WMU News

Education reform expert will speak here Thursday

March 18, 2002

KALAMAZOO -- More than 30 years ago, Bill Ayers' uncompromising rhetoric revolved around tough talk of overthrowing the government. Today, as a University of Illinois professor, he works to revolutionize the ways in which schools operate, children are taught and social justice is served.

"Teaching in Times of Crisis" is the theme of a lecture by Ayers at Western Michigan University, slated for 7 p.m. Thursday, March 21, in Room 208 of the Bernhard Center. The event is free and open to the public.

Ayers is a noted school reform activist, Distinguished Professor of Education, and Senior University Scholar at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where he teaches courses in interpretive research, urban school change, and youth and the modern predicament.

Decades ago, however, Ayers was noted for other reasons.

In his most recent book, "Fugitive Days," Ayers recounts his involvement with the Weathermen, the former anti-Vietnam War, protest group that stirred controversy during the late 1960s and early 1970s. The book also explores his experiences after the outfit, which took responsibility for bombing several police cars and other government property, went underground in 1970. For 10 years, he and his would-be wife, fellow Weatherman Bernadine Dohrn, eluded the FBI. In 1980 they turned themselves in and began rebuilding their lives.

Now, Ayers pours his passion into improving the lives of children. He is the founder of the Center for Youth and Society, based at the University of Illinois, which explores ways to empower young people through education and the law, politics and the arts, social welfare, and health and recreation.

The Columbia University graduate also is founder and co-director of the Small Schools Workshop and has written extensively about social justice, democracy and education. His interests focus on the political and cultural contexts of schooling as well as the meaning and ethical purposes of teachers, students, and families.

A respected educator, Ayers often is sought after to address issues on school transformation, political activism, teaching and juvenile justice. He is the author of numerous articles and several books, including "To Teach: The Journey of a Teacher," which won the Witten Award for Distinguished Work in Biography and Autobiography in 1995. He also has edited a wide range of titles, including "City Kids/City Teachers: Reports from the Front Row;" "Teaching for Social Justice: A Democracy and Education Reader;" "A Simple Justice: The Challenge of Small Schools;" and "Zero Tolerance: Resisting the Drive for Punishment."

Following the presentation, Ayers will sign copies of his books in the President's Dining Room on the first floor of the Bernhard Center.

This event is sponsored by the WMU College of Education and its GEAR UP--Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs--initiative, a five-year, $14 million project funded by the U.S. Department of Education.

For more information about the lecture, contact the GEAR UP office at (269) 387-6865.

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, 269 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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