Fighter or Gentleman?

Jay Mathews of the Washington Post writes:

Great failures inspire irresistible passion and confrontation.

The national debate over how to fix our failing schools attracts me for the same reason. But in my saner moments, I wish we were more considerate of those with whom we disagree.

I thought about this as I read a long and erudite assault on the views of historian and author Diane Ravitch by investor and charter school advocate Whitney Tilson. I know both Ravitch and Tilson. They are among my favorite commentators.

For the sake of the schoolchildren we all care about, I wish they were more willing to give credit to ideological adversaries for the good sense and good works on all sides of the debate.

Then I was reading Michelle Rhee's op-ed in Newsweek. She writes:

Lastly, we can’t shy away from conflict. I was at Harvard the other day, and someone asked about a statement that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and others have made that public-school reform is the civil-rights issue of our generation.

Well, during the civil-rights movement they didn’t work everything out by sitting down collaboratively and compromising. Conflict was necessary in order to move the agenda forward.

There are some fundamental disagreements that exist right now about what kind of progress is possible and what strategies will be most effective.

Right now, what we need to do is fight. We can be respectful about it. But this is the time to stand up and say what you believe, not sweep the issues under the rug so that we can feel good about getting along. There’s nothing more worthwhile than fighting for children. And I’m not done fighting.

Now Jay is never one to shy away from a good debate. And Rhee says we can be "respectful."

The problem is: what is the right balance between Fighter and Gentleman?

(Turns out Gentlewoman is not exactly equivalent of Gentleman. Maybe cuz "a man who conforms to a high standard of propriety is less rare among women than men).

In politics, when you get attacked personally, and you respond wonkishly, you frequently lose. Example: Dukakis (who was a wonderful guest speaker in Bob Hill's MATCH history class a few weeks ago; he told our kids he'd run a bad campaign). Hmm.

I decided to learn about fighting gentlemen. I found this guy. Gentleman Jim Corbett. From Wikipedia:

Dubbed by the media as "Gentleman Jim Corbett," he was rumored to have a college education.

I love that it was only rumored. Evidently they didn't have Beyond 12 in the 1800s.

He has been called the "Father of Modern Boxing" because of his scientific approach and innovations in technique. Some think that he changed prizefighting from a brawl to an art form.

Folks ask: is teaching an art or science? I wonder: is teaching more a brawl or science? :)

On September 7, 1892 at the Olympic Club in New Orleans, Louisiana, Corbett won the World Heavyweight Boxing Championship by knocking out John L. Sullivan in the 21st round. Corbett's new scientific boxing technique* enabled him to dodge Sullivan's rushing attacks, and wear him down with jabs.

Okay: still nothing on the Gentleman part.

Because he wore his hair in a full-grown pompadour, dressed smartly and used excellent grammar when he spoke, he became known as "Gentleman Jim."

Oy. This little Wikipedia fishing expedition has shed zero light on my question on Fighter v. Gentleman. I'm leaving the Corbett-bit in because, like a high school sophomore, once I find a little research nugget, I hate to chuck it, even it doesn't advance the thesis.

I'll just have to rely on a reader to straighten me out.