Sunday, June 3, 2012

I Muse About The Diane Ravitch vs. Tom Peters Twitter Spat

Earlier today Diane Ravitch tweeted:
I'm not sure what Peters said to prompt that response, but I'll take this tweet as one that sums up his view:
It's Sunday morning, so let's be clear; even though Diane Ravitch is doing God's work fighting against the testing for testing's sake regime, she's not God and can error.  Peters too is a mere mortal, so for all of his calls for excellence and demanding a "Wow!," he has mediocre days.

I'm a fan of both people.  I became a Peters fan 1990s when I heard him give a talk on a local PBS station.  The talk elaborated on the following paragraphs:
Can you put fun, love, passion, anarchist and thrill in your official credo, for your 10-person accounting group, your newly opened record shop, or the $50 million division you run? If not, why not?
I can read a "corporate culture" in about five minutes. So can you. Whether the subject is (a) a new restaurant, (b) a corner grocery or (c) IBM, GM or GE, you can feel the vibes in a flash. They broadcast "dull" or "exciting" with the utmost clarity. If you're bored out of your wits in the reception area (after being ''badged,'' undoubtedly), you're going to be bored out of your wits with each and every subsequent encounter. Are there exceptions to the rule? Not many.
Kawasaki wants us to be raging, inexorable thunder-lizard evangelists. Roddick hunts for anarchists. Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield champion weird. And I want us to breathlessly pursue dramatic failures and flirt with firing. Funny thing, neither I nor Kawasaki nor Roddick nor Cohen nor Greenfield is even being a little bit facetious.
How about it?
Peters wrote the above paragraphs in 1992.  This morning, Larry Smith wrote,
Remember that passion is necessary for a great career, but it is not sufficient. There's no magic here. Success also demands persistence, focus, discipline, independence of mind, resourcefulness, experimentation and high creativity.
"Independence of mind," "resourcefulness," "experimentation," and "high creativity" sound like qualities that broadcast excitement, so the intervening two decades don't seem to have changed the qualities Peters claims lead to excellence.

If memory serves, NCLB  and subsequent policies sprang from the poorly phrased question: "Is our children learning?"  Students and the country might be better served by adapting one of Peters's pet phrases into a question:  "how can we produce raging inexorable thunder-lizard evangelists"?

NCLB, RTTT, and whatever Romney will propose have no chance of producing "raging inexorable thunder-lizard evangelists" or "anarchists."  The policies will produce "dull" students and teachers who never ask "is it weird enough?"  Instead, those polices will continue to force schools to emphasize the "common."

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