By Jim Bennett
Daily Review Atlas
Historically, the lecture halls of academia have been seedbeds of free thought and expression. The intellectual rigors of classroom discussion and the spirit of open inquiry on university campuses have served young scholars well.
But I’ve been reading about two professors recently and as I compare their stories, I can’t help but conclude that an ill wind is blowing.
William Ayers and Kenneth Howell have a lot in common. They both hold doctorate degrees, they’re popular with their students, and they work for the University of Illinois.
During the Vietnam Era, William Ayers helped found a communist revolutionary terrorist group called The Weather Underground Organization (WUO). Ayers and his pals were opposed to war, what with all the violence and bombs, so they took the obvious, logical step of declaring war and setting off bombs in a bid to violently overthrow the government.
It was June 9, 1970, when a WUO bomb planted in a men’s room rocked New York City police headquarters. On March 1, 1971, the Weathermen blew up a U.S. Capitol building bathroom. The following year, on May 19, they set off an explosive device in a ladies lavatory in the Pentagon. On Jan. 21, 1975, they bombed a washroom in the U.S. State Department.
The lesson here? When William Ayers steps out of the little boys’ room and warns, “Don’t go in there,” you really, most definitely, should NOT go in there.
While Ayers’ continued to prosecute his ongoing War on Plumbing, he collaborated
with other Weathermen to write their Marxist-Leninist manifesto, “Prairie Fire: The Politics of Revolutionary Anti-Imperialism” in 1974. It was dedicated “To all who continue to fight” and “To All Political Prisoners in the U.S.” Named among the “fighters” and “political prisoners” in that dedication was Sirhan Sirhan, the assassin who murdered Senator Robert F. Kennedy in 1968.
But that’s all in the past. Surely a venerable institution like the University of Illinois
would not retain him on their faculty unless he had categorically renounced all his incendiary rhetoric and the violent terrorism perpetrated by the group that he co-founded and led, right?
Wrong. In Ayers’ interview with Dinitia Smith, published in the New York Times on, oddly enough, Sept. 11, 2001, he is quoted as saying, “I don’t regret setting bombs.” In January of 2004, speaking to the Television Critics’ Association Press Tour in Hollywood about the Weather Underground bombings, Ayers said, “Did we do something that was horrendous, awful? I don’t think so.” A true master of the Non-pology, Ayers’ public statements of “regret” for his crimes ring with all the sincerity of Eddie Haskell complimenting Mrs. Cleaver’s housecoat. In a New York Times op-ed piece published Dec. 5, 2008, Professor Ayers actually characterizes the Weather Underground’s attacks as “severe vandalism.”
Now come on, son.
Where I come from, “severe vandalism” means a car has been keyed rather than egged, or a Ding-Dong-Ditch assault has escalated to include a flaming bag of you-know-what left on the porch. But when Ayers’ group bombed NYPD Headquarters, they used 15 sticks of dynamite, injured eight people and took out much of the building’s second floor. Calling that “severe vandalism” is like calling Chernobyl “an unscheduled interruption of utility service.”
William Ayers currently holds the titles of Distinguished Professor of Education and Senior University Scholar at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Monmouth College, my alma mater, gushes like a schoolgirl at any opportunity to provide this man with a platform.
Dr. Kenneth Howell, on the other hand, just got sacked at the end of the Spring semester. A Religious Studies professor at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign since 2001, Howell’s course on the tenets of Catholicism included lectures explaining the church’s teachings on sexuality. In preparation for an upcoming exam, Howell, a Catholic himself, sent an e-mail to his students on May 4, clarifying some points from classroom discussion about natural moral law as it relates to homosexuality.
An unidentified friend of an anonymous student in the class cried, “hate speech” to the department chair and Howell was terminated. A distinguished 10-year academic career was snuffed over someone’s hurt feelings. Howell has been fired for teaching the subject matter of the course he had been hired to teach.
Meanwhile, though, the U of I can’t get enough of William Ayers.
Oh, there’s an ill wind at work for sure. And you don’t need a Weatherman to know which way it’s blowing.
Jim Bennett is the Pastor of Rozetta Baptist Church in rural Henderson County.
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