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The Ayers Petition


Editor's note: Bridging Differences is publishing today because of the timeliness of Diane Ravitch's comments on Prof. William Ayers, whose association with Sen. Barack Obama has become a prominent campaign issue. Deborah Meier's reply will be published shortly.

Dear Deborah,

I expect we will both watch the last presidential debate. Maybe the Bill Ayers issue will come up, maybe not. Last night I received online a petition on behalf of Ayers, and I saw that you signed it. It says that he "participated passionately in the civil rights and antiwar movements of the 1960s, as did hundreds of thousands of Americans." One of my sons told me that some of the names on the petition were bogus so I was not sure whether you really did sign it. But if this is not an Internet hoax, I have a few questions for you.

I don't think that it is accurate to describe the activities of Professor Ayers in the 1960s as nothing more than passionate participation in the civil rights and antiwar movements of the times. Or to say that hundreds of thousands of others did the same things. As I recall, Ayers has boasted about bombing the Pentagon, the New York City police headquarters, and several other public places. My question is, if you did sign this statement, do you think that bombing public facilities is an accurate reflection on those who did participate passionately in the civil rights and antiwar movements?

I don't think that the civil rights movement and the antiwar movement of the 1960s were known for violence against others. Bombs kill people. Bill Ayers is the son of a very wealthy family. He grew up very privileged. He was setting bombs in places where working-class kids—policemen and soldiers—were likely to be killed. I don't know if he actually killed anyone; maybe he did, maybe he didn't. No one knows but him how many bombs he exploded and where. Certainly three of his friends—members of the Weatherman group that Ayers led—blew themselves up while constructing a bomb in a luxurious Greenwich Village townhouse. The bomb was intended to inflict massive damage on other people. They intended to kill and maim dozens or hundreds of people, but only killed themselves. I don't think they advanced the causes of civil rights or of the anti-war movement one iota.

Ayers has not denied being a bomber and a terrorist. He seems to relish the notoriety. I recall reading an interview with him in The New York Times, unfortuitously published on September 11, 2001, when he boasted of his life as a terrorist. Is it accurate now to describe his activities in the late 1960s as a part of the civil rights movement and the antiwar movements? I recall that the civil rights movement—in which I participated—was devoted to nonviolence, to respect for others, and to the promotion of democracy and equality among peoples, not the rule of force. That was certainly the message of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Setting bombs was not characteristic of the civil rights movement, nor was it characteristic of the antiwar movement, which was mainly pacifist, except for its lunatic fringe.

One of the qualities that we have tried to demonstrate in our exchanges is civility and a passionate belief in the value of discussion and debate and intellectual exchange. I would say that these values stand in sharp contrast to those who espouse violence. If we hope to keep a civil society, we should all stand against violence, against those who would maim and kill others in pursuit of what they perceive as a higher good.

If you did sign the petition, this is your right. It is part of the exercise of discussion and dissent that we value in our democracy.

But I do wonder whether you endorse the petition's effort to associate the civil rights movement and the antiwar movement with the domestic terrorism of the 1960s. I lived through that era. I lived in New York City. I recall worrying about my children's lives when we went to public places. I don't regard anyone who set bombs in public places as a hero or, now, as a victim of bad press. Professor Ayers has never apologized for his crimes. That is his choice. I make mine not to forgive his cruel actions and his indifference to the lives of others when he remains unrepentant.




I am disappointed in you for picking up some of the half-truths that have been sprayed publicly, in a pretty blatant attempt at discrediting Barack Obama, who has at best a very limited relationship to William Ayers.

But I am at the same time grateful for the possibility of discussion here (until the googlers get wind of the topic) that might be honest and forthright. My understanding--from recent articles in EdWeek, the Annenberg webpage, and FactCheck.org--is that the characterization of Mr. Ayers as an unrepentent terrorist springs from an out of context comment in the New York Times article, and ignores the content of his book--which I have not read, which does admit regrets for the violent strategies. I might also add that it is my understanding that the Weather Underground targetted buildings not people (the accidental killing of their own bomb workers was, well, accidental) and gave prior warning when buildings were attacked.

But, Diane, I also lived through those times--not yet as a parent, but as a high school and college student. I saw a serious political movement become a disorganized array of free drug and free love groups. I much later learned about Cointelpro, although my older brother was approached, as were some of his classmates at a very minor college campus, to gather intelligence on campus groups. I have at least one friend (actually the administrator of a small family foundation--reasonably well respected), who recalled that she and her room-mates never paid long distance phone bills--the CIA made sure that service was never interrupted because they wanted to listen.

I have heard G. Gordon Liddy defend the government crimes at the time because "we were in a state of war." He made clear (no citation--it was on his radio show) that he was not talking about the undeclared war in Vietnam--he was talking about the war against campus radicals. Any constitutional violations were justified by this state of war--against our own children.

Many of us were "radicalized" (using the essentially undefined term that has been identified as an educational aim of Mr. Ayers) during that time. Every 18 year old male had to formulate a response to "the draft." Some, like GW Bush and Danny Quayle had cushy options. Some enlisted. Some left the country. Some waited for the draft to hit. No young person was untouched (even as a female--it touched every young man I knew).

Outside of the convenience of Mr. Ayers contact with Mr. Obama--allowing for the "pallin' around with terrorists" fear mongering--there are some serious educators who understand and take issue with the concept of education for social justice. I believe Sol Stern is one. These folks have piled on out of honest disagreement that one aim of education should be to provide the downtrodden masses with the information and perspective that they need to change the world. This is a discussion that is worthy of having. I happen to agree with that particular aim. But then let's talke about it and what it means and why some people might be against it. Let's leave the pallin around conversation outside.


I did not say anything that was a "half-truth." You did not identify a single statement in my comment that was erroneous, or even half-erroneous.

My statement was not intended to defame Barack Obama. If you read it that way, you are wrong. I said nothing about Senator Obama.

I was responding to the language of the online petition, which--in my view--defamed both the civil rights movement and the antiwar movement by suggesting that they were no different from the Weathermen.

Whether one targets a building or people is an absurd distinction. People are often in buildings, even when one doesn't expect them to be there. For example, when domestic terrorists blew up a research laboratory at the University of Wisconsin during that era, a graduate student was unexpectedly working late and he was killed. That was not amusing. An accident? My suggestion: Don't blow up buildings.

I believe in what I wrote. I stand by every line.

Diane Ravitch

I've read Diane's post twice now looking for the word "Obama." It's not there. For those of us in education, the Ayers question transcends mere politics. Why, I wonder, are thousands of people in our field so eager to overlook what Ayers did in the Weather Undergound? What does that say about our values?

I've heard the rote dismissals, arguing that he was never convicted of a crime, but Ayers pronounced himself "guilty as hell and free as a bird." Neither is his a tale of redemption, since he has never come close to uttering an apology for his acts. Indeed, in the NY Times interview Diane alludes to, he lamented not having done enough in his radical past.

Personally, I couldn't care less about Ayers as a campaign issue. But I question the judgement of those who defend him. Until or unless he disavows his violent tactics, he is indefensible.

No, no, no, no, no. Rereading my first sentence, I understand the confusion. No--I did not mean to imply that you were intending to discredit Barack Obama--but that you had picked up on some statements being spread by those who are.

Sorry for the confusion.

But--I would also note--that the anti-war "movement" was inclusive of the SDS and weathermen along with Quakers, many mainline church groups, etc. It was a big umbrella--as was the civil rights movement which included Martin Luther King, Jr. as well as the Black Panthers and Malcolm X.

The documentary titled "The Weather Underground" chronicles of the life of many Weatherman/Weather Underground members, including Bill Ayers. I have not read the petition. I can state, however, with a fair degree of certainty that the Weather Underground never, ever, never intended to kill or maim anyone. Their bombings were always conducted against property, not people. The Greenwich Village "bombing" was actually an accidental explosion of a bomb by the Weathermen themselves. The people who died in that instance were, I think, all Weathermen. Any others who died were accidental. Nearly every single person interviewed by Sam Green and Bill Siegel for the documentary verified that humans were never a target.

Another former Weather Underground member, Mark Rudd, has verified these intentions at his website.

They could be lying. But the evidence points to something less heinous: symbolic property destruction.

I don't think you intended any thing harmful with this, Diane, but your paragraph about possible human targets doesn't correlate well with the evidence. - TL

Let me be clear as I know how to be. My post was in no way directed to Senator Obama or his campaign. I have been regularly--almost daily--blogging about the Presidential campaign on politico.com, and I have been scrupulously neutral. Some might even read my posts there as leaning towards Obama. The fact is that I really don't know who I will vote for.

And that was not the reason I wrote this column. I wrote the column because I received a petition online that was historically inaccurate. I wanted to set the record straight, and Deborah largely agreed with me, so I think I succeeded in that goal.

I do want to strenuously disagree with the sentiment posted by others that the civil rights movement contained violent elements, notably, the Black Panthers. The Panthers were a violent fringe group. I suggest that readers consult Hugh Pearson's excellent book "The Shadow of the Panther."

Sorry, guys, it is necessary in dealing with politics and history to be able to make significant distinctions. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was the leader of the civil rights movement; he was an eloquent apostle of nonviolence. Nonviolence was not a tactic or a strategy but a philosophy, a means of changing the world by example.

As for rationalizing those who bomb buildings but don't intend to hurt people, I reiterate: Don't bomb anything. Terrorists plant bombs. People who believe in civil society go to the polls, vote, debate, engage in rational discussion, listen to those who disagree with them and try to persuade them of their views.

Once any small group decides that it must impose its will by violence, it can never be sure what counter-forces it will unleash. That way lies the disintegration of social order. Not a good idea, not worthy of our society. And history shows that it is not the path to social justice.

Diane Ravitch


I actually agree that violence is not a means to social justice. And I am even willing to consider an extension of violence to include that against unoccupied buildings (and their are many in my urban neighborhood who take violence against historical buildings very seriously). But what I think gets lost in the violence issue--and I would have to be very clear that there is a qualitative difference between the frustrated 1960's youth trying out philosophies in a time of great social change and testing, and Osama bin Laden--is that there is a valid philosophy of education getting mucked up in all the rhetoric.

There are some serious philosophers of education being dismissed as radicals bent on the destruction of our society (meaning all that is good). I would suggest that Paolo Friere, bell hooks, Jonathon Kozol and others--not to mention the entire UIC School of Education, Linda Darling-Hammond and I cannot recall who else--get pulled into this whirlwind of good guys vs bad guys hysteria that has been set in motion largely because of an attempt (not by Diane Ravitch--but by others) to link Barack Obama with someone who is "not like us" and also dangerous.

Just as small groups who unleash violence cannot control what happens next, so are we still living with Willie Horton, and who knows how long we will be saddled with "pallin' around with terrorists." To what end are we today flogging William Ayers? How long before community organizing can be viewed as respectable and needed work?

I absolutely agree that people who believe in civil society go the the polls, vote, debate and engage in rational discussion. I just don't see that happening in much of the William Ayers discussion (or reasons behind having the discussions now at all).

Interesting Margo mentions Sol Stern in support, as he writes on this very topic today. Ayers Is No Education 'Reformer'

I've studied Mr. Ayers's work for years and read most of his books. His hatred of America is as virulent as when he planted a bomb at the Pentagon. And this hatred informs his educational "reform" efforts.

In fact, as one of the leaders of a movement for bringing radical social-justice teaching into our public school classrooms, Mr. Ayers is not a school reformer. He is a school destroyer.

He still hopes for a revolutionary upheaval that will finally bring down American capitalism and imperialism, but this time around Mr. Ayers sows the seeds of resistance and rebellion in America's future teachers.

The readings Mr. Ayers assigns to his university students are as intellectually diverse as a political commissar's indoctrination session in one of his favorite communist tyrannies. The list for his urban education course includes the bible of the critical pedagogy movement, Brazilian Marxist Paolo Freire's "Pedagogy of the Oppressed";

Two years ago Mr. Ayers shared with his students a letter he wrote to a young radical friend:
"I've been told to grow up from the time I was ten until this morning. Bullshit. Anyone who salutes your 'youthful idealism' is a patronizing reactionary. Resist! Don't grow up!


I did not mention Dr. Stern as an Ayers supporter. What I said was:

"there are some serious educators who understand and take issue with the concept of education for social justice. I believe Sol Stern is one. These folks have piled on out of honest disagreement that one aim of education should be to provide the downtrodden masses with the information and perspective that they need to change the world."

What I was pointing out was that Dr. Stern has academically grounded disagreements with, not only William Ayers, but with the entire pedagogy of social justice. While I don't agree, I believe that he actually understands what he is attacking. I trust that he has read Friere and others. I have respect (although disagreement) for someone who comes from a point of philosophical disagreement that has been considered and evolved over time (and Diane, I would certainly say that you would also fall into this category).

What I have a problem with is the rather casual treatment of such disagreements within the political arena. Many are attuned to the terrorist argument who have not read Friere, or Kozol (who is much more accessible), but who are hearing scholars suggest that schools of education are run by propagandists with nefarious intent. Corollaries that we will likely have to live with (and in fact are already in circulation to an extent) are that teachers are mere indoctrinees, that teacher training has little value beyond indoctrination and that schools and curricula are not to be trusted.

I don't think in the end this level of discussion (centered on whether Ayers was or was not a terrorist--or has repented sufficiently) serves education or schools well.

Wow. I couldn't disagree more. The vision of what schools are or ought to be, their role in our society, the profound impact they have on our most impressionable citizens -- children -- and the obligation we have as teachers to wield that influence responsibly is simply the most important discussion I can imagine.

If it's not important to discuss who influences the education of our children and how, what is worth discussing?


You are right. The wording on the petition was weak and those of us who defend Mr. Ayers from these opportunist attacks should not in any way make excuses for the anti-people violence of the Weathermen. They were horribly wrong then and they are wrong today if they still defend that strategy.

It's also true that we wouldn't even be discussing this if it weren't for the Clinton and then McCain campaigns trying to use Ayers as a weapon against Obama and your post and Deborah's post wouldn't have been published now if it weren't for the timeliness of the political debates.

So I must ask you, as you righteously condemn Bill Ayers, do you also condemn John McCain for his napalming, bombing and strafing villages in North Vietnam and killing hundreds, if not thousands of civilians?

Are you critical of McCain for his close relationship with war criminals like Oliver North?

And finally, as you condemn Ayers' entire life work, what were you doing, in a non-violent way, to prevent the deaths of a million Vietnamese citizens and 50,000 American youth in that illegal and monstrous war?


I totally disagree with you.
Under law in a democratic society, those who don the uniform of their country--whether as soldiers or as police officers--have a legitimate right to use force. When they use that power illegitimately, they are tried and--usually--punished. You assume that anyone who served in the Armed Forces is a criminal. I don't agree.

On the other hand, individuals who engage in violence (instead of civil disobedience) to blow up their own government's buildings and to spread terror just to make a political point is engaging in terrorism. We live in a society based on the rule of law.

I suggest you read Paul Berman's very article that appeared yesterday in "The Daily Beast," which says about the Ayers petition: "Dear 3,247 signatories, and dear Bill: if Obama loses, one of the reasons will be your moronic and dishonest refusal to draw a distinction between the democratic ideals of the left, and terrorist notions of totalitarian communism."

Diane Ravitch

There's exactly where your moral compass runs askew. First, you put words in my mouth. I never said all those who wear a uniform are criminals. But some are, ie. McCain's pal Oliver North. To you, "palin' around with North is fine while sitting on a foundation board with non-criminal Ayers isn't.

Then you hide behind the law to justify the killing of thousands of innocents carried out by McCain when international law bans the indiscriminate bombing of civilian populations. But you condemn Ayers who has never been convicted of any bombing. Again, neither I nor Sen. Obama approve of Ayers' politics or his alleged actions from 40 years ago.

Then you suggest that those who signed that petition (I wasn't one of them) will possibly cost Obama the election. On the contrary, it looks like McCain-Palin making Ayers the center piece of their campaign will cost them the election. Most voters it seems, have little stomach for guilt-by-association tactics.

Also, I found you commie-baiting of those thousands of academics, in you last sentence, fairly disgusting.

I must correct an error in my last post.
I hate to make grammatical errors.

On the other hand, individuals who engage in violence (instead of civil disobedience) to blow up their own government's buildings and to spread terror just to make a political point ARE engaging in terrorism. We live in a society based on the rule of law.

I am not perfect, but I can at least try to be grammatically correct!

Diane Ravitch


So, is the rule of law what determines the difference between bad acts and not bad acts? Always, or only when "violence" (however defined) is involved? (BTW--I haven't truly heard anyone dispute the label of terrorism as applied to the acts of William Ayers, or the weathermen--although that might also be an interesting discussion. But in the end, no one is defending the bombing of buildings or people--only whether William Ayers ought to be banned for life from consideration as a contributing member of society and forever after viewed with such suspicion as to render all contacts with him as dangerous). Because civil disobediance--unless I misunderstand--involves deliberate challenge of the rule of law when laws are unjust (or deemed to be unjust by those who are engaging in the civil disobedience).

I have a lot of trouble with distinguishing between terrorists and others during that time based on whether they followed the "rule of law." First because of many acts of non-violent intentional law breaking, but also because so much official government action took place on the wrong side of the law. We may never know how much. There was serious government intrusion into the right of the people peacably to assemble under Cointelpro. The right to privacy was also put aside for those who came under suspicion--and they were many--of being "subversive" (we weren't using the word "terrorist" so much then). This is why it is significant that William Ayers was never convicted. Not that it implies his innocence--but that the government had strayed so far from what is right and legal in their evidence gathering (some might call it spying) and infiltration of groups, that they no longer had a case once all illegally obtained information was barred. This was not some local amateurish slip-up, this was official, federal government policy and operations.

I have pondered some the candidacy of Sarah Palin (as the primary voice of the pallin' with terrorists assertion), and realize that she is wholly of the post-Vietnam era. Even more so than Barack Obama--who was 8 when William Ayers was working with the weathermen. She is the first candidate in a long while to not be dogged by questions of where she was and what she was doing during the Vietnam war. That question is such a defining one for most of us. It is somewhat ironic then that she becomes the spokesperson for the anti-Ayers faction. When it comes down to it, I am glad that Barack Obama has had some contact with someone who was deeply involved politically during that era--and I hope that they have had an opportunity to discuss the weathermen (although the documentation suggests no such closeness). The weathermen, SDS, and all of the many other groups in formation at that time are an important part of the historical picture. Maybe in a couple of more decades we'll be sending student interns with video equipment to get the oral history down before it is gone. It is far too important to dismiss as just terrorism.

Diane Ravitch wrote: "I believe in what I wrote. I stand by every line."

I stand with Diane Ravitch.

And with Robert Pondiscio.

Here is Bill Ayers on The Knowledge Deficit.

Following Pierre Bourdieu, E.D. Hirsch believes that knowledge is a form of intellectual capital. He has spent years of his life working for the right of all children to acquire a core knowledge of the liberal arts disciplines.

Following Paolo Freire, Bill Ayers rejects the banking theory of knowledge.

Thus, here is Ayers on the "teaching" of other people's children:

Tina Cass, a white teacher in a school with a student population that is mostly African American, wrote in a reflective paper: “One of my fondest memories of elementary school was the annual Thanksgiving celebration. We would spend weeks making our Pilgrim or Indian costumes, perfecting every detail of a large black Pilgrim hat or a feather-laden Indian headdress. Finally, on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, we would don our costumes and act out the arrival of the Mayflower. After the performance, Pilgrims and Indians alike would all sit down to a big lunch of turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing. I enjoyed this Thanksgiving ritual so much, that I couldn’t sleep in the weeks
leading up to the big event.” For Tina, the first hurdle was to confront thirty years of coasting through the holiday, to take a step back and look at her own
Thanksgiving experiences more critically.

After careful consideration and planning, Tina decided to read a simulation story to her second-grade students that represented the perspective of the native inhabitants — one that she hoped would lead to a subsequent discussion “about how the Indians might have felt.” She got that and more. “[When] I introduced the idea that the white man came over from England and mistreated the Indians,” Tina recalled, “my students were very excited, discussing the topic with great passion. Student after student raised their hand to tell of some other atrocity committed by the ‘white man.’ ‘White people went over to Africa and stole my people.’ ‘They stole the land in Africa too!’ My only answer to the list of accusations was, ‘Yes, yes that’s true.’ One of my students even said, half jokingly, ‘Ms. Cass, are you going to come over and take my house?’ My answer (which after saying it, I realized was really a lie) was, ‘White people don’t do that anymore.’ I was paralyzed by guilt; the guilt of hundreds of years of atrocities committed by my ancestors and my race; guilt for the segregation and stereotyping that continues today.”


But the story doesn’t end there. Soon after their animated discussion about the impact of colonization, Tina’s students soon began expressing a desire to return to the more typical Thanksgiving fare. The pull of the conventional narrative, she found, was strong. “Every day as Thanksgiving approached,” she wrote, “there was more of an outcry from my students. They wanted to color turkeys and make Indian headdresses. My students are only in second grade, but already the simple traditions are so ingrained in them that they missed them. Perhaps most troubling for me was their love of Thanksgiving, without any real understanding about what it meant. Unfortunately, I don’t think I accomplished much this year to change that fact.”
source: Embers of Hope: In Search of a Meaningful Critical Pedagogy By William Ayers, Gregory Michie, & Amy Rome William Ayers, Gregory Mitchie, & Amy Rome p. 123-130.

Someone taught these children to love the day of Thanksgiving.

Who was it?

Someone "ingrained" cherished traditions in them.


Before joining Tina's class, these children had attended only two years of school. I am going to guess that they acquired their love of Thanksgiving from their parents.

I wonder how those parents felt about Bill Ayers and his white teacher, Tina.

I know how I feel.

All of our children are belong to Bill Ayers.

The quotes from Tina's "reflective paper" (see "jane doe's" comment above) are alarming but not surprising. I wonder if Tina wrote the paper for an ed school class. It has that feel. It might even have been part of a thesis or an "action research" project. Who knows. The article does not say. Her paper is not even listed in the bibliography.

Tina makes the common error (condoned by some ed school professors) of equating rage and guilt with truth. They are not the same. It would be one thing to teach the complex history of Thanksgiving; it is another to indulge in emotionally charged platitudes that have little even to do with the holiday itself.

I happen to love Thanksgiving--but that does not mean I condone or ignore the white settlers' treatment of the American Indian or African American (though even that was by no means monolithic). Thanksgiving has an important history as well as a connection with harvest festivals and religious rituals of gratitude.

There's that. Then there's the question of children and celebration. Children usually love to celebrate holidays, and this joy should not be taken away from them. Why Tina would deprive her students of a holiday that she herself enjoyed in childhood is beyond me. But then, it may have been a paper for an ed school course.

Diana Senechal


I agree with you that jane doe's use of tina's reflections do not "prove" what she is intending. I do think that they are an important use of the kind of pedagogy that I suspect that Bill Ayers endorses--or would certainly fall under the umbrella of social justice teaching. Teaching history accurately, so far as we understand it, is certainly important. It is also important to understand how personal/social valued color all that we see and understand.

Tina's reflection certainly matches well with my experience in bringing social justice issues to groups. Throwing off the yoke of oppression is far less easy than it appears. Teaching the facts of oppression is not sufficient to sway personal values that may align with the oppressor (to use extremes of terminology). Do second graders love tradition and familiar festivities--absolutely. But did they also appreciate and identify with the discussion of white oppression of indigenous groups, yes they did.

Certainly there is a forgiveable tendency to believe that by teaching the "truth" that all can be confronted and healed. Not so. The holiday that second graders have experienced has had much to do with family, with enjoyable foods and activities--and very little to do with history, beyond the icons of little pilgrims and little indians.

I believe that the greater challenge in changing the world away from one that condones oppression is to find ways to meld honesty with regard to oppression's existance with some degree of forgiveness towards those who have benefitted, but also towards those who have suffered and been unable to confront the reality--as this is most of us.

We do love our holidays and celebrations. Joe the plumber identifies not with other low-skilled (I am guessing, since he is not licensed), minimally paid workers, but with the owner he wishes to be. He may never be that owner. He may not even understand that a business that grosses over $250,000 doesn't net him a personal income anywhere close to that--and may not move his realities any closer to capitalists in the top 5% of controllers of wealth in this country.

I attended a Thanksgiving service in an African American church a few years ago. It did an excellent job of melding the experience of the diaspora with the Christian beliefs of the worshippers and the tradition of thankfulness. I found it to be very meaningful. Traditional foods were used symbolically to represent portions of the experience. I don't think it is possible to get there without the kind of reflective experience that Tina recounts, as reformer and community member.


You wrote: "I agree with you that jane doe's use of tina's reflections do not 'prove' what she is intending."

That was not my point at all. I was not commenting on jane doe's use of the quotes. I was commenting on the quotes themselves and on the article in which they appear.

No, teaching history will not necessarily bring about confrontation and healing. Nor should "confrontation and healing" be our goal. Each student has different struggles; some of these last years. It is on us to give them the intellectual foundation they need in order to grapple with problems, make sound choices, and participate in society. It is on us to give them grammar, so that when they want to write a powerful letter, they can do so. It is on us to give them treasures of the mind, things they can remember and pass on.

Diana Senechal

We all have in our history and associations folks whose actions and ideas we take strong objection to There are Israelis and pro-Israelis I am close to who excuse the right wing Zionist intentional bombing of the Hotel David in Jerusalem that killed many "enemies"--the British in that case. Yes, the kind of bombing we engaged in during WWI and WWII meet the criteria of "terrorism"--although official government-sponsored. I have confused opinions about it, and hardly feel it is more morally justified because it was an act of "government". So was the Holocaust.

Yes, King was a pacifist--which neither Diane nor I are. It may have been a wise strategy, but it also led King to be against the Vietnam War. Many of King's allies would not have hesitate to us a gun if they thought it would defend their families from a lynch-mob. But King wouldn't.

The labor movement in America was not built by pacifists either.

In retrospect I've become more of a pacifist than I ever was. In visiting Canada, I had my second thoughts about our glorious Revolutionary War. And at the moment, reading a powerful book about WWI, am consumed by wishing we could undo it.

Should we demand that Pallin and McCain, and all their acquaintances, publicly repent of any taking of the lives of pro-abortion advocates? Or Ku Klux Klan members or IRA Free Northern Ireland supporters, and on and on?

Still maybe I should have tried to have that letter I signed redrafted to more closely represent my views about his actions of the 60's and his actions of today.

But indeed, let's publicly debate the meaning of social justice. Sol Stern---are you for or against?
We might take that up sometime, Diane (Ravitch),.

On a totally different front, I too confuse Diana S. sometimes with Diane R.--both wise women.


Should we demand that Pallin and McCain, and all their acquaintances, publicly repent of any taking of the lives of pro-abortion advocates? Or Ku Klux Klan members or IRA Free Northern Ireland supporters, and on and on?

Good examples, but not for the pro-Ayers side. If McCain and Palin had been spending a good bit of time hanging out with Eric Rudolph (abortion clinic bomber), or with a KKK member, you bet your life the media would be all over McCain and Palin.

And, I should add, you wouldn't find a bunch of respected conservative professors signing onto a petition deeming abortion clinic bombing to be nothing more than "passionate participation" in the pro-life movement.

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