Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it. Doubt. Bill Ayers added the fourth one to Mary’s Oliver’s famous poem “Instructions for living a life,” when he spoke to a sold out house on campus Thursday night. In front of an audience of over 200 people, the author, activist, and retired Professor of Education from Chicago took a dynamic approach to discussing social justice issues within education and how one person can change them.
Ayers began with stressing that education was a human right, especially within a democratic society. “The central idea in democracy is the idea that every human being is of incalculable value,” he said, explaining that everyone was worth a decent education.
Ayers also made it a point to define what he thought what it took to make an education valuable. He explained that people who live in free states should be able to question their circumstances; that they should be willing to open their eyes and realize that they were capable of better. “You don’t need anyone’s permissions to ask questions of the world,” he said.
Doctoral candidate and main organizer of the operation Laurie Gutmann-Kahn said she came up with the idea to bring Ayers to UO by chance. “I serendipitously ran into him at a conference,” she said, “I told him that I had missed his keynote address and he said, ‘Bring me to Oregon.’”
Gutmann-Kahn proposed the idea to Department of Education and put Ayers on a plane a few months later. The visit concluded with great results.
“I loved it,” says Allison Priewe, a senior Education major. “I thought it was really hopeful. He really emphasized that everything’s connected.”
Ayers concluded with a discussion about present issues in education today. Several people stood up to ask questions about mass incarceration of minorities or drug problems. Ayers gave detailed responses, stating how education was the foundation for change.
Ayers called attention to the importance of action. “We’re living in a vibrant, foreward-charging history,” he said. “We have a responsibility to be an engaged. We have to dive into the wreckage.”