February 29, 2008
Chicago Tribune Editors:
We write to voice our support for our colleague, Bill Ayers, who was the target yesterday of Jonah Goldberg’s mean-spirited muckraking journalism. Goldberg asks why Bill Ayers is allowed to have a job as a college professor, despite his leftist views and political activities from some forty years ago? The answer is simple. Professor Ayers has degrees from University of Michigan and Columbia University’s Teachers College. Over the past twenty plus years he has earned the reputation of a cutting edge scholar of education, and made major contributions to our understanding of schools and the institutions impacting children. Ayers has authored, co-authored or edited 14 books and dozens of scholarly articles and book chapters, some of them award-winning. His books have received praise from the likes of Jonathan Kozol, Studs Turkel and Scott Turow. He has been invited to lecture around the country and internationally on pedagogy, curriculum, the politics of education, and the small schools strategy for educational excellence. He has served on numerous university and community-based committees. These professional accomplishments meet and exceed the threshold of what is required to teach at the University of Illinois (UIC). Moreover, the Academy does not exclude or persecute prolific and hard-working faculty for unpopular beliefs or controversial ideas. During the McCarthy era of the 1950s one could be fired simply for the hint of left of center views or association with people who held those views. Perhaps Mr. Goldberg is nostalgic for an earlier time. We are not.
Barbara Ransby, Associate Professor of African American Studies and History, UIC
Beth E. Richie, Professor of Criminology. Law and Justice and African American Studies, UIC
Lisa Yun Lee, Director, Jane Addams Hull House Museum at UIC