William Ayers, formerly Distinguished Professor of Education and Senior University Scholar at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), founder of both the Small Schools Workshop and the Center for Youth and Society, has written extensively about social justice, democracy and education, the cultural contexts of schooling, and teaching as an essentially intellectual, ethical, and political enterprise. Studs Terkel has claimed, “William Ayers is as sensitive and gifted a chronicler as he is a teacher.”
His articles have appeared in numerous scholarly and popular journals, and his books include Teaching Toward Freedom; A Kind and Just Parent; Fugitive Days; On the Side of the Child; Teaching the Personal and the Political; (with Ryan Alexander-Tanner) To Teach: The Journey, in Comics; (with Kevin Kumashiro, Erica Meiners, Therese Quinn, and David Stovall) Teaching Toward Democracy; (with Rick Ayers) Teaching the Taboo: Courage and Imagination in the Classroom; (with Bernardine Dohrn) Race Course. Edited books include (with Janet Miller) A Light in Dark Times: Maxine Greene and the Unfinished Conversation; (with Therese Quinn and Jean Ann Hunt) Teaching for Social Justice; and (with Therese Quinn and David Stovall) the Handbook of Social Justice in Education.
Booklist called Ayers’ book Teaching toward Freedom, “Powerful, thought-provoking, and a must-read for everyone concerned with the state of education.” That review elaborated, “Ayers, an activist for progressive teaching methods, has written and coauthored numerous books on innovative schools and the societal issues faced by teachers. Here he calls on teachers to commit themselves to helping students reach ‘the full measure of their humanity,’ embrace their differences, and realize they have the power to change their own lives. Seminars on classroom management, discipline, and lesson planning completely ignore his method, what he calls ‘teaching toward freedom,’ and the teaching of ethical action, which requires dialogue between teachers and students as each learns from the other and from the world around them. Teachers need to be ‘works in progress,’ encouraging their students to be the same. Bolstering his argument with frequent quotes from authors as diverse as Langston Hughes, Toni Morrison, and Pablo Neruda, Ayers argues convincingly against centralized testing and zero-tolerance policies, which turn classrooms into ‘sterile and one-dimensional places devoid of teachable moments.’”