“Trudging Towards Freedom” with William Ayers

| December 14, 2010

Schooling is never neutral. Schools are always contested spaces, sites of conflict and contradiction, hope and struggle. In the last half-century, social upheavals in South Africa, China, Europe, Chile, and the US were sometimes centered, often energized, and always echoed within the schools.

School people in societies as diverse as medieval Saudi Arabia, the Soviet Union, and fascist Italy all wanted their students to show up on time, learn the subject matters, do their homework, and stay away from drugs, just as we do. And schools in those places were often successful in their own terms.

But there must be some essential difference –at least theoretically— between education in an autocratic or authoritarian place, and education in and for democracy. That essential difference is the focus of the conversation.

William Ayers, a Distinguished Professor of Education and Senior Scholar at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and alumna of Teachers College, cites here the United Nations’ Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and Mary Oliver’s “Instructions for Living a Life.” Dr. Ayers explores the essential qualities of a life in a democracy: initiative, courage, imagination, and creativity. He ponders the importance of hopes, dreams, skills, and knowledge among people, recommending that we continue to ask the next question, recognize our daily failures, and live in the spirit of hopefulness.

Referencing Our University Seminar on Innovation in Education: Trudging Toward Freedom: School Reform In and For Democracy, with William Ayers, Monday, 11/8

Video by Michelle DeLateur

The fully recorded talk, Trudging Toward Freedom: School Reform In and For Democracy, was captured by the Teachers College Office of the Web and may be watched on Meefedia.