kitchen table math, the sequel: rewind

Saturday, October 4, 2008


final paragraph in today's Times story on Bill Ayers and Barack Obama:

“If Barack Obama says he’s willing to talk to foreign leaders without preconditions,” Mr. Hayden said, “I can imagine he’d be willing to talk to Bill Ayers about schools. But I think that’s about as far as their relationship goes.”

Obama and ’60s Bomber: A Look Into Crossed Paths
New York Times, 10-4-2008

I may have to start channeling Brad DeLong re: Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps?*

How is it possible that we have the New York Times ending a story on Barack Obama and Bill Ayers with a Tom Hayden quip drawing an analogy between Bill Ayers and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?** Bill Ayers is to U.S. public schools as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is to U.S. foreign interests: a guy Senator Obama is willing to talk to!

Does this not pique one's curiosity?

It piques mine.

If we had a better press corps, the Times would understand that for instructivist fans of the liberal arts (a category that ought to include reporters for the Times seeing as how they wouldn't be reporters for the Times without an education in the liberal arts) "Barack Obama is willing to talk to Bill Ayers about schools" is where the story begins, not where it ends. A story about Barack Obama and Bill Ayers, whose entire relationship, as far as I can tell, was about the schools ought to actually say something about the schools.

e.g.: What kinds of educational projects did the Annenberg board fund?

What kinds of projects did it not fund?

I say we get Jim Dwyer to do the whole thing over again. Get me rewrite.

what is social justice teaching, anyway?

Back when she hosted Bill Ayers and Sol Stern on her Education Week blog, eduwonkette asked the question one might have expected a reporter for the New York Times to ask:

[I]t is not clear to me that teaching for social justice involves a particular pedagogical approach. Wouldn’t KIPP teachers claim to be teaching for social justice?

As it turns out, there are simple answers to this question:

1. "Teaching for social justice," aka critical pedagogy, does involve a particular pedagogical approach. Teaching for social justice means teaching via inquiry so as to reject the "banking" view of education, whose best-known proponent is E.D. Hirsch. E.D. Hirsch, following Pierre Bourdieu, argues that knowledge is a form of intellectual capital: The rich have it, the poor do not. Teaching core knowledge, which is knowledge in the liberal arts, to disadvantaged children means sharing the wealth. For Bill Ayers & c., those are fighting words. Hirsch is one of the major intellectual defenders of the triumphant conservative agenda in education, etc.

2. Yes, the KIPP folks would "claim" to be teaching for social justice, but they would not get a sympathetic hearing from professors of critical pedagogy:

So I have this discussion class that is supposed to be us sharing things about our student teaching experiences. So far, this has not happened. Last week, as I said, we discussed the prison-industrial complex. THIS week we started off class with a free word association involving the words liberal, progressive, and radical. (We don't even talk about conservatism in this class. It is definitely off the table. Not that I'm particularly conservative, but I would say there's a kind of intellectual bullying going on here). This exercise took about 45 minutes.

The only amusing part was when a girl associated "radical" with "crazy" and our instructor got pissed. He was like, "now you're just disrespecting someone's belief system." It was ridiculous. He is some kind of Marxist/socialist/radical and really does not try to hide it. Meanwhile, he tells us that we have to be careful not to indoctrinate our kids in any particular ideology when we're teaching social studies. I would say this scores low on the self-awareness scale.

So anyway, throughout this exercise I'm thinking, this is not so relevant to teaching. Usually when something is being taught, I pretend I'm about to get up in front of a class of 30 children, and I ask myself, "is this piece of information or idea going to help me in front of these kids?" If the answer is no, I feel frustrated. I would say I feel frustrated about 95% of the time at school.

I figure that I should probably say something about the angry inside me, so I raise my hand and ask, "why are we doing this exercise? I don't really understand. What does this have to do with teaching?" The instructor responds that he didn't just want to tell us the definitions of these words, because then he would be making the mistake of placing himself as the expert, thus invalidating any ideas that we had. Right.

I explained that what I had meant was, "why are these definitions important right now? How will this make me a better teacher?" Some kids raise their hands to respond. They pretty much say that these conversations are helping them to think about and formulate their political beliefs. First of all, where were they in college? Second, do you care about their political beliefs? Will the kids? I don't, that's for sure.

People seem to think that politics is important in this business. But it's not. Charter schools are supported by all kinds of people: from liberals as pink as the day they were born to conservatives who would wrestle a five dollar bill away from their mothers. If you are committed to a system that works, then you don't need politics because we know what works.


Ok. So then we read a very inflammatory article about the "pedagogy of poverty." I won't go into it, because it was another one of those "our public schools are trying to control the students' minds. We should let them be free!" Really this is not the issue. Also, the guy says that if you want a highly disciplined school, you may or may not be a bigot. He actually used the word bigot.

We got onto the topic of cultural advantages that middle class kids have, such as listening to their parents discuss different issues, going to museums, having more books, etc. Everyone was decrying the fact that poor kids don't have the same things, and that they come into pre-K already behind. When they continue falling behind, middle school and high school teachers complain that "there just isn't enough time" to teach them, particularly with the mandated curriculum dictated by state exams.

I pointed out that, if what people were saying was correct, then that would mean that urban kids should have more time in the classroom, longer school days, and longer school years. This would allow them to catch up and give their teachers the chance to cover everything they wanted. I provided the KIPP schools as an example of a school system that does this, and gets amazing results. It works. More time in school and good instruction works.

My instructor was not pleased with this, though. He thought the idea was too "militaristic." He said, "I mean, what's the end goal?" I was flabbergasted, once again. Doesn't anyone get it? The goal is to give kids the skills and knowledge they need to choose the kind of lives they want to live. Period, end of story, I no longer want to talk to you, stupid idiot. But he has this whole notion of making people "good citizens" or getting them to "think critically" about the world. Ask yourself, what would you want for your child? Would you want her to get a great academic education and be able to do whatever she wanted, or would you want someone to teach her "how to be a good citizen" or "how to think critically"? I know, me too. And if the chips were down, my instructor would admit the same thing. The fact is that schools like KIPP are vaulting kids OUT OF POVERTY. They're giving them a fighting chance. And the concept of the schools is not that complex. Their motto is: Work hard. Be nice. And everything boils down to that in the end. There's no magic curriculum bullet. It's just hard work. This guy, this instructor, he so decries poverty and "keeping poor kids poor" and "the pedagogy of poverty" but it is HIS reluctance to accept WHAT WORKS FOR KIDS that keeps them where they are.

I really don't understand. And I'm so angry about it.

oh, snap

That account was written by a young woman studying for a Masters degree in education at Columbia Teacher's College, one of the institutions that trained Bill Ayers. When she finished her degree, she took a job at KIPP.

Proponents of critical pedagogy are philosophically and practically opposed to those who see knowledge as intellectual capital. These are enemy camps. Like it or not.

There are those who believe that education is the Civil Rights issue of the 21st century. For the next president, who will have to deal with NCLB, two roads diverge in a yellow wood: the path of inquiry and the path of knowledge.

The path of Palo Freire in Guinea-Bissau and the path of KIPP: Knowledge Is Power Program.

Is it true that Senator Obama, if elected president, will talk to Bill Ayers about schools?

extra credit

Girl in shorts, a Mom, recovering attorney, post-modern neo-feminist, enthusiastic regenerated dyke, unlikely punk, nice Catholic girl, passionate freedom-loving libertarian, thinking conservative, sappy romantic, spiritual redneck, softball enthusiast, shopaholic and unrepentant flirt, also wants to know who's going to be running the Department of Education.

Apparently, she went to ed school.

Paperback: 800 pages
Publisher: Routledge; 1 edition (November 26, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0805859284
ISBN-13: 978-0805859287

* have not actually read DeLong's post re: Why oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corp?
** helpful hint: a colleague of Ed's says the only way she can remember Ahmadinejad is to think: "A man's dinner jacket"


Tex said...

Bombs are so 1960s; public education is the tool for today’s radicals.

It would follow quite naturally that Obama would appoint William Ayres, or some other proponent of critical pedagogy, to head the DOE.

Nor does Ayers see his education work as a repudiation of his early radicalism. On the contrary, 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

Tex said...

Wow, even Wikipedia seems to spell it out for us. About Ayers, it says:

“He is most well known for his radical activism in the 1960s and 1970s, his current work in education reform, curriculum and instruction.”

Catherine Johnson said...

wow - good find

I had never even looked at Freire, which was a mistake.

Ed was wondering, last night, how it is that Freire's book is the Sacred Text of ed schools. He'd never read Freire, either; he basically saw Freire as a relic of the 60s. Wrong.

I had no idea that Freire directly attacks the "banking theory" of knowledge. Which, of course, is precisely the theory Bourdieu, a Marxist, espoused.

My reading of the two candidates is that neither knows much about education, nor is either man particularly interested in the subject. When it comes to the presidency, we're voting for the candidates' advisors, which is usually the case.

At this point I'm assuming Obama will be our next president --- and I'd like to know whether he plans to include anyone who is not a professor at an ed school amongst his education advisors.

Catherine Johnson said...

from Skewed Perspective: What We Know about Teacher Preparation at Elite Education Schools:

In the domain of foundations of education, the books most often required by the programs we reviewed were authored by Anita Woolfolk, Jonathan Kozol, Henry Giroux, Paulo Freire, Joel Spring,Howard Gardner, and John Dewey. Woolfolk’s work is a textbook in educational psychology, and one of Joel Spring’s volumes is a textbook in educational foundations. The rest are well-known works that embrace a constructivist and/or progressive standpoint. Conspicuously absent from almost all such syllabi were works that took a very different approach to teaching, such as those by E.D.Hirsch or Diane Ravitch. (We found Hirsch on two syllabi, Ravitch
on just one.) Equality of education is a central theme of these courses, as evident from the included authors. Nonetheless, not one of the foundations courses, in the 15 schools of education for which we had complete data sets for that domain, asked students to read The Black-White Test Score Gap, at the time of our review arguably the leading collection of scholarly
writings on that subject.We also noted that eight of the programs of teacher certification we reviewed did not cover either the philosophy or the history of education among the courses required for certification.

There's a great tape of Henry Giroux on YouTube explaining how people came up with the term critical pedagogy.

LynnG said...

Do you know the background of every volunteer that served on any Board you may have served on in your lifetime? Probably not.

Do you talk to people who serve on Board's with you, even if you don't know what their background is? Of course you do.

I couldn't possibly guarantee that my path has never unknowingly crossed with some former 60s radical. I grew up in Madison, WI, I probably crossed paths with lots of former radicals. The more I think about it, the more I'm convinced a domestic terrorist probably sat next to me in a couple of my classes. What does that make me?

Ayers has had no involvement or input into anything the Obama campaign has done.

You may not like the Obama education plan, there's stuff for all of us to like and dislike, but the whole Ayers thing feels like a giant red herring.

American has a lot of radicals and domestic terrorists walking around. Look at those crazy nuts in the Michigan Militia, and many others. We probably all would discover domestic terrorists crossing our paths if we combed through our backgrounds with a fine tooth comb. Ayers is a dangerous nut that should be tossed out of any role in education. Agreed.

But it is a bizarre stretch to try to tie him to Obama. Obama has far better and closer ties to these education leaders: Jeanne Century, Linda Darling-Hammond, and Melody Barnes. I'm guessing these 3 are much further along the path to Commissioner of Ed than Ayers. Not that I like them.

I'd rather take a close look at the two candidates' education plans then get all riled up about these fake controversies.

Catherine Johnson said...

I suspect no one's reading Gardner's defense of the liberal arts disciplines....

LynnG said...

I think you are right.

I'm trying to figure out the policies these guys are pushing, but its pretty thin pickings. I think you are right, education holds little interest to either campaign.

concernedCTparent said...

I'd rather take a close look at the two candidates' education plans then get all riled up about these fake controversies.

Absolutely Lynn.

While I'm not impressed with either candidate's education policies, I'm going to have to hope that Obama's own rigorous liberal arts education, his choice not to enroll his own daughters in public school, and what has clearly been a path forged by sheer determination and sharp intellect despite less than ideal circumanstances in his childhood, are going to count for something. Actually I'm hoping that this will make all the difference.

LynnG said...

Jeanne Century comes from the University of Chicago, math and science education background. The bad news with her is she seems to be closely connected to Everyday Math.

See this link:

Linda Darling-Hammond is a Professor of Education at Stanford.

Melody Barnes comes from the Center for American Progress. She is Obama's domestic policy advisor, but doesn't seem to have any background on education.

LynnG said...

Actually, I just found a page on edweek with more information on the Obama education advisor team. I can't do hyper links in comment (can't figure it out), so here's the link in plain text:

First up -- Dr. Donald Stewart, former president of the College Board.

Dr. Fernando Reimars, Prof of International Education at Harvard.

Inez Tenenbaum, former state superintendent of South Carolina

Jeanne Century (see above)

Jonathan Crane, research director of the Coalition for Evidence Based Policy

Linda Darling-Hammond (see above)

So I guess this is the usual assortment of ed professors and think tankers.

I'm a little hopeful about Donald Stewart.

There's probably another page somewhere about the McCain education advisor team. I'll see if I can find it.

concernedCTparent said...

This sure likes one to watch. A debate between Lisa Graham Keegan (McCain) and Linda Darling Hammond (Obama) on October 21st.

Details here:

Without watching I can probably guess who I'd agree more often with during that debate. It isn't Linda.

PaulaV said...

I can guarantee if it was John McCain who had ties to Ayers or Rev. Wright, the MSM would be screaming at the tops of their lungs about it. They wouldn't be saying "let's focus on the issues at hand and put these "fake controversaries" to bed. It would be a feeding frenzy.

With that being said, as far as education goes, all I hear is how both candidates want to throw more money at an already failing institution. This isn't very encouraging and it doesn't matter which side of the aisle your on.

Anonymous said...

Ayers was more involved with Obama than you've described. How much no one seems to know because the press either won't look into it or plays it down.

Of course Obama hasn't mentioned him since he started running. He isn't stupid.

Ayers also hosted a campaign launch party at his house for Obama. Apparently, he lives down the street.

That being said, I don't think either candidate is very interested in education, either.


Unknown said...

I can't say that education is very high on my list of important issues for this election.

Instructivist said...

"The more I think about it, the more I'm convinced a domestic terrorist probably sat next to me in a couple of my classes."

Obama's relationship with Ayers goes much deeper than the casual terrorist who may or may not have sat in the back row of one of his classes.
Obama's World

For one, as SusanS has already pointed out, Obama's political career was lauched from the home of the Ayers couple. Coincidentally, Obama was hand-picked by another Ayers friend, a high official of a Communist front group, to be her successor for state office.

The Obama/Ayers pair also collaborated on the Woods Fund and the infamous Annenberg Challenge.

Instructivist said...

The Obama's World link in the previous post didn't work.

Here is the less fancy version:

Instructivist said...

If the past is prologue, this examination by Stanley Kurtz of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge's educational priorities under the leadership of Obama gives an indication of how education might fare in the event Obama becomes President.

The upshot is that CAC money flowed freely for ideological projects but was denied to people who were interested in academics:

"CAC translated Mr. Ayers's radicalism into practice. Instead of funding schools directly, it required schools to affiliate with "external partners," which actually got the money. Proposals from groups focused on math/science achievement were turned down. Instead CAC disbursed money through various far-left community organizers, such as the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (or Acorn)."

Here is Kurtz's WSJ article:

SEPTEMBER 23, 2008 Obama and Ayers Pushed Radicalism On Schools
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Despite having authored two autobiographies, Barack Obama has never written about his most important executive experience. From 1995 to 1999, he led an education foundation called the Chicago Annenberg Challenge (CAC), and remained on the board until 2001. The group poured more than $100 million into the hands of community organizers and radical education activists.

Bill Ayers.
The CAC was the brainchild of Bill Ayers, a founder of the Weather Underground in the 1960s. Among other feats, Mr. Ayers and his cohorts bombed the Pentagon, and he has never expressed regret for his actions. Barack Obama's first run for the Illinois State Senate was launched at a 1995 gathering at Mr. Ayers's home.
The Obama campaign has struggled to downplay that association. Last April, Sen. Obama dismissed Mr. Ayers as just "a guy who lives in my neighborhood," and "not somebody who I exchange ideas with on a regular basis." Yet documents in the CAC archives make clear that Mr. Ayers and Mr. Obama were partners in the CAC. Those archives are housed in the Richard J. Daley Library at the University of Illinois at Chicago and I've recently spent days looking through them.
The Chicago Annenberg Challenge was created ostensibly to improve Chicago's public schools. The funding came from a national education initiative by Ambassador Walter Annenberg. In early 1995, Mr. Obama was appointed the first chairman of the board, which handled fiscal matters. Mr. Ayers co-chaired the foundation's other key body, the "Collaborative," which shaped education policy.
The CAC's basic functioning has long been known, because its annual reports, evaluations and some board minutes were public. But the Daley archive contains additional board minutes, the Collaborative minutes, and documentation on the groups that CAC funded and rejected. The Daley archives show that Mr. Obama and Mr. Ayers worked as a team to advance the CAC agenda.
One unsettled question is how Mr. Obama, a former community organizer fresh out of law school, could vault to the top of a new foundation? In response to my questions, the Obama campaign issued a statement saying that Mr. Ayers had nothing to do with Obama's "recruitment" to the board. The statement says Deborah Leff and Patricia Albjerg Graham (presidents of other foundations) recruited him. Yet the archives show that, along with Ms. Leff and Ms. Graham, Mr. Ayers was one of a working group of five who assembled the initial board in 1994. Mr. Ayers founded CAC and was its guiding spirit. No one would have been appointed the CAC chairman without his approval.
The CAC's agenda flowed from Mr. Ayers's educational philosophy, which called for infusing students and their parents with a radical political commitment, and which downplayed achievement tests in favor of activism. In the mid-1960s, Mr. Ayers taught at a radical alternative school, and served as a community organizer in Cleveland's ghetto.
In works like "City Kids, City Teachers" and "Teaching the Personal and the Political," Mr. Ayers wrote that teachers should be community organizers dedicated to provoking resistance to American racism and oppression. His preferred alternative? "I'm a radical, Leftist, small 'c' communist," Mr. Ayers said in an interview in Ron Chepesiuk's, "Sixties Radicals," at about the same time Mr. Ayers was forming CAC.
CAC translated Mr. Ayers's radicalism into practice. Instead of funding schools directly, it required schools to affiliate with "external partners," which actually got the money. Proposals from groups focused on math/science achievement were turned down. Instead CAC disbursed money through various far-left community organizers, such as the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (or Acorn).
Mr. Obama once conducted "leadership training" seminars with Acorn, and Acorn members also served as volunteers in Mr. Obama's early campaigns. External partners like the South Shore African Village Collaborative and the Dual Language Exchange focused more on political consciousness, Afrocentricity and bilingualism than traditional education. CAC's in-house evaluators comprehensively studied the effects of its grants on the test scores of Chicago public-school students. They found no evidence of educational improvement.
CAC also funded programs designed to promote "leadership" among parents. Ostensibly this was to enable parents to advocate on behalf of their children's education. In practice, it meant funding Mr. Obama's alma mater, the Developing Communities Project, to recruit parents to its overall political agenda. CAC records show that board member Arnold Weber was concerned that parents "organized" by community groups might be viewed by school principals "as a political threat." Mr. Obama arranged meetings with the Collaborative to smooth out Mr. Weber's objections.
The Daley documents show that Mr. Ayers sat as an ex-officio member of the board Mr. Obama chaired through CAC's first year. He also served on the board's governance committee with Mr. Obama, and worked with him to craft CAC bylaws. Mr. Ayers made presentations to board meetings chaired by Mr. Obama. Mr. Ayers spoke for the Collaborative before the board. Likewise, Mr. Obama periodically spoke for the board at meetings of the Collaborative.
The Obama campaign notes that Mr. Ayers attended only six board meetings, and stresses that the Collaborative lost its "operational role" at CAC after the first year. Yet the Collaborative was demoted to a strictly advisory role largely because of ethical concerns, since the projects of Collaborative members were receiving grants. CAC's own evaluators noted that project accountability was hampered by the board's reluctance to break away from grant decisions made in 1995. So even after Mr. Ayers's formal sway declined, the board largely adhered to the grant program he had put in place.
Mr. Ayers's defenders claim that he has redeemed himself with public-spirited education work. That claim is hard to swallow if you understand that he views his education work as an effort to stoke resistance to an oppressive American system. He likes to stress that he learned of his first teaching job while in jail for a draft-board sit-in. For Mr. Ayers, teaching and his 1960s radicalism are two sides of the same coin.
Mr. Ayers is the founder of the "small schools" movement (heavily funded by CAC), in which individual schools built around specific political themes push students to "confront issues of inequity, war, and violence." He believes teacher education programs should serve as "sites of resistance" to an oppressive system. (His teacher-training programs were also CAC funded.) The point, says Mr. Ayers in his "Teaching Toward Freedom," is to "teach against oppression," against America's history of evil and racism, thereby forcing social transformation.
The Obama campaign has cried foul when Bill Ayers comes up, claiming "guilt by association." Yet the issue here isn't guilt by association; it's guilt by participation. As CAC chairman, Mr. Obama was lending moral and financial support to Mr. Ayers and his radical circle. That is a story even if Mr. Ayers had never planted a single bomb 40 years ago.
Mr. Kurtz is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

LynnG said...

Bloggers and rightwing media types have been repeating the "launched Obama's career" mantra for awhile now. But there doesn't seem to be much truth to it.

The NY Times article seems to imply that it was Deborah Leff (not Ayers) that got Obama the job overseeing the Chicago Annenberg project. Leff says she recommended Obama. He was actually hired by Patricia Graham of the Spencer Foundation and Adele Simmons of the MacArthur Foundation.

Since Leff says she was the one "launching" Obama (and others involved concur), and Ayers says he didn't get Obama the job, the whole controversy seems to fizzle.

Look, there's plenty to argue about where Obama's education plan is concerned. I'm far more worried about the connection with Jeanne Century than Bill Ayers.

How deep is Jeanne Century connected to EM? Her involvement in the next administration could be disastrous for math education if she is as smitten with the "real world, project based, discovery method" as she probably is.

LynnG said...

Rightwingprof is right. Education reform isn't going to swing this, or any other, election this year.

Barry Garelick said...

How deep is Jeanne Century connected to EM? Her involvement in the next administration could be disastrous for math education if she is as smitten with the "real world, project based, discovery method" as she probably is.

She's more science oriented than math oriented, but working for CEMSE, she's in touch with the movers and shakers of EM, including Andy Isaacs. So she will be a spokesperson for it, I'm sure. KTM had a link to an open letter to Obama on his selection of Jeanne Century. It's located here:

Instructivist said...

"Since Leff says she was the one "launching" Obama..."

You might be mixing up different "launchings", educational CAC launchings and political career launchings. The Ayers home party launching with Alice Palmer was a political career launching.

Anonymous said...

That "mantra" has been reported in the mainstream press, including the Chicago Tribune, hardly a bastion of right-wing ideology.


Catherine Johnson said...

I've spent my entire adult life hanging out with Marxists & leftists of all stripes. In fact, I think one of Ed's oldest friends was a member of the SDS (did Ed tell me he helped run the thing?? Don't remember.)

Just to give you an idea of the lay of the land in my own little world: the other day a person near and dear to me observed that, "I don't consider Bill Ayers a true leftist."

Anyway....I feel I'm entitled to rag on Bill Ayers!

For me personally, Ayers is important because of what he believes about education, and because of the power his views hold within schools of education.

I was reassured when I saw Obama's list of advisors, though Linda Darling-Hammond is a big problem. I don't want Linda Darling-Hammond anywhere near a president of the United States.

I probably should have mentioned that Bourdieu is, or was, a Marxist. Hirsch began life as a socialist, iirc.

What we're dealing with is a profound dispute concerning social justice in education that originated on the left and probably draws a great deal of energy from schisms on the left.

At least, I think it's fair to characterize it in that way. (Poli sci isn't a strength.)

Gotta run just now -- back in a bit

Anonymous said...

Paul Begala, in a shot on Meet the Press that sounds like something other than an offhand remark, suggests an Obama comeback to an expected McCain ad blitz on the Ayers relationship.


And I think Governor Palin here is making a strategic mistake. This guilt by association path is going to be trouble ultimately for the McCain campaign. You know, you can go back, I have written a book about McCain, I had a dozen researchers go through him, I didn't even put this in the book. But John McCain sat on the board of a very right-wing organization, it was the U.S. Council for World Freedom, it was chaired by a guy named John Singlaub, who wound up involved in the Iran contra scandal. It was an ultra conservative, right-wing group. The Anti-Defamation League, in 1981 when McCain was on the board, said this about this organization. It was affiliated with the World Anti-Communist League - the parent organization - which ADL said "has increasingly become a gathering place, a forum, a point of contact for extremists, racists and anti-Semites."

Catherine Johnson said...

I'm back!

where was I....

OK, the reason I'm personally not concerned that Obama was involved with Ayers is the fact that practically everyone in leftish circles in Chicago seems to be involved with the guy. (That fact does bother me, btw. I was especially put off by Stanley Fish's fawning defense of Ayers on his TIMES blog.)

I've been thinking a lot about Concerned Parent's point about Obama's good liberal arts education.

I'd been thinking that was a problem, not a plus. Same issue with McCain, btw. His mom loathed the military base schools she had to send him to & put him in private school the instant she could.

The reason I've been thinking it's a problem, not a plus, is that I've come to the conclusion that unless you've taught in the schools or had kids in the schools (or you're a very keen observer) you just can't know what's going on.

Being a teacher or a parent is no guarantee, either. You have to be paying attention.

I've assumed this to be the case because of the schools' use of "loose coupling" and the "logic of confidence," concepts I haven't really posted about yet.

Basically, the job of school administrators, under the theory of "loose coupling," is to protect the core function of the school - classroom instruction - from public scrutiny.

The administrator's job is to keep the public from knowing what's going on inside the school he or she runs and to maintain public confidence. (I'll get a post up AT SOME POINT.)

Partly because of this, people with good private educations can be even more clueless than the rest of us. People who went to private schools assume that schools exist to teach knowledge of the traditional subjects to students. Schools are about knowledge.

So...I've been thinking that Obama & McCain's private school educations would be net negatives instead of neg pluses.

However, after reading the list of Obama advisors posted at Flypaper, I'm changing my mind.

At the moment, my feeling is that if either candidate surrounds himself with ed school professors, a private school background will hurt.

If the candidates listen to education wonks & reformers (real ones), I'm thinking that a private school background helps.

Here are the people listed as "key advisors" to Obama at Flypaper:

Andrew Rotherham (eduwonk)
Jonathan Schnur
Michael Johnston
Robert Gordon

I'd like to see E.D. Hirsch and the Democratic Party equivalent of Lisa Graham Keegan on that list, but otherwise I expect I'll be happy once I know more about Schnur, Johnston, & Gordon.

Catherine Johnson said...

And I think Governor Palin here is making a strategic mistake.

For what it's worth, I think it's a horrible mistake.

Not that I know the first thing about how to run a campaign.

Catherine Johnson said...

John McCain sat on the board of a very right-wing organization, it was the U.S. Council for World Freedom, it was chaired by a guy named John Singlaub

Here's something I think I do know.

As far as I can tell, guilt by association works only when it "makes sense" -- when it resonates with the intended audience.

Saying that McCain sat on a board with an anti-semite is unlikely to affect anyone's opinion because McCain has a well-established identity in the public's mind & "right-wing anti-semite" isn't part of it.

From where I sit, that's the problem with sending Palin out to talk about Obama palling around with terrorists. It doesn't resonate -- at least not with centrist types.

Catherine Johnson said...

Last but not least, I agree with everyone else that no one cares about education in this election.

I care partly because I would care no matter what was going on, but also because I've become aware of how important public confidence in the schools is to housing values and to the middle class being wildly overextended financially in an effort to buy our way into wealthy districts with good schools (or with schools enjoying good reputations).