Bill Ayers

Educator, Author, and Podcast Host


William Ayers, Distinguished Professor of Education and Senior University Scholar at the University of Illinois at Chicago (retired), founder of both the Small Schools Workshop and the Center for Youth and Society, taught courses in interpretive and qualitative research, oral history, creative non-fiction, urban school change, and teaching and the modern predicament.  A graduate of the University of Michigan, the Bank Street College of Education, Bennington College, and Teachers College, Columbia University, Ayers has written extensively about social justice, democracy and education, the cultural contexts of schooling, and teaching as an essentially intellectual, ethical, and political enterprise. He is a past  member of the Executive Committee of the Faculty Senate, and past Vice-President of the curriculum division of the American Educational Research Association.

Ayers’ articles have appeared in many journals including the Harvard Educational Review, the Journal of Teacher Education, Teachers College RecordRethinking SchoolsThe NationEducational Leadership, the New York Times and the Cambridge Journal of Education.

He lives in Chicago with Bernardine Dohrn, partner, comrade, friend, co-parent and grand-parent, inspiration, co-author, lover, and soul-mate for close to half a century.

Published Books

“You Can’t Fire the Bad Ones!” And 18 Other Myths About Teachers, Teachers’ Unions, and Public Education with Crystal Laura and Rick Ayers

Demand the Impossible! A Radical Manifesto

Teaching with Conscience in an Imperfect World: An Invitation

Public Enemy: Confessions of an American Dissident 

To Teach: The Journey in Comics with Ryan Alexander-Tanner

Race Course: Against White Supremacy with Bernardine Dohrn 

Teaching the Taboo: Courage and Imagination in the Classroom with Rick Ayers 

Teaching toward Freedom: Moral Commitment and Ethical Action in the Classroom 

Teaching toward Democracy: Educators as Agents of Change with Kevin Kumashiro, Erica Meiners, Therese Quinn, and David Stovall

A Kind and Just Parent: The Children of Juvenile Court

Fugitive Days: A Memoir

On the Side of the Child: Summerhill Revisited

Teaching the Personal and the Political: Essays on Hope and Justice 

The Good Preschool Teacher: Six Teachers Reflect on Their Lives

To Teach: The Journey of a Teacher

Malik Alim: Co-Founder

August 28, 2021—Remembering Malik

Died 8/20/2021

This is a time of tears for those of us who knew and loved Malik Alim.

He’s gone, and a gaping, irreparable hole has been ripped in our hearts.

We’re stabbed, assaulted.

And we cannot stop the tears.

I knew and admired Malik for years as an organizer and an activist, a thinker and a doer, a reliable presence in the Movement—we said hello and chatted at demonstrations; we greeted one another with a hug at Movement gatherings. But something changed qualitatively a year ago when we began collaborating to create our little back-room podcast about freedom (Gratitude to Damon and Daniel for thinking that Malik and I could become a team). We may have looked—on several dimensions—like an odd couple, but we clicked, and somehow we found a unique synergy across our vast differences of age and race and background, and within our common dreams of a world that could be and should be, but is not yet. I learned from him every day—where to hold the mic and how to create studio conditions in a closet, for example, but also when to shut up and listen, and how to make our messages more educational and compelling. We mentored one another, and I learned from him and grew with him inch by inch.

We didn’t need a reminder—certainly not this unwelcome prompt—to tell us that life is fragile—precious—hanging by a thread. But, even so, there it is: a boisterous declaration that our moment in the sun is brief. Malik knew it too: his was a short life, true, too short, but a rich life nonetheless because he lived it fully and fiercely—with purpose and at full attention. He got up each morning, took care of his kids, connected with friends, did his good work, and loved his family and his community passionately. Day by day. Every day.

Malik’s passing is entirely upside down, out of order: no parent should be required to grieve their son; no young child should have their Papi torn away in a flash. 

So the tears keep coming, but not tears alone—no—it’s also been a time of intense remembering, of intimate laughter and fervent embraces. Death took his life, but death did not end our relationships—with him or with one another. No matter how far back you go in memory, it’s in the work of his hands, in his curious and impatient mind, in his family and in each of us that we find Malik again. Those things are still unfolding, still in the making, still drawing from the deep well of his life. The past is done; and life is still unfolding.

The pain we share now is a measure of Malik’s impact and value in our lives, but we’re not broken—as long as we have not lost his place among us. We will always miss him, of course, but we can all choose to live deeper and more intentional and more committed lives—in honor of him.

I’m sending laser beams of Light and Love to Malik’s parents and siblings, to Kristiana, and to the mighty Ori and Yari—for their sake, we rise again.

A Website.