Steve Jobs blasts teacher unions and textbook industry

Steve Jobs blasts teacher unions and textbook industry

Summary: In a rare public statement about a subject other than iPods or Macs, Steve Jobs said that "unionization and lifetime employment of K-12 teachers is off-the-charts crazy," and that technology in the classroom isn't going to improve public schools until principals can fire bad teachers. He also talked about a textbook-free education system, using free online information like Wikipedia (but with more oversight) and freeing up money for investing in better technology for schools.


In a rare public statement about a subject other than iPods or Macs, Steve Jobs said that "unionization and lifetime employment of K-12 teachers is off-the-charts crazy," and that technology in the classroom isn't going to improve public schools until principals can fire bad teachers. He also talked about a textbook-free education system, using free online information like Wikipedia (but with more oversight) and freeing up money for investing in better technology for schools.

According the AP story, Jobs was sharing the stage with Michael Dell in Austin at a forum on technology in the classroom. Dell was less inflammatory in his remarks, speaking of the need for a more competitive market for principals.

It's not clear whether Steve Jobs will continue to speak out on issues like education, but he is showing his colors. He runs Apple with an iron fist and apparently thinks that schools should be run the same way. He's right that the ideal would be to only have great teachers, but blaming the bad teacher syndrome totally on the unions isn't going to solve the problem. Paying teachers a better wage to attract more talent (they don't get those nice back-dated stock options) and keeping the good teachers from seeking other employment because they can't afford to teach would be a good start. That's not to say that the teacher unions can't improve on performance standards for their members to eliminate poor performers from the teacher pool.

Update: Don Dodge says the problem is not money.

Schools already get more than 50% of the local budgets in most cities and towns. Health care is the same deal. We spend more per capita on health care than any country in the world. The problems with education and health care are not lack of funding. The problem is lack of incentive.

Robert Scoble and Giovanni Rodriquez chime in. More on Techmeme.

Topic: Apple

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  • Union Problems

    This is just another case where unions do more to harm the industry than help. The fact of the matter is, every teacher in the world is a teacher because they WANT to teach - the pay isn't and won't be high enough to attract the "brightest" talent. The unions push for higher wages - which reduce overall employment levels. They protect horrible teachers via tenure agreements. What Jobs is saying is very true. Teachers that are tenured but are bad teachers should be fired. They consume tax payer dollars and compromise the education and future of upcoming generations. Teachers can get lazy when they know they can't be fired. Additionally, since privatization is out as an option for public schools - we should switch to a voucher system to improve the education system without having to pay any extra money. It's been proven time and time again that when government agencies are privatized they perform with a much higher level of efficiency. However, it must be recognized that without public education, illiteracy would rise and the nations poorest would be bound to their poverty for lack of an opportunity to better themselves. Thus, the voucher system allows for an imitation of privatization without compromising equal opportunity for education.
    • But isn't peer review the only way

      to determine the "bad" teachers? How can this determination lie directly on the principal who may just be a "bad" principal? That form of dictatorship is likely to harm young people from wanting to teach to begin with, since they may have an alternative style a given priciple might find a "bad" teaching. I guess that's an issue itself, determining what is bad, what is alternative to traditional and what is just a rift between teacher and principal no matter the competence of the teacher. <br>
      Steve Jobs, as the story states, is in no real position to carry any weight on this matter. He runs a shop that outsources practically everything they do with a team of programmers and engineers on staff to enhance or extend what they've purchased. Is that the kind of model that fits well in a school? Teach kids how to find those to do the work for you and you just concentrate on marketing it, using commercials with lies and attack ads if necessary? I'd think Steve Jobs might want to consider his own "children" before speaking out against the teacher union. I'm sure it's just another play for public attention by the megalomaniac Jobs. Just more theater that is surely aimed at some futher purpose to gain marketshare for the Mac. He has demonstrated he has no conscience, so who is supposed to believe this beyond the small legion of Jobs loyalists and zealots.
      • Let the parents choose

        In the end, the parents are responsible to determine the quality, not a school board or group of "educated people." I want to choose how my children are taught and with what they are taught. I find Will Smith's choice intriguing. He has chosen to hire personal tutors to teach his children Plato's Republic - in FIRST grade.

        Yeah, I'm pretty sure that would make most school boards happy. More educated children who can recognize a self-perpetuating monoploy when they see one....

        While I am probably harder on public education than I should be, I do notice several things. First, money doesn't solve the issue. Every election we choose to throw more money at the problem and every year we are told that we are being stingy. We need to throw more money becuase teachers are underfunded and schools can't afford to educate. Whatever.

        Second, I fail to see how schools can educate unwilling children. If the parents refuse to care, why will the children?

        My solution? Fairly straightforward (and a bit idealistic). Get rid of mandatory education. Only those who want to go should have education. Don't turn anyone away, but don't require it either. (Once a upon a time education was a priviledge and an honor to be achieved. Only the rich could go. I say, let them go if they want the priviledge, just don't shove the "honor" down their throats.) What about those who won't go to school? Make them work. They can have a choice after 4th or 5th grade. School or work. Make school tough enough so that it isn't the easy ride.

        Some day in the near future, poorly educated parents will force their children to go to school because these parents have learned the value of education.

        And for pity's sake, don't look down on blue collar workers. Any job that puts food on the table and shelters a family is an honorable profession. THis insistance that everyone must be good looking and wealthy disillusions children. If they can't easily get it all, why try to get anything?

        Just my humble opinion.
        • Which one are you behind again?

          Letting parents choose, or the governent choose or just who? At first you sounded like it should be the parents choice and you gave a rich person as an example of something outside of public school. Then you later moved on to say parents ARE the problem. And further on you mention forcing them to choose between work or school at the age of 10 or 11?
          • Education in perspective

            Education is a thorny field.

            Clearly, there does need to be a mechanism for evaluating teachers, but one not subject to whims of one person or some remote HR. Perhaps needed is a periodic evalution by a committee of:
            - Principal
            - Elected parent representative (must be a parent of a child at the school
            - Elected teaching staff member
            - Schools board representative (from whatever organisation actually pays the salary).
            I think this would minimise the influence of any one person.

            I know there is a lot of union bashing, but it all came about because many companies would generally get away with murder if they could (its amazing what megalamania strikes when lots of money is to be had). Just look at the death rate for South American indian harvesting rubber in the early days. Long hours in factories in the Industrial Revolution. The list goes on up up until today. However, some unions, because of their unique placement in some industries, have gained enormous power, while other workers, such as shop assistants, get poor protection because they are are typically working for small businesses, that are usually given a fairly free reign to treat people how they want by governments (under the mistaken belief that those businesses would suffer if they had to fulfil the same employer obligations as larger ones).
            I think unions are like technology, they lift the bottom line, but should not (and cannot really) define the heights to which people should be able to reach.

            As for principals, while they may be managers I think they are often given free reign in some areas that would be better centrally managed. I recently did some work for the Education Department in an Australian state. Some bright spark a couple of decades ago allowed schools to select whatever computers they wanted and mange them in whatever way they wanted. Well, in the present time, the havoc is being wreaked, with fractioned services and over half of the computers being unmanaged (that is, they must have someone actually physically install stuff on them rather than push it out to the desktop). That is a real problem given the need to maintain child protection standards across 1.4 million users (one in 5000 people on the planet, one in 20 in Australia, and one in five in the state).

            Technology in schools should be managed as an enterprise, but allowing schools to decide some of their own business rules, but not in the technology layer (equipment and network). Also, the Education Department would save an enormous amount if it built its own computers. They would only need a few configurations tailored to their own circumstances, and therfore avoid the continual model churn of manufacturers trying to attract new customers. As a former tech manager at a computer manufacturer, I know how little it costs to make a computer. Only a few spare parts lines (and the associated reduction in permutions of drivers) would provide substantial savings and reduced repair turnaround times (board test jockeying is simpler). Also, they could design (or buy) their own OS build, fully tailored to their technology and their teaching environment, and not to the generalised marketplace of companies battling over the hearts and minds of children who they want to be their future customers.
  • Interesting article

    The anti-Jobs bias is there but imagine, he has actually said to one of his strategic
    markets that they need to do better.

    I disagree that Jobs runs Apple with an iron fist. I do believe he has a low
    tolerance for people not doing their best. The results are clear.

    If schools were managed well, they would do better. The problem for one of my
    teaching friends is that they don't look at substance, they look at form. They
    aren't interested in how great teachers teach and how bad teachers can improve,
    they are mostly just expert at political harrassment. Very demoralizing.

    I actually think similarly to Apple: they don't hire Macheads and I am now starting
    to think people who really want to be teachers make potentially bad teachers.

    If I could wave a magic wand, a teacher would have to have 15 years experience in
    business before they could be a teacher and being a teacher would have to be a
    more compelling job so we could get the top thinkers into teaching not the folks
    that enjoy thinking for the sake of thinking.
    • I'm sorry but following your logic

      We have the worst doctors, engineers, programmers, business managers etc. etc. working in those professions, or at least those that really wanted to be doctors and engineers and programmers and business managers. <br>
      I think your logic makes some small degree of sense at one level, but ignores too many other facts and reality itself. <br><br>
      <i>I disagree that Jobs runs Apple with an iron fist. I do believe he has a low
      tolerance for people not doing their best. The results are clear.</i><br><br>
      Ok, please name one innovation that originated inside the hallowed walls of Apple that has proved itself to be something that has changed the world for the better. I can't think of any of hand. Each and every thing they do or sell is aimed at making a high margin profit and nothing more. <br>
      There was no "desktop for everyone" thinking at Apple. Ever. You have to wonder what would have happened if the PC and Microsoft had not come along. By all indications of reality, we'd be 20 years behind the curve and only the privileged would have computers in their homes.
      • Sorry, I don't follow YOUR logic.

        Hmmm. 'If Microsoft hadn't come along, we would be 20(twenty, two decades, a quarter century behind) years behind the curve.'

        You must be right. All of the major innovations like, eek, the mouse, was invented by Microsoft. Oh, no, it wasn't.

        But wait! Microsoft had really looked above and beyond when creating Windows as a 'network aware' OS. Sorry, no on that one, too.

        Maybe there was that GUI thing, right? No, that was Apple. Gosh, what was it that set Microsoft apart?

        Oh, SECURITY!!

        • While I don't follow his Logic Either

          The GUI and the Mouse came from Xerox PARC.

          • but the GUI and the Mouse gained 'purpose' at Apple!

            When we talk about the GUI as an experience we know today, we are talking of a
            commerially viable system; and for this Apple has to be given credit!

            It's like when we talk of Cinema as we know it today, we refer to the Lumi?re Bros.
            and not the cave dwellers of Altamira.

            And FYI, if you really want the facts, the GUI and Mouse (as seems to be the
            popular myth among wannabe tech know-alls) DID NOT 'come from' XEROX.
            The mouse as well as the precursors to GUI were first designed at Stanford
            Research Institute. XEROX created the first Graphics-based Interface for their
            Research Computer (Alto) and later Apple used the concept and introduced the
            first [commercial] GUI for the 'Personal Computer'/ the 'Desktop', when they
            introduced their first Macintosh, the Lisa.
          • Never heard about the Stanford Research Institute Working on it

            But I realize Apple is the one that popularized it. Xerox PARC was still where they got it from though.

          • Why does that go to Apple?

            <i>When we talk about the GUI as an experience we know today, we are talking of a
            commerially viable system; and for this Apple has to be given credit!
            Why? I think it goes to Microsoft that brought to over 90% of the offices and homes around the industrialized world. It's not Apple's technology to own. Apple is currently running on nothing but government sponsored research. Money that came from the last 3 generations of taxpayers. I pay a *nix/Apple tax everything I get paid. You call that innovation? At least MS writes the vast majority of it's own code. <br><br>
            Apple has really done nothing for the propogation of computer access around the world. They have a black box product that ties machine and OS (i'm very confident in saying any company could build a decent machine working on one consistent piece of hardware, but I'm afraid it's too much lock in. most people want to be able to use the hardware of their choice and this is why Linux will over take Apple as second to MS in marketshare.)
        • ok, be smug about it.

          but "innovation" is not always the coolest technical component. History is littered with process changes and distribution techniques that are just as important as, say, the PARC gui that Apple "borrowed" and now Apple zealots like to claim as an Apple invention. (that mouse would be another like this one.)
          Zealots like to brag about feats of technology but they don't get you anywhere without the skills to make them useful. Microsoft has dominated taking existing technologies (just like the Mac which is comprised of PARC, BSD, NEXTSTEP(a decision that killed BeOS) and various other technologies, none of which were invented by Apple ) and their own innovations and making an OS for the masses. Take Mac's cheap's lacking in essentials to the degree it defeats the purpose of OS X. Can't bring in video in highest res, can't have a bigger screen, other video restrictions etc. For 1200, you can have a 17" super hi res monitor and Vista ultimate running on a 2GB machine. There's no contest. <br>
          MS strength is in building developer friendly environment that provides the best dev. platform on the market and tons of free tools and an extremely large population of developers to build new technologies and apps on top of Windows. It's also very network ready and virtually plugs into a windows network with AD and GP. Apple has this? <br>
          To be fair, feel free to list any Apple innovations or what it's done for the average consumer.
          One of the most outspoken people against MS ahs even said MS has innovated as much as any other large techno
          • That's easy

            For anyone that's not a windows zealot to see. Microsoft copies Apple at every turn.
            When Bill Gates saw the first Mac, in 1982, He knew that it was worlds above MS DOS.
            So Microsoft copied it (although very poorly). Microsoft was close to being on par
            with Mac OS 1 in 1995 (win 95). Since then Microsoft has been known to copy ideas
            (and often steal code) from all of it's "partners". Now that's truly an innovation. Steal
            from everyone. Or how about the Microsoft tax? It's on everything you buy, rent, etc.
            If the company uses Microsoft products, they charge the customer a higher price due
            to the Microsoft tax they pay.
          • Rick Rick Rick

            So Microsoft stole the gui that Apple stole? Wow. You make no sense. Ever hear of business Rick? I think MS did do a deal with Apple once for rights to Office(which Mac users cling to, to this day) for sharing some of the gui that Apple didn't create and wasn't theirs for the giving really anyway. But so goes business deals, made by Apple and MS. Remember too that MS had no viable competition at the time of the anti-trust hearings so don't be going on about "stealing" code.
            You are the typical apple zealot that loves to say MS "copies" Apple. Copies what? Apple ahs never coded anyting to copy! And what you are referring to anyway is superficial pieces of the OS. You and other zealots never talk about the MS code base and kernel and dev. platform, which is all MS has ever claimed to create...a dev. platform to innovate on top of. Vista takes the dev. platform to new levels that don't play in your "MS is copying apple" small world. these are serious real deal technologies. <br>
  ,1895,2093762,00.asp <br>
            speaking of taxes, what about the Apple/*nix tax? The one that's been coming out of every American's paycheck since Darpa and the government sponsorship that has paid for the PARC, Berkeley, Stanfor and other reserach and technologies. It created tcp/ip, risc processor, modern day Unix and predecessors. All at the expense of taxpayers. there's your tax.....not the fabricated one you apply to a business the same way one coudl apply it to every busines. The Apple ipod tax. Yep, everytime you buy a music player you are paying an ipod tax. Yesiree. Come on Rick, get real and have a clue.
          • It's so easy

            To get the windows [b]Zealots[/b] in a tizzy. Mention facts that disrupt their "We love
            Microsoft" mantra and you get them all worked up. You also forgot about the
            Microsoft tax, due to falsifying the books. You know where Microsoft has been
            collecting corporate welfare for the last 20 or so years. OK they're not the only ones
            doing it, just one of the biggest offenders.
          • Easier

            Apple is headed by a crook. He's already admitted to falsifying stock option dates....what more proof does anyone need. It's illegal, end of story. He'd look good in an orange jumpsuit btw. It's be better than either the all black star trek outfit he used to wear for maczealotworld, or the current day jeans too tight for an elderly gentleman look. <br>
            Maybe you should pay more attention to the criminals in your cult and not worry so much about the outside world. You don't live in it anyway, zealot.
      • Perhaps you should elaborate

        [i]There was no "desktop for everyone" thinking at Apple. Ever. You have to wonder what would have happened if the PC and Microsoft had not come along. By all indications of reality, we'd be 20 years behind the curve and only the privileged would have computers in their homes.[/i]
        If not for Microsoft, we would be 20 years ahead instead of behind, and if not for NeXT being bought by Apple, we'd be even further behind then we are now.

        Microsoft is at least 7 years behind if you were to compare it to Mac OS X, but if you were to go even further back, you would find that Mac OS X is really just NeXTstep with Mac OS Interface Elements, which places Microsoft more then a decade behind.

        Here's what's sad, while Vista has a need for powerful hardware, and it has a nice shiny UI, it's still a Pig Wrapped in Glitz. Nothing evolutionary about it.

        Apple does not make new ideas from scratch, they take great ideas, they improve them, and they turn them into an actual Product. Microsoft takes great ideas, demoralizes them, throws their weight in FUD (ever hear of DR-DOS?) and eventually comes up with a nice idea, and throws it into their existing slop, place a pretty ribbon on it and dress it up with roses, and call it a day.

        Apple makes products, Microsoft rehashes existing ones.
        It seems I can't access the site anymore (requires authentication) but I have the transcripts from December 1st and December 4th at least, and a few Internal Microsoft Documents.

        • oh, another Apple zealot.

          who delights in putting down MS's technology while grandstanding that of Apple. Ever notice Windows users don't go around bleating like an apple zealot about their loyalty to one man. <br>
          I was talking in terms of internet proliferation, PC ownership and the evolution of the world. You are just talking about the fact Apple has ripped off the technologes it needs to have a "cool" interface. Sorry, I sometimes forget what's really important. Making Steve Jobs bad....of course.
          Actually Apple is so far behind Microsoft in networking and client networking tools and developer resources and .NET 3.0, i won't venture to say by how far...but it's a lot. MS has known all along that glitz and glimmer don't win the OS contest. <br>
          I guess the proof in technology superiority comes with applications, that is why people buy computers, not to just marvel at the gui on their machine. ( i do think some apple zealots do this however....they have no real use for the machine as it really doesn't have any industry standard productivity apps, those they license from MS as always, but they just like having a shiny new Mac to make them "feel good" when they surf the shopping sites. ). <br>
          you talk aobut Vista's needs. Why not start at the basic user since Apple wants to compare their 1200.00 anti-mac. Basic Vista will run on machines up to 5 years old. You are being misleading and talking aobut getting the best out of Vista Ultimate. Any machine less than up to 3 years old can run Ultimate. And most times a cheap RAM investment is all that is needed if anything. You can get Vista Ultimate machine brand new for the amount of the Mac-Lite 1200.00 model that doesn't evedn support hi-res video. And Apples argument? Well, you have to upgrade hardware but you don't with a Mac, so buy a Mac? Sure, overspend by a grand on a powerbook pro and that has saved you anything? And you still need to get Office for Mac and other Microsoft tools to actaully do anything.
          what does apple have to match, in reality, office 2007 of Sharepoint 2007 or Server 2007 or Server 2003 or Biztalk server or Groove server/client or .NET 3.0 and the foundation classes that allow for next gen internet apps or commerce server or SQL Server 2005...I could go on. What's their answer to the xbox? Small percentage of users that are geeks? <br><br>
          truth be told, the stats show Macs appeal mostly to people 50+, so I guess they do need to make a machine that is what you get and not very configurable less Granny forget how to turn it on.
          • What the heck are you blathering about?

            You don't make any sense.