Of the many concerning issues revolving around the possible election of Barack Obama as President, education has been somewhat pushed by the wayside.
Let us examine his education plan…as he has said…his “life’s work” has been within education…and examine also what and who will further guide his educational policies.
Links to each candidate’s education plan at end of this post
My research reveals that three individuals have, and will have, great influence on Barack Obama’s plans for educating our children:
1) Linda Darling-Hammond, Obama’s current Education Advisor, and thought be Obama’s Secretary of Education
2) Gloria-Ladson Billings who has authored and endorsed educational thought which Darling-Hammond and Barack Obama affirm
3) Williams Ayers, whose close working relationship with Obama, as Obama entered the education arena, is perhaps the most influential of the three.
In their own words first (emphasis Maggie’s Notebook):
Linda Darling-Hammond – currently Senator Barack Obama’s Education Advisor
Charles E. Ducommon Professor of Education at Stanford University
As Gloria Ladson-Billings, former president of the American Educational Research Association, [Ayers is currently the Vice-President-elect] has noted, the problem we face is less an “achievement gap” than an educational debt that has accumulated over centuries of denied access to education and employment, reinforced by deepening poverty and resource inequalities in schools. Until American society confronts the accumulated educational debt owed to these students and takes responsibility for the inferior resources they receive, Ladson-Billings argues, children of color and of poverty will continue to be left behind.
[advocating for]…a system of teacher preparation and professional development that would routinely produce high-quality teaching; curriculums and assessments that encourage critical thinking and performance skills; high-quality preschool education, libraries and learning materials; and healthcare for poor children. Instead, the law wastes scarce resources on a complicated test score game that appears to be narrowing the curriculum, uprooting successful programs and pushing low-achieving students out of many schools.
Major investments must be made in the ability of schools to hire and support well-prepared teachers and leaders. While NCLB sets an expectation for hiring qualified teachers, it does not include supports to make this possible. Federal leadership in developing an adequate supply of well-qualified teachers is needed. Just as it has helped provide an adequate supply of physicians for more than forty years, it can provide training for those who prepare in specialties for which there is a shortage and agree to locate in underserved areas.
A Marshall Plan for Teaching could insure that all students are taught by well-qualified teachers within the next five years through a federal policy that (1) recruits new teachers using service scholarships that underwrite their preparation for high-need fields and locations and adds incentives for expert veteran teachers to teach in high-need schools; (2) strengthens teachers’ preparation through support for professional development schools, like teaching hospitals, which offer top-quality urban teacher residencies to candidates who will stay in high-need districts; and (3) improves teacher retention and effectiveness by insuring that novices have mentoring support during their early years, when 30 percent of them drop out.
For an annual cost of $3 billion, or less than one week in Iraq, the nation could underwrite the high-quality preparation of 40,000 teachers annually–enough to fill all the vacancies taken by unprepared teachers each year; seed 100 top-quality urban-teacher-education programs and improve the capacity of all programs to prepare teachers who can teach diverse learners well; insure mentors for every new teacher hired each year; and provide incentives to bring expert teachers into high-need schools by improving salaries and working conditions. Source: The Nation, May 2, 2007
Question here: Why are teachers not coming out of their higher learning educations as “high-quality” teachers? Why are we hiring “unprepared” teachers? Mentoring for new teachers should come from the spirit of any fellow worker helping out a fellow worker. Why do we a need a program? Why must we pay to mentor others? Does anyone think Darling-Hammonds program can be enacted for $3 Billion?
From a Ladson-Billing paper (just the link – click to read her work) From the Achievement Gap to the Education Debt: Understanding Achievement in U.S.Schools
[quote from her book blurb: The Dreamkeepers…] Historically, they have been denied schooling, subject to separate and unequal education, and forced into unsafe, unhealthy, substandard schools.
The following Ayers quotes link to his blogs
The dominant narrative in contemporary school reform is once again focused on exclusion and disadvantage, race and class, black and white. “Across the US,” the National Governor’s Association declared in 2005, “a gap in academic achievement persists between minority and disadvantaged students and their white counterparts.” This is the commonly referenced and popularly understood “racial achievement gap,” and it drives education policy at every level. Interestingly, whether heartfelt or self-satisfied, the narrative never mentions the monster in the room: white supremacy
Gloria Ladson-Billings upends all of this with an elegant reversal: there is no achievement gap, she argues, but actually a glancing reflection of something deeper and more profound—America has a profound education debt. The educational inequities that began with the annihilation of native peoples and the enslavement of Africans, the conquest of the continent and the importation of both free labor and serfs, transformed into apartheid education, something anemic, inferior, inadequate, and oppressive. Over decades and centuries the debt has accumulated and is passed from generation to generation, and it continues to grow and pile up.
Ladson-Billings argues that the US owes a moral debt to African-Americans, a dept that `reflects the disparity between what we know is right and what we actually do. Bill Ayers January 2008 blog
In the same Ayers writings linked above, he talks about the difference in standardized test scores between Blacks and Whites, and the idea that there are “genetic differences” between them. He offers two arguments, and then he boils it down to White belief that they are “superior,” in the first argument, or in the second that White’s have “the advantage of pretending to give a bit more than a pig’s eye for the well-being of Black people while disturbing none of the pillars of white privilege.
A basic tenet of democracy is that the ultimate authority on any individual’s hurt or desire is that individual himself or herself. Education in a democracy demands equity, access, and an acknowledgment of the humanity of each person. The job of schools is to stimulate latent interests, desires, and dreams that cause people to question, to challenge, to criticize, and to act. Obedience and conformity are the enemies of democracy; initiative and courage are its hallmarks.
A fundamental choice and challenge for teachers, then, is this: to acquiesce to the machinery of control, or to take a stand with our students in a search for meaning and a journey of transformation. To teach obedience and conformity, or to teach its polar opposite: initiative and imagination, curiosity and questioning, Bill Ayers March 2008 blogs
Snippets from other links (some duplicates for emphasis):
Gloria Ladson-Billings supports Weather Underground terrorist, Bill Ayers. She signed the petition, one of many academics to do so, in support of Bill Ayers’ character.
In fact, Ayers and Dohrn would take their initial interest in the Black Power movement to an extreme arguing then, as they do now, that “white supremacy” and “white skin privilege” are the central sins of American life. Thus, Ayers has endorsed a proposal made by Linda Darling-Hammond, an education advisor to Barack Obama, to repay something she calls “education debt” that has, she argues, accumulated over centuries to people of color.
The idea was initiated by a colleague of Darling-Hammond’s and Ayers’, Gloria Ladson-Billings, who roots her proposal in the argument among some in the black community, like the Trinity church that the Obama family belongs to, that whites owe blacks reparations for slavery
Obama’s DCP [Developing Communities Project] supported radical school reform project together with Bill Ayers. In 1987 in the wake of a controversial strike by the Chicago Teachers’ Union, the Alliance for Better Chicago Schools, or ABCs, was formed to lobby for a new Illinois law that would mandate the establishment of a new power center in Chicago public schools. Local school councils would be established to watchdog union teachers and their principals and they would have the power to fire principals at will.
Bill Ayers helped organize the ABCs [Alliance for Better Chicago Schools] group, was its contact person and later its chair. Barack Obama worked on school reform efforts for the DCP at that time and the DCP was a member of the ABCs. Chicago United, a business group established by Tom Ayers, Bill’s father, was also a member of the ABCs.
The Woods Fund also provided additional financial support to the DCP in 1988 to support its school reform efforts. A program officer of the Woods Fund at the time was Ken Rolling who would later be hired by Bill Ayers and Barack Obama as Executive Director of the $110 million Chicago Annenberg Challenge.
In 2006 Professor Gloria Ladson-Billings of the University of Wisconsin, the then president of the American Education Research Association (AERA), the nation’s leading School of Education professional association, proposed a new policy to tackle the problems of America’s public schools: the repayment of centuries of “education debt” that allegedly is owed to people of color as a result of slavery and discrimination. She rooted the concept in the literature supporting reparations for slavery.
In 2007 Linda Darling-Hammond, a prominent and respected professor at the Stanford University School of Education, endorsed the same idea in an article in The Nation. In late 2007 Darling-Hammond was named an education advisor to the Obama campaign. In February 2008 Darling-Hammond issued a blueprint for education reform by the next President that set as its #1 priority the repayment of the “education debt,” as proposed originally by Ladson-Billings.
Bill Ayers has endorsed the idea of repayment of the “education debt.” Ayers is now a Vice President-elect (Division B: Curriculum Studies) of the AERA.
A chapter called “Education for Democracy” by Darling-Hammond appeared in a volume co-edited by Ayers called A Light in Dark Times. A chapter co-authored by Ladson-Billings on “racing justice” appeared in a book co-edited by Ayers called Teaching for Social Justice: A Democracy and Education Reader. Ladson-Billings wrote the foreword to Ayers’ book, To Teach: The Journey of a Teacher. Ayers and Ladson-Billings are co-editors of City Kids, City Schools: More Reports from the Front Row just published. Ladson-Billings contributed a chapter in a book edited by Bill Ayers, Rick Ayers, Bernardine Dohrn and Jesse L. Jackson called Zero Tolerance: Resisting the Drive for Punishment published in 2001.
More fundamentally, Bill Ayers introduced the concept of “white supremacy” as America’s original sin…
Ayers argues that the fundamental issue in American life is “white skin privilege” – that white Americans benefit from being white at the expense of blacks.
Bill Ayers long time comrade Mike Klonsky blogs [now gone from campaign website] for Obama.One of Bill Ayers’ and Bernardine Dohrn’s comrades in the late 60s Students for a Democratic Society was Mike Klonsky. When Dohrn and Ayers moved in one direction toward the violent tactics of the Weather Underground, Klonsky, in the wake of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, dropped the pro-Russian communist politics of his parents and became a committed Maoist. As leader of the Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist) in 1977 he traveled to Beijing and was toasted by the senior Beijing leadership.
When the crazy left of the 70s died in the 80s, Klonsky went to graduate school in education in Florida and then moved to Chicago. While driving a cab there he was recruited by his old friend Bill Ayers to head up a new project called the Small Schools Workshop in 1991. It’s offices were in the Department of Education building at the University of Illinois Chicago Circle Campus where Ayers taught. In 1995 the newly formed Chicago Annenberg Challenge headed by Ayers and Obama gave the Workshop a grant of $175,000. The Annenberg Challenge [Obama was the CEO) also had its office space in the same building as Ayers Department and the Workshop, rent free courtesy of the University.
“Social Justice” Teaching
In 2008 Klonsky ran a blog on the official Obama campaign website on education policy and “social justice” teaching. When discussion of the Klonsky blog emerged in the blogosphere, it was promptly shut down by the campaign and all of the posts made by Klonsky were removed from the site.
But in looking deeper into the Ayers connection, I realize that part of the story has not been effectively told — and that is the practical impact that Ayers will have on the education policy of an Obama presidency. The most significant aspect is a focus on “education debt” — essentially paying reparations to minorities for the “history of oppression” perpetrated by Whites. This is a cornerstone of Bill Ayers’ education reform program, and is also a key element in the race-based education philosophy of Linda Darling-Hammond — a Professor of Education at Stanford, Obama’s primary education adviser and prospective Secretary of Education in an Obama administration.
Here’s part of what I found — excerpted from my piece entitled “Reading, Writing and Radicalism”:
It is in this context that the Obama-Ayers relationship should be viewed. While the Ayers’ terrorist connections are significant retrospectively, his education goals that were actively endorsed and sponsored by Barack Obama are prospectively even more important.
And this is where things get interesting. While it is obvious that Ayers will not have a formal role in an Obama administration, it is equally obvious that Obama’s experience with Ayers and the CAC [Chicago Annenberg Challenge] will animate his education policy as president.
The Obama Campaign’s primary education adviser is Linda Darling-Hammond, a Professor of Education at Stanford University, and well-known expert in school design and teacher training. Hammond has been mentioned as a possible Secretary of Education in an Obama administration, has been a vocal supporter of traditional teacher certification programs, current union control of public education and opposes charter school programs. She also has been a vocal critic of the implementation of the current No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. More importantly, she is an advocate of a race-based paradigm for education that fully embraces the concept of “education debt” – a form of reparations for generations of racial bias perpetrated by White America.
Hammond argued forcefully last year in the liberal magazine The Nation, for example, the importance of “pay(ing) off the educational debt to disadvantaged students that has accrued over centuries of unequal access to quality education.” The concept of education debt is an idea laid out in 2006 by Professor Gloria Ladson-Billings of the University of Wisconsin, the then-president of the American Education Research Association and actively supported by Ayers. Ayers wrote himself in January of 2008 on his website the following:
Further, the long-standing professional relationship between Ayers, Darling-Hammond and Ladson-Billings – and thus Barack Obama — is well established.
As legal analyst Steve Diamond writes at No Quarter, a chapter called “Education for Democracy” by Darling-Hammond appeared in a volume co-edited by Ayers called “A Light in Dark Times”. In addition, a chapter co-authored by Ladson-Billings on “racing justice” appeared in a book co-edited by Ayers called “Teaching for Social Justice: A Democracy and Education Reader”. Ladson-Billings wrote the foreword to Ayers’ book “To Teach: The Journey of a Teacher” and Ayers and Ladson-Billings are co-editors of “City Kids, City Schools: More Reports from the Front Row” just published. All have been consistent in support of a radical education reform program.
Linda Darling-Hammond’s piece in The Nation is an excellent illumination of what may underscore education policy under a President Obama. She makes abundantly clear that she supports the notion of education reparations and that this should be paid in part by a wholesale revamping of NCLB to focus on more on investment and less on testing – modifications that the Obama Campaign’s education platform also supports . She calls for a “New paradigm for national education policy…guided by dual commitments to support meaningful learning on the part of students, teachers and schools; and to pay off the educational debt, making it possible for all students to benefit from more productive schools.” This is education code-speak for vast sums of money to be poured into minority schools and community programs to atone for past sins.
The Ayers-Hammond approach to education debt has been essentially supported by Barack Obama on the campaign trail. In fact, Obama has spoken repeatedly about the need for reparations to make amends for the past oppression of minorities. On “Meet the Press” in July he said:
[Obama]The biggest problem that we have in terms of race relations, I think, is dealing with the legacy of past discrimination which has resulted in extreme disparities in terms of poverty, in terms of wealth and in terms of income…And that involves investing in early childhood education, fixing the schools in those communities, being willing to work in terms of job retraining. And those are serious investments.
Obama’s education platform as outlined at his campaign website is full of community-focused programs that will be ripe targets for massive “reparation” investments in a reformulated NCLB [No Child Left Behind]. His K-12 Education Fact Sheet discusses at length the expansion of Head Start programs, universal preschool and includes “enlisting parents and communities to support teaching and learning”, including “school-family contracts” and a massive school redesign project that includes increased funding for teacher recruitment and retention. It is a blueprint taken almost whole-cloth from one written by Darling-Hammond that calls for a “Marshall Plan” for teaching and the institution of a more authoritarian structure for driving curriculum development, testing and investment. Like Ayers’ own admiration of Venezuela’s centralized educational dictatorship, Darling-Hammond has expressed support for countries such as Singapore that have instituted highly structured systems that are the antithesis of school choice – signaling what will certainly be a strong emphasis on the unionized public education system in the U.S. under an Obama administration.
The real impact of the Obama-Ayers relationship is not in Ayers’ radical past but rather in his radical present. The influence that Ayers’ has had on Obama’s view of education during his time at the Chicago Annenberg Challenge can be seen in his appointment of Linda Darling-Hammond as his primary education advisor, and signals what is certain to be radical reform at the core of Obama’s education policy as president. This will include more investment into the current public school monopoly at the expense of free market solutions like vouchers and charter schools, and a more aggressive social change agenda that will result in greater control by unions and community organizations – all orthodox elements of the William Ayers radical agenda.
On October 21st, Education Week moderated a debate between Senator Obama’s Education Advisor, Linda Darling-Hammond and Senator McCain’s Education Advisor, Lisa Graham Keegan. The transcript can be read here.
The Obama-Biden Education Plan
Note that this plan clearly promises to educate your child from age zero to five years.
And if you still believe that Barack Obama does not, and has not, had a close relationship with William Ayers, if you still believe that Ayers is “just a guy in the neighborhood:
Obama and Ayers Shared an Office for Three Years