Thursday, December 15, 2016

Bill Ayers: Recognizing the Full Humanity of Every Person

 To Dream of a World Fit For All
Recognizing the full humanity of every person is an essential part of resisting corporate school reform. The teacher notes that every human being has a unique and complex set of circumstances that makes his or her life understandable and sensible, bearable or unbearable. Each student is the one and only, and, paradoxically, each is the one of many. This recognition asks teachers and schools to reject any action that treats anyone as an object, any gesture that thing-ifies human beings. It demands that we embrace the humanity of all students and that we take their side.

To imagine schools as they could be or should be, schools that embody and express love, joy, and justice, is to dream of a world fit for all. It's to resist the dystopian metaphor of education as a market in favor of education as a basic right. It's to unite parents and children, teachers and community members in a gigantic organizing and mobilizing effort to rebuild and expand the commons and the public spaces of education; to abolish privately developed high-stakes standardized tests in public schools, and to cease and desist from valorizing test scores as a proxy for either intelligence, worth, or achievement as we move toward authentic forms of assessment; to ban privately managed schools from receiving any public funds; to end the criminalization of youth and open alternative spaces for creative moral reflection and positive action, redemption, and recovery, whenever and wherever someone has made a mistake or wronged the community; to pay every public school teacher a salary comparable to the average pay of a US general; and to enact a massive initiative to bring parents, community characters, formerly incarcerated people, and unemployed folks into the schools as aides and teacher candidates, and to bring students, teachers, and other school people into communities as peers and colleagues, oral historians, and arts innovators, coaches and team-builders. We come together, then, to release our radical imaginations in the service of a future world of enlightenment and freedom for all.


In 1967 at the age of fifty, with the rat-tat-tat of revolution in the air and an exuberant sense of change sweeping throughout the world, Gwendolyn Brooks - with several books of poetry, a novel, and a Pulitzer Prize under her belt - wrote of the grand rebirth of consciousness during the early days of the Black Movement: "I who have 'gone the gamut' from an almost angry rejection of my dark skin... to a surprised queenhood in the new black sun - am qualified to enter at least the kindergarten of new consciousness now. New consciousness and trudge-toward-progress. I have hopes for myself."

"New consciousness and trudge-toward-progress" - we're reminded that it is only the urgency of youth that can set the pace and the tone of what is to come - of what is to be done - and still, in the grace and fullness of age we might learn to follow along, to enter at least the kindergarten of the new. Because I have hopes for my students and my young friends. Because I have ambitions for my children and my grandchildren, I also have hopes for myself.

- Bill Ayers
Excerpted from the chapter "Teach Freedom" from 
his new book Demand the Impossible!:
A Radical Manifesto 

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