Education Week: Another White Wash of Ayers, Obama and the Annenberg Challenge


The wagons are circling around the Ayers/Obama camp’s role in the Annenberg Challenge. First, it was the New York Times. Now it’s Education Week. I wrote the editors the following reply tonight:

Education Week has written a shameful one sided white wash of the Annenberg Challenge record.

Of course, your article completely misstates the actual political and social agenda of the grant program – ignoring for example the bitter internal board battles over support for the LSCs as well as the external battles with the Daley Administration, which are detailed on my blog and which I discussed in detail with your staff. Trying to defend the CAC because the Gates Foundation – which has its own problems – supports similar ideas makes no sense. And it strips the CAC out of the heated political context of the Chicago School Wars.

I am not too surprised that you failed so miserably to explain the actual political content of the CAC. That is because you are repeating the myth that critics of the CAC see it as a left wing radical project. I made clear in both of my interviews with EW that the CAC was not a left wing project. It was a power grab, an authoritarian project aimed at strengthening the LSC’s and using them and other projects like Small Schools to attack teachers and curriculum. I am a firm and long time member of the left and the labor movement and I have been a teacher for half of my adult life, yet I realize the difference between “social justice” and “social justice teaching.” One is a viable aspiration for our society, the other is an agenda held by an authoritarian element in our Education Schools by people like Ayers and Peter McLaren of UCLA and Linda Darling-Hammond, an education advisor to Senator Obama.

However, the story also ignores my simple (and patient) explanation that made clear the role that Bill Ayers played in the appointment of Obama to the board of the CAC.

I had assumed that the staff of Education Week had some sense of how non profit entities work. It is simply not legally possible for Leff, Simmons or Graham to have appointed Obama.

It is possible that they suggested his name, vetted his background and introduced him to Ayers but only Ayers (together with Hallett) had the legal authority to appoint Obama to the board of the CAC. And only then could his fellow board members have elected him to serve as President of the CAC and Chairman of its Board.

There is simply no other legal possibility. A president of one non profit foundation – such as Graham or Leff – has no legal authority to appoint the board of directors of another foundation.

In fact, your own reporter, Mr. Aarons, told me that Patricia Graham said that at the November 22 meeting with Bill Ayers she, Leff and Simmons “were charged with” the responsibility of recruiting board members.

Who charged them with that responsibility??

The only other people at the meeting – Ayers and Hallett, who had the legal responsibility to make actual board appointments.

Your story leaves that critical piece of evidence out of the story – did you not understand the implications?

You also ignore the negotiations that Ayers carried out with Vartan Gregorian and that those negotiations included discussions with Ayers about the selection of the board. Letters reflecting those discussions are posted on my website and are readily available in the CAC records at UIC and Brown. You ignore the negotiations that Ayers entered into with the Donors Forum to serve as the fiscal agent for the CAC prior to its incorporation.

You ignore the fact that no matter what role Graham and Leff think they played they had no legal authority to appoint Obama, which I also explained to your reporter.

You ignore the fact that after Graham met with Obama, Obama had lunch with Ayers (reported in the New York Times) before the first meeting of the board of the CAC. That was, most likely, the point at which Ayers indicated his approval of Obama (assuming, of course, that he had not done so in a phone call or discussion with Graham prior to that point.)

If Ayers had objected to the appointment of Obama, then Obama could not have become a board member. Neither Graham nor Leff had the legal authority to impose Obama on the CAC over the head of its legal representatives, Ayers and Hallett.

How could you ignore these key facts when I explained them to you? Or did you leave them out of the story because it made clear that you, and the New York Times and the Obama campaign, are propagating a myth that Ayers was not involved when in fact he and Hallett were the only individuals with the ability to appoint Obama, as well as Graham, Weber, Ikenberry, White and Romero.

(You mistakenly report that Lindsey and Crown were on the original board when they were not in fact appointed until several months later.)

I had expected more from a journal dedicated to education itself. Instead you have provided the most extreme elements, such as the former maoist Mike Klonsky, with additional basis for his own propaganda attempting to complete the white wash of this critical period of education history. Did you know that Klonsky maintained for some time that he never received any money from the Annenberg Challenge? He had the gall to assume no one would actually check the records. You are then opening the door for the most extreme authoritarian elements to influence the likely next President of the United States.

Education Week Story