The legacy of Marcus Foster, victim of the SLA


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I enjoyed reading this New York Post article on the legacy of educator Marcus Foster and lessons from him we can apply to today’s schools.

In my years of research on the Symbionese Liberation Army, I learned a lot about Marcus Foster. The SLA murdered Foster, their first killing, on Nov. 6, 1973. The subject of my book, Camilla Hall, joined the SLA some time around Dec. 31 of that year. She was not involved in the Foster killing, but by joining the SLA she gave her tacit approval for the murder. That is difficult for me to accept and very unlike something Camilla would stand for. Her reasons for joining the SLA remain mysterious.

By all accounts Foster was a superb educator and made a real difference in kids’ lives, especially in the lives of struggling Black students. He had come to Oakland from Philadelphia, and he was not in Oakland long enough for the world to see what kind of big changes he would make there.

The SLA and other leftists in the Bay Area were enraged by Foster’s idea to issue photo IDs to students. There had been a couple of instances where non-students had gone into schools to commit violence, and Foster just wanted to make sure that those who weren’t supposed to be on school grounds would not be. Radical? Think of today — our schools are practically on lockdown to prevent just anyone from walking in. He was ahead of his time.

The SLA was wrong in many, many ways. If you read my book, you will see that I have empathy for Camilla. But the murder of Marcus Foster made no sense and took away such a bright star in the educational field. As the article points out, we can honor him by studying his legacy and implementing his methods in schools today.