To Steve Jobs On Education: Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is!

by Tanner Godarzi Mar 02, 2007

When Steve Jobs gave his opinion on teacher unions he might as well have opened Pandora’s Box armed with nothing more than a keyboard. Why a keyboard and not the power and money to change the current situation? Because all it took was a keyboard for Steve Jobs to show his dislike for DRM. But Jobs has the chance to put his money where his mouth is or just be another rotten apple.

I am not going to defend every teacher or anyone related to teaching, because there are those who genuinely should be fired, there are those who make students dislike every bit of the public school system even more, and there are those who take the free ride given to them and completely ignore the students.

About two weeks ago, Steve Jobs and Michael Dell teamed up on stage at an education reform to offer their views about the public schooling system. Steve Jobs equated schools to businesses and focused on teacher unions. His reason for this was based on how hard it is to fire bad people whether they be teachers, administrators, or principals.

Steve gave a very good analysis of the partial problem. However, he lacked one key thing in his speech. He forgot his trademark “Oh, and one more thing.” What was that “one more thing?” A proposed solution to the problem he so boldly talked about. He talked about his dislike for Digital Rights Management only after being called out by several countries in Europe. It was easy to show how much he disliked it, but until he removes the Digital Rights Management that locks in iTunes-bought content, I will believe his point and not think that it’s there to keep users buying iPods or forfeiting their unplayable music.

I am definitely no expert on school reform in California, but as a student I can offer my opinion. For one thing, Steve Jobs mentioned that it is very hard to fire someone. This can be caused by many reasons, but they boil down to money and how long that teacher has been working. Say that half of the teachers in a school started to pile too much homework on for the 3rd graders and decided to be very, very strict. Most kids will complain about it, but there is nothing that be can be done beyond that; you can talk to the principal, but the most that may be done is having a brief talk with the teacher in question. These teachers won’t leave for a while because they have been teaching at that school for a very long time. It’s too expensive to fire them all simply because others don’t agree with their teaching methods. As long as they get the job done, they get hired and they get paid. If a teacher has not been at a school for that long, it’s easier for him to be replaced, as he is not being paid as much and lacks the experience that older teachers have.

On to what is wrong with education in public schools: before I begin, please do not take this as the rant of a student, that is not what I am aiming at. Besides criticizing teacher unions, Steve Jobs mentioned how students need to be captivated, how it would be vital in teaching them, and that technology would be a plausible answer; but yet he made no mention on how he plans to put technology into the classroom if he intends to. I can say from firsthand experience that adding technology can only go so far. What is needed are great teachers. For example, my first period English class is a great example of this. It starts at 8 AM, a time when most students are out-of-bed zombies, yet all students in the class come in perky and attentive. Why would this be? Since the semester has started we have only had 10 assignments with more than enough time to complete them. These are writing assignments about a preselected topic, but the magic is in how the entire class and teacher brainstorm about the topic.

While studying a recent era in history, a month was spent on it, learning through history books, novels, and movies taken from that time period. I have learned more about that time period than I probably would have from any other teacher. Every assignment is meant to spark your imagination and really, really get you thinking about your topic. You can probably guess my grade in the class.

Basically my point is this: technology can only go so far to teach students. A massive reform is needed to give staff members a wake up call; the people who are only in for the free ride are the ones who hurt the students’ education. More passionate teachers are needed, because these are the ones who will inspire students in their education.













  • Youch… I FULLY agree with Jobs on this one. I can name teachers from my high school who were pretty much baby sitters. We were told to read certain pages in a book every single day. Not once did they get off their rears to show or do something.

    They can’t fire them because of tenure and unions. It’s sad. My kids will NEVER goto public schools, EVER because of this.

    In Philly there is an experimental education system going on sponsored by microsoft. It’s working too. There using a computer and a projector for simulations and for general teaching. Maybe it’s more like a Keynote speach with R&B in the background, whatever it is it’s working. Grades are up nearly double and the last round of PSAT scores were all up considerably. Tech in the classroom is probably the only way to grasp the attention span of the young today.

    xwiredtva had this to say on Mar 02, 2007 Posts: 172
  • Tanner, I think you may have missed Jobs’ point on this. His point is that with the teacher unions blocking the firing of bad teachers, they can’t get good teachers in the classroom. His point was specifically that technology can’t do the whole job with the unions keeping bad teachers from being fired. The same as you sort of intimate.

    You can’t get new teachers in if you can’t fire the bad ones. There’s only so much in the budget for teachers’ salaries.

    The teachers’ unions also block any and all efforts at allowing the state governmants to give out school vouchers that would allow all parents to choose where their children go to school, even if they want to apply that money to a private school.
    If we could have a system like that, there would be a lot of competition for administrators to create a better school environment to attract the money to keep their school going.

    But the union doesn’t want to have to put forth the effort for that. They’d rather keep the teachers safe in their cushy jobs as glorified babysitters, as you say.

    Gabe H had this to say on Mar 02, 2007 Posts: 40
  • The solution is to hand over responsibility for results to the teachers union rather than to the principal.  Simply tying pay to performance is inadequate because the unions will always complain that the school administration is hindering them.  So hell yeah, let the teachers unions run the school but tie their compensation to their results.

    But realize that if you want to really improve the school system you need to attract good teachers, which means you need to offer higher salaries.  In Germany, crack math and science teachers are paid over $100K/year.  That’s the only way to lure them away from industry.

    tundraboy had this to say on Mar 02, 2007 Posts: 132
  • I have to wonder why it is that many of the best teachers are also some of the biggest supporters of the teachers union.  Maybe it’s because they like to get paid, have benefits and know that their head is not on the block whenever a new principal comes to town.  The best teachers also need this protection because they are often the pain in the ass of school administrators who by and large are nothing more than pencil pushing conformists.

    A big problem we have with schools is that we see a “problem” with a system that pretty much works.  Sure, there are poor teachers just like there are bad cops, lousy politicians, inept waiters and incompetent business managers.  But they are the minority.  Why is it that we expect all our teachers to be exceptional when all of our students are not.  The average student is just that, average.  So do you want your best teachers stuck trying to inspire students to become something they’ll never be?  Not every kid will be a rocket scientist (and those who will be are probably getting in trouble for trying to blow stuff up all the time) so quit expecting them to be. It’s OK.  We need middle managers.

    My brother, who has the most education in my family and the least common sense, graduated from law school and didn’t even know how to tie a tie.  So regardless of someone’s education, once they hit the workforce we’re gonna have to train them all anyway and the first words we should use will be, “Now forget about everything you learned in school.”

    BTW, did school help Steve Jobs get where he got today?

    Hal Summers had this to say on Mar 02, 2007 Posts: 4
  • I can only shake my head at the hostility toward “UNIONS”. Unions are brought about by poor and inept management. Under proper management, the firing bad teachers is not a problem…YOU DOCUMENT PROBLEMS IN A MANNER THAT WILL HOLD UP IN COURT. Why should the “good”, politically incorrect teacher, be fired just because management is so incompetent they can’t/won’t deal with the bad teacher, that is politically correct?

    Unions protect the good worker, who is not the pet of management. I grant you that Unions must evolve to better serve current market requirements, but so does management. I hear, over and over, about the high pay of union workers…why do I not hear as loud an outcry over the GROSSLY overpaid management? In a time of CEOs getting tens of MILLIONS of dollars of compensation for a single year of effort, why is it that the union worker, getting a few tens of thousands of dollars for that same year of effort, is the BAD GUY??

    Looking at the spelling and other errors of other posts, I laugh. There is not the same as Their, or They’re and a run-on-sentence or one without proper construction, just looks silly. Perhaps a few of those that have submitted a post would have been more wise to have learned the lessons that were being taught in class.

    As for the political issues of lobbying…...H-E-L-L-O….WRITE YOUR REP.! Sure the lobbies are doing what they can to get what they want, but remember, the VOTERS are what put the Rep. into office and when it is made very clear that even 100% of the lobbyist’ voter pool is not enough to get reelected, the Rep. will yield to the masses. So stop your bitch’n and take the time to write your Rep.. Also, be sure you vote…and be sure your Rep. knows you vote and are watching him/her.

    Boman had this to say on Mar 02, 2007 Posts: 1
  • What can you ask from the man ? He’s a billionaire… basically he can do what ever he wants (to a certain extent). I’m sure he knows better but critics will be critics.
    Hillary - mf global specialist.

    happyface had this to say on Mar 28, 2011 Posts: 3
  • I totally agree with the Jobs. I can name the teachers in my school who were well enough babysitters. We were told to read some pages of a book every day. Not once they leave their students to show or something.

    Can not fire because of the occupation and trade unions. It’s sad. My children never go to public schools, not because of it.

    Teacher unions’ also block all attempts to give the governments was to give school vouchers, which will allow all parents to choose where their children go to school, even if you want to apply the money to a private school.

    If we have a system like this, there is much competition for administrators to create a better Information Systems Essays to attract money to keep their schools going.

    Jame8S8mith had this to say on Jul 29, 2011 Posts: 1
  • I really loved reading your blog. It was very well authored and easy to understand. Unlike additional blogs I have read which are really not that good.
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    williamrichard611 had this to say on Aug 10, 2011 Posts: 12
  • I agree, I am one of those students who hate teachers because she’s met some lazy ones. I got so tired of wasting my time not doing anything, that I’ve decided to take my masters degree in communication online. Someone should really check on those teachers.

    Cheyanne had this to say on Aug 31, 2011 Posts: 2
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