Although exiled to California after the election, one of the key “racism explains everything” advisors around the Obama campaign, Berkeley Law Dean Chris Edley, has resurfaced to push the Obama Administration away from its school choice and competition trajectory. He joins Bill Ayers now in the open as a battle appears to be looming over the direction of the Obama Administration on education issues. Ayers lifelong “comrade,” the Maoist Mike Klonsky, applauds the effort here.
Ayers recently was the luncheon keynote speaker at a Washington D.C. conference at which Secretary of Education Arne Duncan also spoke. The conference was sponsored by the Renaissance Group, a coalition of Schools of Education that supports multiculturalism and believes white teachers need “lengthy” re-education in “multiculturalism” and “sex equity awareness” in order to teach effectively the “new [non-white] American student.” In light of the effort to minimize the associations between Ayers and Obama during the campaign, this event was notable.
Klonsky will be remembered by some as the famous disappearing education policy blogger for the Obama campaign. You can learn more about him here, here and here. Long story, short: Klonsky was comrades in the SDS with Ayers and became a Maoist, of all things, when the Soviet Union (his former object of affection) crushed the Prague Spring in 1968. Klonsky got a Ph.D. in education under Bill Ayers at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He and Ayers then set up the Small Schools Workshop with Klonsky’s wife Susan in the early 90s. The Workshop received nearly a million dollars from the Chicago Annenberg Challenge founded in 1994-5 by Ayers and chaired by Obama.
Dean Edley, along with Stanford’s Linda Darling-Hammond and Edley’s Associate Dean at Berkeley Goodwin Liu, were key members of the education advisory group around the candidate. The group was viewed by more mainstream Democrats as part of the “Ayers Camp” in the Obama campaign, King Harvest/Global Labor had been told. The group was said to have excluded individuals with more diverse views from the Obama team.
The association of those public advisors with the Ayers approach in education (including Ayers’ strong emphasis on white supremacy and multiculturalism as well as local control attacks on teachers’ unions) is likely one reason none of those three individuals received appointments in the Obama Administration. Darling-Hammond and Ayers both endorsed a race-based “reparations” based approach to education during the campaign. Ayers, and Klonsky, endorsed Linda Darling-Hammond for the position of Education Secretary, but she lost out to Duncan. Susan Klonsky and Darling-Hammond worked on a school redesign case study published by Stanford.
The new Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, was an opponent of Ayers (and the young Obama) in the famed “Chicago School Wars” of the 1990s which revolved around local control versus centralization. Ayers secured a $50 million challenge grant from the Annenberg Foundation to set up, together with Obama, the Chicago Annenberg Challenge. They then entered a battle with the Daley administration for which Duncan worked at the time. Local control and multicultural curriculum approaches were dominant parts of the Annenberg Challenge effort, though the group’s own assessment concluded the effort was a failure at improving student outcomes. Ayers and Obama were both part of the reform movement that had instituted local control of Chicago schools in 1987-88. Ayers helped author the new legislation. Local control was the joint answer of reformers like Ayers as well as major Chicago business interests to the power of the teachers union and the school board “bureaucracy.”
Edley has also worked with Bernardine Dohrn, wife of Bill Ayers, on “social justice” projects. Dohrn, like Ayers, argues that white supremacy is the central feature of American life, even today, a position she developed while a member of the Weather Underground terror organization in the late 60s and through the 1970s. Edley contributed a chapter to a book on juvenile justice edited by Ayers and Dohrn.
Dohrn served six months in prison for contempt of court for refusing to testify to a grand jury about her alleged role in a robbery led by former Weather Underground members that led to the murder of two police men and a bank guard. Dohrn, although refused admission to the bar, is now a law professor at Northwestern University.
Edley, ironically, has become controversial as a Berkeley dean for his refusal to investigate Bush era torture architect John Yoo, a professor at Berkeley Law, and for his backing of a controversial new tax on California businesses that is opposed by a wide range of groups, including organized labor. He was also ridiculed by some for his proposal that the UC system set up a new on line cyber campus akin to the adult education group University of Phoenix. This latter proposal was apparently an effort by Edley to push his race-based agenda – suggesting that an online campus could admit all students formally “eligible” for UC which could include larger numbers of black and hispanics, presumably.
Despite his controversial positions, Edley was appointed a special advisor to UC President Mark Yudof in the wake of the decision of Obama to go with more mainstream education department appointments. Yudof is now under fire for cutbacks on the UC campus in the wake of public spending cuts in Sacramento, although UC gets most of its revenue from other sources.
Edley, who is black, was recruited to be Berkeley’s Dean from his long time position at Harvard Law School, in the wake of the politically embarrassing impact of Proposition 209 on admissions to Berkeley Law. Without affirmative action, as mandated by 209, black student admissions dropped to nearly zero. Edley has now hired a critical mass of faculty many of whom support so-called critical race theories that justify his approach to racial issues, including a leader of the anti-209 effort. This is a dramatic shift in the culture and politics of what was for a long time viewed as a relatively conservative mainstream law school, despite its location on the Berkeley campus.
Edley is an architect of the effort to save “diversity” based justifications for affirmative action in the wake of court efforts to turn in other directions. Historically, affirmative action had originated as a form of restitution using quoatas to get black Americans a chance to gain skills and economic opportunity. Even Thurgood Marshall saw affirmative action as a temporary leg up for black Americans, in other words, a tool to advance the goal of integration in a color blind society.
Edley has helped engineer the “diversity” argument in order to make affirmative action a more permanent feature in employment and education despite the tensions it has caused. “Diversity” has become as much a tool of university managers and employer groups to control faculties, students and workers, as it is a way to improve the actual educational and economic outcomes for poor and minority students.
The “diversity” substitute for the original “restitution” approach of Marshall was created by one of the Supreme Court’s most conservative figures, Lewis Powell. Powell also helped implement over many years the gutting of the regulations that controlled the financial markets, setting the ground for the current financial crisis.
Perhaps fittingly, then, Dean Edley’s public appearance was sponsored by the Intel Corporation (which manages a diverse global work force) and the Wall Street Journal.
The same “diversity” approach has also helped spread a post-Marshallian form of affirmative action as a policy to other racial groups such as hispanics and asians who never suffered the same level of discrimination as black Americans. The aspiration for an integrated and color blind society of Marshall has given way to the goal of a “multicultural” society. Concerns about a white backlash and the balkanization of American culture and politics have not given pause to this effort.
Ironically the local control and small schools approach of Ayers and Ayers’ former SDS maoist colleague Mike Klonsky drew the attention of the right wing Heritage Foundation and has provided some of the underpinnings of the “choice” and “competition” approach that Edley now says he opposes. Darling-Hammond is also a strong advocate of this “small schools” effort.
A more constructive multi-factor, as opposed to “race is everything,” approach to education problems was developed in the campaign period by Richard Rothstein of the Economic Policy Institute. It was called the Bold Approach. It never received the attention it deserved.