Founded in 1916, the American Educational Research Association (AERA) is the largest organization of education-school professors and researchers in the United States. Its 25,000+ members also include K-12 teachers, school administrators, counselors, graduate students, behavioral scientists, and government-agency personnel who work with testing and evaluation. The Association's mission is “to advance knowledge about education, to encourage scholarly inquiry related to education, and to promote the use of research to improve education and serve the public good.”
Through its books, published studies, and journal articles, AERA helps to determine what is taught in teacher-training programs at universities across the United States and, ultimately, what is taught to students in America's K-12 classrooms. Moreover, the Association's quarterly series, Research Points, is designed to affect public policy by “bring[ing] essential information on education research to federal, state, and local policy makers.”
Another of the Association's most noteworthy divisions is its Social Justice Action Committee, which seeks to counter America's inherent racism and sexism with a strong emphasis on promoting "diversity and inclusiveness" – not only within AERA itself, but throughout the field of education. This Committee endorses a brand of “social justice” that abjures capitalism while embracing socialist principles. For a comprehensive discussion of how such “social justice” themes are routinely injected into K-12 curricula, click here.
The most politically and ideologically significant official in AERA's hierarchy is the former Weather Underground terrorist Bill Ayers, who in March 2008 was elected (by a large majority of his peers) as the Association's Vice President for Curriculum Studies. At the time of his election, Ayers, a leading proponent of social-justice indoctrination in the classroom, was a professor of education at the University of Illinois. According to a former AERA employee, “Ayers' radical worldview, which depicts America as “the main source of the world's racism and oppression,” thoroughly “permeates” AERA.
Ayers articulated that worldview with especial clarity in his February 2009 AERA Curriculum Studies Newsletter, which displayed, above his “Message from the Vice President” essay, an artistic rendition of four Marxist philosophers discussing the demerits of “authoritarian” and “oppressive” – i.e., capitalist – social structures. In the essay itself, which AERA disseminated to all of its members, Ayers derided the U.S. for its shameful history as a “Slave State.” He then went on to depict modern-day America as a “War State” addicted to military spending; as a “prison society” wherein “2.3 million people” – disproportionately black – are “caged” like animals; as a “murdering-the-innocents state” wherein “the structural ecology of race and gender and ancestry” ultimately determine “whose children will suffer and be condemned to destruction, and whose will be shielded from harm”; as an “ostrich society” with its “collective head in the sand as the world careens toward environmental catastrophe”; and as a nation where there is “mass disenfranchisement of various populations,” most notably blacks and poor people. The teacher's task, as Ayers and AERA define it, is to make young teachers and their students aware of these societal failings, and to exhort them to rebel against the unjust “system.”
Setting the tone for AERA's educational philosophy and recommended practices, Ayers rejects traditional standards of academic measurement such as tests and grades. Indeed he rejects the very notion of certain knowledge and objectively defined competency – an attitude stemming from his animus toward “linear” thought, which he views as a defining characteristic of the Western culture that he detests. Indicting capitalism as an inherently racist system worthy of permanent destruction, Ayers consistently emphasizes that nonwhites are justified in feeling victimized by, and resentful toward, American society. Ultimately he seeks, through his influence with AERA, to inculcate teachers-in-training with a “social commitment” to the values of “Marx” and a desire to become agents of social change in K-12 classrooms. Whereas “capitalism promotes racism and militarism,” Ayers explains, “teaching invites transformations” and is “the motor-force of revolution.”
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