On April 26 2012 William Ayers teacher and advocate for educational reform spoke to a full house at the University of Oregon. His prominence in the educational community and his impact on reform was only further justified when the audience filled up one and a half lecture halls of about 350 seats, it was so full that the University had to project him in two places.
He came to the University to speak about the social class of students in America and the inequality that a lot of people face. For a lot of people education is something that comes naturally, they are the upper class, but as Ayers pointed out in Chicago for example, “one student will go to school on $4,000 a year when people across the lake will go to school with $40,000.” The difference isn’t the kids, kids are all the same, the difference Ayers was pointing out is how much money is filtered through and to whom. Why can’t all of that money be evenly distributed?
To Ayers, it’s a class issue that is consistent all across America but “education is a human right” he says and so this must change. While attending his speech, I interviewed one student at the University, Whitney Price, and asker her how much she would have to pay back in students loans after graduation. “I will have $11,000 in debt but I think that’s pretty good compared to a lot of other students, and if I work really hard I could have that paid off in two years” Price, a human physiology student said. What I came to learn more from her was that she has been working 40 hour work weeks her entire time in college to maintain her loans and this is the exact point that Ayers is calling us to. That why should we be so far in debt? Why is our education so backwards that its now nearly impossible to attend school without having $30,000 or more common $50,000 in debt.
The crowd reaction to his statements were positive and encouraging. At the end of his lecture he had a Q & A and a lot of interesting, inquisitive people wanted to know more. Overall the impact he placed on the University community was impressive.
Sponsors for this talk came from The University of Oregon, Lane Community College, Ethnic Studies Department, The Cultural Forum, Oregon Humanities Centers
I was very proud to be able to attend this talk after having studied Bill Ayers in previous history classes. He was a part of The Weather Underground, a radical group that single handly destroyed the SDS, but has since then written roughly 20 books and been a part of the fight for more than 45 years.