Rhee Vs. Ravitch – Why not Both?
I wrote the following blog four years ago – so assuredly the data on Twitter followers has since changed. However, the premise still exists. I saw a ‘news’ headline that noted Katy Perry (Democratic supporter in the past) follows Ivanka Trump on Twitter as if this were noteworthy. Not only is it not news – but it illustrates the exact point I was trying to make several years ago. We are far too unwilling to accept and intentionally seek out opposing viewpoints. Apparently, we collectively do so at such a minute clip that when someone does – it is ‘newsworthy’
Michelle Rhee and Diane Ravitch are two very outspoken, passionate, and popular voices on the state of education in the United States. The two have both held extraordinarily meaningful and influential posts throughout their career where they worked to institute and/or reform a system of education so that it truly best served the needs of students. Both also have a vocal and loyal ‘fan base’ of supporters and have demonstrated clearly that they are not afraid to speak their mind and ruffle the feathers of whomever necessary in order to promote what they believe to be in the best interest of the educational community. The similarities, however, pretty much end there.
The other evening I was thinking of the importance of hearing divergent opinions in order to truly reflect upon and hone our personal educational philosophies. Immediately Rhee and Ravitch came to mind as (at least in my mind) polar opposites in terms of philosophy. I have enjoyed being a Twitter follower of each: Diane Ravitch can be found @DianeRavitch with 42,544 followers and Michelle Rhee @m_rhee with 43,300 followers at the time this blog was written. My question was how many Twitter followers do they share? How many active #edtech and #edchat enthusiasts proactively choose to hear from divergent viewpoints? With some handy tech work from my friend and colleague, Adam Larsen (@aplarsen), I was able to get the information quickly – between the two ladies they have a combined 78,710 followers – of which they only share 8,054 – or 9.8% of their total ‘followership.’
These data indicate to me that even progressive, proactive educators that are active on social media and excited about learning new and different things to help kids still prefer to follow people with like minds and like opinions. I encourage each of you to think about your own habits on Twitter and in other social contexts – including face-to-face interaction. For instance, if you take part in any of the organized chats (#edchat, #satchat, #ptchat to name a few) on Twitter are you more likely to follow someone that you agreed with during the chat or someone with a completely different take on a subject. My fear and the data above is that we are much more likely to connect and expand our PLN with active, passionate educators that think like we already do. It is quite possible that the best way for us to truly grow as individuals and as educators is embrace the diversity of thought and divergent opinions that exist all around us.
Follow somebody new, read articles from a different website, read books outside the world of education – consciously grow by embracing that divergent opinions exist and that by considering them and reflecting you may personally benefit. So for the answer of Ravitch versus Rhee, my answer is why next take the best of both.