Jobs attack on teacher unions may upset some Mac fans

February 20, 2007

Jobs attack on teacher unions may upset some Mac fansMacintosh computers have a reputation as being a favorite with progressive, arty types, though that may change after Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ recent tirade against  teacher unions.

Along with Dell CEO, Michael Dell, Steve Jobs was speaking at an education reform conference in Austin, Texas, on bringing technological advances to classrooms.

Jobs’ contention was that no matter what technology was introduced into the classroom, public education would not improve until the union stranglehold on the teaching profession was removed.

“I believe that what is wrong with our schools in this nation is that they have become unionized in the worst possible way,” Steve Jobs said, according to an Associated Press report. 

He suggested that anyone who was smart would not become a school principle because they “couldn’t rid of people that they thought weren’t any good”.

Jobs also said that the unionization and lifetime employment of K-12 teachers was “off-the-charts” crazy. He quipped that Apple had probably lost business in Texas because of his attack on teacher unions.

Dell took a more moderate line, explaining that unions were initially created because employees were being treated unfairly, but now enterprises take “good care of their people”. Dell’s take on the problems with public schools was that there needed to be a competitive job market for principals.

Whether Jobs’ views have merit or not is not the point; certainly there are arguments for both sides.

What’s interesting is the potential of Jobs’ views to alienate some of his adoring Mac fans, who traditionally come from education, and typically liberal creative professions, such as design and movie making.

As an interesting aside, the world’s richest man, and chairman of Microsoft, Bill Gates also shares Jobs’ concerns about public education, but he has a very different perspective, which you can read about in this report from the Seattle Times.

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16 Responses to “Jobs attack on teacher unions may upset some Mac fans”

  1. thomas B:

    Maybe Jobs didn’t like the school he sent his kids to. He may have oversimplified the problem here. I think there are a lot of factors weighing the schools down: No Child Left Behind; many non-English speaking students; violence; politicos dumbing down the curriculum.

  2. Wally:

    Jobs is absolutely rigth. There are way too many really bad teachers who stay because of tenure for 30+ years. As a former teacher I worked side by side with many really good teachers and almost as many really inept people making the same money and doing half the job or less.

  3. Dave:

    Anyone who does not understand that the public school system is totally a mess has no kids in school. You’d think for nearly $10K per student, per year a kid would get an excellent education. After all, that is over $300K per classroom. Attack Jobs if you want to, but if you do, then is demonstrates to me that you went to a public school and just don’t know any better. He merely said that you have to be able to dump lousy teachers… how could anyone disagree with that?

  4. Kevin Olson:

    Jobs is right on target. Secretary of Education Jobs???

  5. Benton:

    Apple Helped How?
    … and how did Steve Jobs represent Apple as a solution to the issues confronting education?
    On Apple’s time Steve Jobs should propose methods and procedures Apple is capable of bringing to the challenges faced by members of EDUCAUSE.
    What ever his personal philosophies may be that influence how he prefers to spend his own money I wish he’d check them at the door.
    Steve was invited to showcase Apple’s vision for the education market. He was not invited to quarrel with or slander attendees.
    On this day he was part of the problem, not part of Apple’s solution. He needs to keep these Bad days to a minimum.

  6. InRussetShadows:

    Jobs is dead-on right — you do need to be able to fire bad teachers without going through the endless hurdles that the teachers’ unions demand. The public sector almost always fares poorly when compared to a private-sector equivalent, but nowhere is this more shockingly apparent than in the case of primary education.

  7. Manuel Rivas:

    I think job is way out his field on this one. This issue is more complex than blaming the unions. Teachers in the past where big time supporters of macs in the schools so I don´t understand his attack on one of the most loyal segments that supported Apple through its worse times.

    I think Steve Jobs is full of himself. He kids do not go to public schools. He does not know what he is talking about. So he is tech visionary, granted. But that does not make him an education expert. Does Jobs believe in schooling? Last time I checked he is one our famous college dropouts.

  8. Sebhelyesfarku:

    Jobs can say anything, Maczealots will kiss his ass anyways.

  9. nunja:

    He’s just a typical Liberal. Wants to use other people’s money instead of reaching into his own pockets. At least Union members have higher wages and therefore pay higher taxes.

  10. Tim:

    While I love my Mac, I don’t always agree (if ever) with Steve Job’s political viewpoints, but on this one I wholeheartedly agree.

  11. Albo:

    If the Mac crowd is really progressive, they would get behind Jobs’. His points actually go beyond being just “anti-union” — they speak to the heart of an education hierarchy that is removed from accountability toward its main clients — the kids ! And it goes beyond K-12, too… The cancer that is “tenure” extends well into universities as well. Jobs only sees what any parent sees, which is that public schools are a cruel joke on our kids. Remember, he didn’t criticize teachers, just the system that guarantees mediocrity.

  12. Dave:

    It is a myth that bad teachers cannot be fired. Any bad teacher nationwide can be fired for incompetence. No state law or tenure policy applies. The principals just have to do their jobs and get in to observe them and then document their findings. Part of the problem, though, is that some parents will protest a teacher with very demanding standards and high expectations. Simply because Johnny Apple didnt get an A this time. SAD…

  13. zpf:

    I just have to shake my head about all these people who learned economics from Fox “News” and Rush Dumbaugh. The “accountability” movement you morons have foisted on America has dumbed down our schools and caused good teachers to be labeled “bad.” Now the “good” teachers teach to the test, instead of teaching creativity, real-world problem solving, and higher-order thinking. Teachers are held more and more “accountable” for things beyond their control, which is logically counterproductive (not to mention abusive) just to satisfy politically motivated stupidity. Despite what you talk radio parrots espouse, Unions are an indispensible aspect of a functioning free-market economy. Without them we’d see a lot more gov. intervention necessary.

  14. Luke:

    Way to go Steve. Usually your politics are leftist, but you’re right on here. it’s About time we all realize throwing more money and tech doesn’t help kids. Private education spends way less per student, and sees much better results. Why? management from a real-world business-driven perspective. More people should be standing up against this bureaucracy, and the joke that our public education system is.

  15. Luke:

    in response to zpf:
    We’re talking about Grade school here. Creativity, problem solving, and higher order thinking is all great, but shouldn’t kids focus on reading, multiplication tables, long division, and historical facts and figures? Public education is to provide a solid basic education for everyone so we can function together on a reasonable, level field of merit. Go to college or a private school for a social experimment. maybe learning a basic set of knowledge is what public schools are supposed to be. (aka the “evil” test) And, when was the government a functioning, free market economy? unions don’t need to belong in goverment. it already functions like the most corrupt union ever imagined, it doesn’t need sub-unions.

  16. John:

    In response to first Dave,

    My on the site council for my children’s school. The school get approximately $480,000 for 102 students or about 4,800 per student. We have 6 class rooms, about 15 – 18 students per class. Love to be in a district that can spend $10,000 per student. Where can I find this Utopia. Though 30 students per class, escpecially in the elementary schools is way to high in my opinion.

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