Publication Date: April 8, 2016
This book is an invitation to become one of those passionate and transformative teachers, someone who can join with others to rescue teaching from the heavy hand of the test-obsessed technocrats, and change the world—or, at the very least, change the people who will change the world.
How do we see our schools and the project of education? Is this the best we can do? What would we like our schools to become? How might we get there? In this provocative book, Bill Ayers invites us to dream of schools in which each child “is of infinite and incalculable value.” Blending personal anecdotes with critique of the state of education, this beautifully written little book is filled with big ideas that explore the challenges and opportunities for an education system that desperately needs repair.
Teaching with Conscience in an Imperfect World is an urgent call to action and a plan to help educators stretch toward something new and dramatically better—schools that are more joyful and more just, more balanced and more guided by the power of love.
William Ayers is Distinguished Professor of Education and Senior University Scholar at the University of Illinois at Chicago (retired), education activist, and bestselling author of Teaching the Taboo: Courage and Imagination in the Classroom (with Rick Ayers), To Teach: The Journey of a Teacher, Third Edition, and To Teach: The Journey, in Comics (with Ryan Alexander-Tanner).
“Ayers's book addresses teachers and educators in general and particularly those who are committed to community literacy practices…The dreams and visions it offers reflect the radical ideas of an earlier era, offering a sore reminder to educators who might be at a loss for dreams and vision. In that sense, a community literacy practitioner might find this book's documentation of utopian ideas to be relevant reminders of how we can better listen to locate sources of strength and stamina to continue teaching with conscience.”
—Community Literacy Journal
"In Teaching with Conscience in an Imperfect World, Bill Ayers makes a compelling and passionate plea for ending prejudice, bias, and systematic deception toward youth in our schools. How can our children reasonably believe in adults at school when they are regularly deprived of their own immediate experiences, interpretations, intellectual curiosity, and joy? However routinized by our test-driven culture, a profound level of soul-loss is at stake—and with equally acute implications for our children’s well-being. This captivating text takes the reader on an emancipatory journey toward a brighter educational future replete with hope and multiple, redemptive possibilities."
—Angela Valenzuela, author of Subtractive Schooling; professor, College of Education, University of Texas at Austin
"Teaching with Conscience in an Imperfect World offers energized democratic thinking: “freedom dreams” and 21 other great ideas that resist the current climate of neoliberalism where only numbers count. Bill Ayers invites you to imagine teaching in ways that make a difference; ways that bring smiles and successful learning to students and joyous fulfillment to teachers."
—Carl Grant, Hoefs-Bascom Professor of Education, School of Education, University of Wisconsin–Madison
"A timely read that lifted my spirits for the work to be done. Thanks. . . . I needed this book."
—Deborah Meier, teacher, principal, writer, and advocate, recipient of MacArthur “Genius” Award for her work in New York City's East Harlem
"I could not put this book down, eager to accompany a journey sparked by questions that both unravel and recenter. William Ayers’ Teaching with Conscience in an Imperfect World takes readers on a journey through autobiography, history, literature, sociology, philosophy, to delve deeply behind the common sense of today, to imagine what schooling could look like, be for, and aim towards. Accept the invitation to imagine, embrace the contradiction that is education for democracy, and find yourself building what we were never schooled to build.”
—Kevin Kumashiro, dean and professor, School of Education, University of San Francisco, author of Bad Teacher! How Blaming Teachers Distorts the Bigger Picture
"In this exhilarating, invigorating, and uplifting book, William Ayers invents an exciting pedagogical creed for our times. He calls on all educational workers to teach courageously and creatively, to liberate human potential, to exercise our radical imaginations, and to cultivate hope in this increasingly complicated and contested world."
—Ming Fang He, professor, Georgia Southern University
"The great Civil Rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer talked about being sick and tired of being sick and tired. This book is for every classroom teacher who is challenged by what they fear is a dark time for public schools in America. This book is for every classroom teacher who is sick and tired of being sick and tired of prescriptive solutions to problems we don’t recognize and answers to questions we never asked. Bill Ayers reminds us again that teaching can be an act of art, subversion, and imagining what is possible."
—Fred Klonsky, retired public school teacher, education blogger at FredKlonsky.com
"Through critical and hopeful prose, Bill Ayers reveals the questions educators of conscience ask themselves in their quiet time. In a tumultuous time where much is uncertain, I remain thankful for his challenge to continue to transform those quiet moments into something bold and loud enough to move us towards justice."
—David Stovall, professor, University of Illinois at Chicago
"Advice to new teachers falls into one of two camps: Reproduce the status quo or wage a lonely struggle against it. Bill Ayers presents us with a third path. Paved with imagination, lined with playfulness, and leading toward freedom, Ayers invites those of us committed to educational justice to join him with fresh eyes, open hearts, and creative spirits. This book will provide preservice students and practicing teachers with unique ways to digest the depth of what they're up against, while inspiring them to joyfully design and collectively construct what is yet to be."
—Bree Picower, associate professor, Montclair State University