed down way to address education. Thank you for your letter and I hope we see some change that benefits the students and teachers from the 'bottom up',

    • Stuart

      Don't speak for all of Texas and all charter schools. You obviously do not know what you're talking about. I personally know lots of white and ethnic american women who are teachers in charter schools. So, I dont know where you are getting your facts from... The one charter school down the street from your house doesn't represent all the charter schools in Texas.

      Art, music, and foreign language are all taught here in Texas where I am, charter, public and private.Granted not every day, but it wasn't taught everyday when I was in school either

      If I were you, maybe I would move areas... or just research things a little more before you try to badmouth Texas.

  • amypelissero

    Thank you for this thoughtful and thought-provoking letter. I hope he will read it!

  • lasirene

    Thank you! This is one of the finest open letter written on the subject of the educational abyss in American...I'd like to see every parent in our country, every teacher in our schools, every principal and superintendent read it...It should be OPEN for all to read. I shall start with my daughter's 3rd grade teacher today and move it forward. Thank you for writing it and for sharing your exceptionally compelling thoughts on the subject.

  • Eric Booth

    Thank you Bill for that clear ringing call to the vision of the next four years. You offer guidelines I agree with. There is one beacon I follow and try to rally others around: Make the intrinsic motivation of the learner the guiding top priority of schooling. If we applied what we know about nurturing intrinsic motivation in learners, and made the adjustments that it takes to act on that knowledge, we would reform education in ways that tap your guidelines and that produce the kinds of results that strong majorities, from across the political spectrum, want from schooling.

    Eric Booth