A Terrorist by Any Other Name is Still a Terrorist

A small portrait of the translator

November 19, 2008 @ 14:01 UTC

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Countries:
none
Candidates:
John McCain, Sarah Palin
Issues:
Education, Terrorism and Security
 

This morning National Public Progressive Radio carried a news piece on terrorist turned educator William Ayers. It is precisely what we have come to expect from the media:  pleasant bromides about wonderful progressive people doing well by doing good.

To hear NPR’s Peter Overby tell it, Ayers is just a mild mannered, much revered professor of education from Chicago who is bemused that the old fogies keep remembering his wild college days.  The piece cast Ayers as a successful career educator, who was, he implies, wrongly vilified by the McCain-Palin campaign.  In fact, according to NPR, Ayers is a very popular educator who has successfully helped change education by focusing on children’s creative energy.  So popular that the bookstore where Professor Ayers’ book signing and talk was scheduled to be held was too small, so a local church offered space (sanctuary?) for the event.  The book store was well stocked with all of Ayers’ books on education, but had, they confessed to NPR, neglected to carry Ayers’ radical autobiography.

So did the thorough-going NPR investigative reporter ask any pointed questions about Ayers’ past?  Not really.  Just noted that the Republicans seem unhappy that Ayers wont’ apologize for his bad behavior.  And to hear NPR tell it, it’s all here say anyhow, and Ayers says he’s sorry they don’t like him.  See, he’s just a great guy, an educator, promoting the creative process.

Which sounds great.  A good investigative reporter might have chosen to ignore the oft-repeated mad bomber angle, and look at Professor Ayers’ career and its results.  Except NPR really doesn’t seem to understand what investigative reporting involves.  Asking questions.  Checking up on how Ayers’ educational policy has been received.  How well it has succeeded in improving public school graduation rates.  Perhaps how well Ayers’ policies worked in Chicago, where he’s been particularly active.  Which might be of interest to listeners since both Ayers and the President Elect were active in the Chicago Annenberg Project.  How the Washington DC schools think Ayers’ policies would work in their classrooms, if they aren’t using them already.  Simple questions like those could probably have been researched in 45 minutes of work on a telephone if Mr. Overby can’t get around to see everyone in person.

You see, if someone at NPR had bothered to make a few phone calls, let alone visit Washington DC public schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, they might have had some more interesting questions to ask Professor Ayers.  For instance, why can’t Ayers show any improvements in graduation rates for the Chicago schools involved in the Chicago Annenberg program, or those using his educational methods?  Or why does Chancellor Rhee believe that the No Child Left Behind program offers the best approach to reforming public schools in her community?  Why do private and parochial school seem to have better graduation rats than the public schools. even when working with children in poor neighborhoods?  These are all legitimate questions to ask an educator, but no one at NPR seemed interested in asking questions.

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