Bill Ayers Attends Worldviews – On Screen
By Philip Fine
Just before the Worldviews Conference on Media and Higher Education held in Toronto last week, outspoken US academic Bill Ayers decided he would not enter Canada. He had been barred from the country in 2009 and was given little reason to think he would not be turned away again. But he delivered his views on democracy and the responsibility of academics to contribute to public debate anyway, via a filmed interview screened to the conference.
Apologising for the “awkward format” of his presentation, and saying he felt faintly ridiculous, the retired University of Illinois at Chicago professor respected for his research into reforming elementary education talked for 26 minutes, focusing on a diminishing public space for debate and the need to find new perspectives on campus.
More infamously, Ayers is known for being one of the founding members of the Weather Underground, a leftist protest group that was involved in anti-Vietnam war bombings of public buildings during the early 1970s. However, he has never been convicted of a felony, and after his activist youth went on to become a respected academic.