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The Obama-Ayers Education Story: Funding Left-Wing Radicalism In Education

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Today’s must-read: after months of investigation, in which he had to weather all manner of stonewalling and intimidation by the Obama camp, Stanley Kurtz finally has the story, in today’s Wall Street Journal, of Barack Obama’s involvement in unrepentant former terrorist Bill Ayers’ project to spread left-wing politics under the guise of ‘education’ in Chicago schools. Here’s a flavor of Ayers’ project:

CAC translated Mr. Ayers’s radicalism into practice. Instead of funding schools directly, it required schools to affiliate with “external partners,” which actually got the money. Proposals from groups focused on math/science achievement were turned down. Instead CAC disbursed money through various far-left community organizers, such as the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (or Acorn).

Mr. Obama once conducted “leadership training” seminars with Acorn, and Acorn members also served as volunteers in Mr. Obama’s early campaigns. External partners like the South Shore African Village Collaborative and the Dual Language Exchange focused more on political consciousness, Afrocentricity and bilingualism than traditional education. CAC’s in-house evaluators comprehensively studied the effects of its grants on the test scores of Chicago public-school students. They found no evidence of educational improvement.

CAC also funded programs designed to promote “leadership” among parents. Ostensibly this was to enable parents to advocate on behalf of their children’s education. In practice, it meant funding Mr. Obama’s alma mater, the Developing Communities Project, to recruit parents to its overall political agenda. CAC records show that board member Arnold Weber was concerned that parents “organized” by community groups might be viewed by school principals “as a political threat.” Mr. Obama arranged meetings with the Collaborative to smooth out Mr. Weber’s objections.

And of Obama’s involvement in the activities of a group whose board he chaired:

Mr. Ayers founded CAC and was its guiding spirit….Mr. Ayers sat as an ex-officio member of the board Mr. Obama chaired through CAC’s first year. He also served on the board’s governance committee with Mr. Obama, and worked with him to craft CAC bylaws. Mr. Ayers made presentations to board meetings chaired by Mr. Obama. Mr. Ayers spoke for the Collaborative before the board. Likewise, Mr. Obama periodically spoke for the board at meetings of the Collaborative.

Kurtz’s conclusion:

The Obama campaign has cried foul when Bill Ayers comes up, claiming “guilt by association.” Yet the issue here isn’t guilt by association; it’s guilt by participation. As CAC chairman, Mr. Obama was lending moral and financial support to Mr. Ayers and his radical circle.

Kurtz makes some references in the article to the Obama camp’s pushback, and discusses it (including reprinting the Obama campaign’s full response) here, including completing the connection of the dots in Obama’s involvement in setting up and funding Ayers’ activities:

In the first year, 1995, Obama headed the board, which made fiscal decisions, and Ayers co-chaired the Collaborative, which set education policy. During that first year, Obama’s formal responsibilities mandated close cooperation and coordination with the Collaborative. As board chair and president of the CAC corporation, Obama was authorized to “delegate to the Collaborative the development of collaborative projects and programs . . . to obtain assistance of the Collaborative in the development of requests for proposals . . . and to seek advice from the Collaborative regarding the programmatic aspects of grant proposals.” All this clearly involves significant consultation between the board, headed by Obama, and the Collaborative, co-chaired by Ayers.

Bear in mind the timeline – this is precisely the time at which Obama was launching his political career (including a meeting at Ayers’ home), signing a contract to support the platform of the Marxist New Party, representing ACORN as its lawyer, and receiving the support and active participation, in return, of ACORN and similar of left-wing groups as ground troops in his campaigns. Tom Maguire looks at how far back Obama’s relationship with Ayers goes. I continue to be amazed that any civilized person could associate with this terrorist, much less allocate money to give him a role in educating children. But then, recall the words of the Chicago Democratic Socialists of America, writing in 2000:

Barak Obama is serving only his second term in the Illinois State Senate so he might be fairly charged with ambition, but the same might have be said of Bobby Rush when he ran against Congressman Charles Hayes. Obama also has put in time at the grass roots, working for five years as a community organizer in Harlem and in Chicago. When Obama participated in a 1996 UofC YDS Townhall Meeting on Economic Insecurity, much of what he had to say was well within the mainstream of European social democracy.

And of course, besides funding Ayers, Obama once in office was essentially letting groups like Planned Parenthood essentially write sex education bills – not a group as overtly outside the mainstream as Ayers, but consistent with Obama’s overall Illinois record as a hard-core left-wing culture warrior looking to empower the whole menagerie of left-wing interest groups (headed by other “community organizers” just like Obama himself) with funding and sway over government. Kurtz, who has followed similar stories for years, explains how all of this is symptomatic of the broader left-wing cultural and educational program:

[T]he story of modern philanthropy is largely the story of moderate and conservative donors finding their funds “captured” by far more liberal, often radical, beneficiaries. CAC’s story is a classic of the genre. Ayers and Obama guided CAC money to community organizers, like ACORN (the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) and the Developing Communities Project (Part of the Gamaliel Foundation network), groups self-consciously working in the radical tradition of Saul Alinsky….

Of course, you don’t go to a group like the Annenberg Challenge with an explicit promise to promote left-wing radicalism, and you don’t pick Bill Ayers as the front man to deal with the donors. You pick someone smoother, less of a known commodity…you pick Barack Obama. In 1995, it was Obama’s job to put a pleasant, respectable face on a fundamentally left-wing project.

Not much has changed since then, has it?

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