Friday, October 10, 2008

Education Gaps

I knew of the Weather Underground, but I felt a little dumb considering the media's offhanded treatment of William Ayers' Weather Underground membership, as if this was common knowledge along the lines of the team Babe Ruth played for. In David S. Tanenhaus' Slate feature, "Barack, Bill and Me," he admits that he didn't know of Ayers' background in 1990. He writes:

I'm embarrassed to admit that when I first met [Ayers], I had not heard of the Weathermen, let alone its militant offshoot, the Weather Underground, famous from 1970 to 1975 for advocating violent protest against the Vietnam War. I had no idea the group had planned and carried out bombings of the Pentagon and the New York City police headquarters and that its members, including Ayers and Dohrn, had appeared on the FBI's Most Wanted list.

Some of this was naiveté on my part. But it was also generational. Vietnam belonged to history by the time I got around to studying it in college. The books I read were either social histories of soldiers' experiences, such as Al Santoni's Everything We Had, an oral history, or accounts of the decisions that led to the war's disastrous conclusion, like Larry Berman's Planning a Tragedy. The culture of protest and dissent, particularly fringe groups like the Weather Underground, was not part of the curriculum.

He goes on to put Ayers in the context of his work in Chicago - hardly a man of mystery - but I wonder how many people on Fox News knew of the Weather Underground prior to this non-story.

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