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Rick Ayers
Rick Ayers is an Assistant Professor in Teacher Education at the University of San Francisco. He received his PhD in the Language, Literacy, and Culture program at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Education. He has his Masters in Education from Mills College and taught at Berkeley High School from 1995 to 2006. He has worked as a Master Teacher for KQED Education Department, on the Teacher Advisory Board for Youth Speaks, and as a core team member of the Berkeley High School Diversity Project. He received the Berkeley Community Award, Berkeley Community Fund (2004), the Distinguished Educator of the Year Award, Occidental College (2004), and the Distinguished Adviser Award, Journalism Education Association (2000).

Rick is author of An Empty Seat in Class: Teaching and Learning after the Death of a Student (2014, Teachers College Press), co-author (with Bill Ayers) of Teaching the Taboo: Courage and Imagination in the Classroom
(2010, Teachers College Press) and of the book Zero Tolerance: Resisting the drive for punishment, A handbook for parents, students, educators and citizens (2001, New Press). He is co-author (with Amy Crawford) of Great Books for High School Kids: A Teacher’s Guide to Books That Can Change Teens’ Lives (2004, Beacon Press), author of Studs Terkel’s Working, a Teaching Guide (2000, New Press) and co-creator (with students) of the Berkeley High Slang Dictionary (self published 2000, North Atlantic Book published, 2003.)

He is co-editor of a special education edition of Monthly Review, “Education under fire: The US corporate attack on students, teachers, and schools.” (Summer, 2011). He is the author of numerous articles including “Both Sides of the Mic: Community Literacies in the Age of Hip Hop” in The Handbook of Research on Teaching Literacy through the Communicative and Visual Arts, “Critical Discomfort and Deep Engagement Needed for Transformation” (2014) in Democracy and Education.

Rick grew up in Chicago and is married to Ilene Abrams (College Advisor at Oakland’s Envision Academy) and has three children, Aisha, Sonia, and Max, and three grandchildren, Eliel, Mavis, and Ada.

Entries by Rick Ayers

Everything I Needed to Know About Teaching I Could Learn in Kindergarten

(1) Comments | Posted April 21, 2016 | 10:11 AM

Farima Pour-Khorshid is one of the most brilliant social justice educators I know. She teaches bilingual kindergarten in Hayward CA and is now working on her PhD in education as well as being a teacher activist and organizer with the Teachers 4 Social Justice in the Bay Area. Too often,...

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Shaking Off the Underdog Mentality: Blindness, the Warriors, and Redemption

(0) Comments | Posted April 20, 2016 | 4:20 PM

This is the first of a series of articles I am putting up - a kind of "where are they now? what are they thinking?" type of piece. I am still in touch with so many of my former students and I am in awe of where they have gone...

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Facing the White Blind Spot: Bernie Sanders and Anti-Racist Organizing

(0) Comments | Posted March 24, 2016 | 4:39 PM

Elections can be confusing and clarifying, meaningful and mystifying, often in the same moment or in an identical gesture. The gaudy, billion-dollar national campaign surging around us now is an inescapable vortex sucking into itself all available light. Elections are in some ways less important than we give them credit...

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Cuba: U.S. Journalism in Desperate Need of Change

(0) Comments | Posted March 21, 2016 | 5:32 PM

There is something so ignorant in the New York Times' little photo essay entitled "Cuba on the Edge of Change" on March 20. It's hard to fathom how blinkered Americans can be. Yes, we have freedom of the press but if our minds are enslaved by bourgeois thinking,...

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Smacking Down the Opposition: edTPA Advocacy in Illinois

(8) Comments | Posted November 6, 2015 | 10:34 AM

The Education Teacher Performance Assessment (edTPA) is the new set of evaluations of teacher candidates that is spreading across the country. Packaged as government-mandated test that assures the quality of teaching, it in fact colonizes the curriculum of teacher education programs and narrows the focus on teaching as pre-determined and...

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The Revolution Will Not Be Funded: Testing and the Problem With Grant-Driven Educational Projects

(1) Comments | Posted October 27, 2015 | 1:05 PM

President Obama has finally declared that the educational establishment's obsession with high-stakes testing has gone too far. It reminded me of a disagreement that broke out recently in a teacher professional development planning meeting.

"The problem is," I ventured, "there is very little you...

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The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution - the art of documentary, the making of history.

(1) Comments | Posted October 18, 2015 | 12:48 PM

While watching Stanley Nelson's documentary, The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, I was propelled back to my own remembered experience in these years - hearing Stokely Charmichael speak at my college campus, learning of Fred Hampton's murder by FBI and Chicago police while I was in the army. By...

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Good Cops, Bad Cops, and the State

(1) Comments | Posted August 22, 2015 | 9:54 AM

As a teacher I have wide and deep connections in my community, running in to former students or their parents in the stores, driving the busses, leading non-profits, and of course some police officers. A good teacher friend of mine has a brother who is an Oakland cop - a...

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Classroom Aesthetics: Not the "Art of Teaching" - Teaching As Art

(1) Comments | Posted June 18, 2015 | 6:03 PM

Sometimes the magic and beauty of the classroom, the soaring beyond simple skills and content, happens in the most unexpected ways. At these moments, we are experiencing a kind of performance art in the classroom. Take the following example.

The Greek tragedies are old and in many ways stiff and...

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Educating Our Children for the Common Good

(1) Comments | Posted May 25, 2015 | 6:22 AM

Joel Westheimer, professor of education at the University of Ottawa and education commentator for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, unpacks important insights on schools and what happens in classrooms on a daily basis. His book What Kind of Citizen: Educating our Children for the Common Good takes a new look at...

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Race in America - Word and Deed

(0) Comments | Posted March 26, 2015 | 5:22 PM

As I write this, the latest uproar about racist speech, this after the SAE frat boys, after the Ferguson police comments, after the Paula Deen craziness, is the racist and homophobic tweets by members of the San Francisco Police Department.

It is the familiar pattern of getting caught out....

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Youth in the Lead

(0) Comments | Posted February 18, 2015 | 3:30 PM

A review of Educating for Insurgency: The Roles of Young People in Schools of Poverty by Jay Gillen.

Sometimes a little book comes along that changes everything. It makes its mark by reframing and redefining something that is right before our eyes but needs explaining from a...

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Power and Privilege in Oral History Interviews and Projects

(1) Comments | Posted December 4, 2014 | 7:34 AM

A Worthy Project

Recently, a group of students from a progressive private school on the north side of Cleveland undertook to understand the history of the school's immediate neighborhood. The commercial district had transformed in the way typical of modern cities: the old hardware store where you could pick up...

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Football in America -- How We (Don't) Talk About Race

(9) Comments | Posted October 22, 2014 | 12:27 PM

The football scandals have not played out. They may just be heating up. What fascinates and dismays me is the way we talk about race in America through sports chatter. We are a society that is deathly afraid of having race conversations seriously and straight-up so we suppress and filter...

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12 Ways Teaching Is Like Baseball

(3) Comments | Posted June 30, 2014 | 2:41 PM

1. Everyone has seen baseball, even played it, and thinks they could probably do pretty well on the field. In reality, it is incredibly hard. While many people have some ideas about teaching and opinions about teachers, they really have no idea how difficult it is.

2. In...

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Iraq: The Narratives of Intervention

(6) Comments | Posted June 24, 2014 | 6:22 AM

The battles in Iraq should be heartbreaking and infuriating to all Americans. Heartbreaking because it did not have to be this way. Infuriating because we have to know, in our heart of hearts, that this is a U.S.-created disaster.

It is hard to listen to National Public Radio intoning on...

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On War, Desertion and Duty

(0) Comments | Posted June 5, 2014 | 1:42 AM

There is not much to add to the media frenzy that has accompanied the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in exchange for five prisoners at Guantanamo. The right, predictably, is trying to make political hay out of the anti-war sentiments of Bergdahl. Reflecting on the history of American military...

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Oral History Puts a Human Face on Global Economy

(0) Comments | Posted June 2, 2014 | 12:23 PM

A review of: Invisible Hands: Voices From the Global Economy
Compiled and edited by Corinne Goria
Voice of Witness, McSweeny's Books, 2014

This new and completely engrossing book of oral history testimonials by workers in factories and fields all over the world is a welcome addition to the...

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Siegel's The Trials of Muhammad Ali Is Simply Brilliant

(3) Comments | Posted October 24, 2013 | 9:24 AM

What, another movie about Muhammad Ali? There are so many. The Will Smith biopic Ali, the documentary on the Foreman fight in Zaire When We Were Kings, the other documentary Muhammad Ali: Through the Eyes of the World, even this month's HBO release Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight directed by Stephen...

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College Board leader fails SAT test

(7) Comments | Posted September 27, 2013 | 4:14 PM

The latest pronouncement from the College Board, that private corporation that makes millions devising standardized tests, reveals that its vice president for higher education, James Montoya would definitely fail the statistics section of the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT).

Montoya declared on NPR that, for the third year...

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