It takes a village

So Steve Jobs thinks the same iron fist mentality he has over Apple would work on education?

Apple Inc. CEO Steve Jobs lambasted teacher unions Friday, claiming no amount of technology in the classroom would improve public schools until principals could fire bad teachers.

Jobs compared schools to businesses with principals serving as CEOs.

“What kind of person could you get to run a small business if you told them that when they came in they couldn’t get rid of people that they thought weren’t any good?” he asked to loud applause during an education reform conference.

Uh huh. What kind of person could you get to work for a small business if you told them that they could only work for 6 hours a day, and then work on their product would be turned over to folks who don’t have the same training and who are maybe working two other jobs. Maybe they’re even turning their product over to someone who doesn’t speak the same language as the employee, yet the employee is responsible for making sure that the lines of communication are open. The next morning, they get the product back and they’re expected to pick up right where they left off as if those hours away in someone else’s hands made no difference. How long would it take before they started phoning it in and giving it half effort? After all, what’s the point if there’s little chance of having anything positive to show for it?

Jobs gave up some control to Motorola and we got the iTunes phone. Ha! Now he learned his lesson and we have the iPhone, so closed-off it’s amazing that he didn’t start his own carrier and shut Cingular/at&t out completely.

Education isn’t only about the teachers and schools. It isn’t only about the technology and the curriculum. It’s the parents. It’s the kids. It’s the community. All the pieces have to work together. Yes, there are some tenured teachers who should have retired years ago. But I don’t think they started out thinking, “how am I going to ruin some kids today?” They’re human, they’re frustrated, they’re disillusioned and I don’t think paying teachers six-figure salaries is going to make a difference if all aspects of the childrens’ life aren’t working in partnership putting education first.

You can’t run education like a business. For starters, there is no single person in control…a concept that is foreign to Steve Jobs.

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3 thoughts on “It takes a village

  1. Jobs didn’t comment on teacher salaries, Judi, and I think your analysis of Jobs comments is incredibly shallow. One of the points is not that some veteran teachers should retire, but that some second-year teachers deserve to get fired – but cannot be easily – too.

  2. Judi Sohn says:

    Sorry, Erik, I disagree. Jobs points fingers at bad teachers as the problem with education. A problem that he thinks can be solved by giving the “CEO” more control over the firing process. ‘”I believe that what is wrong with our schools in this nation is that they have become unionized in the worst possible way,” Jobs said.’

    I maintain that one of the problems with public education is that schools have trouble attracting and keeping good teachers. Yes, there are some ‘bad’ 2nd year teachers. But more teachers start out idealized and energized with the best intentions and promise and they get beaten down by performance standards that are based on standardized test scores and kids who have better things to do than study, among other things. Hiring good teachers (and firing the so-called bad ones) isn’t the problem. Keeping the good ones is, which is why I mentioned salary.

    I found Jobs’ comparing education to a business and thinking the same “the boss is in charge” approach would work to be shallow and unrealistic.

    Some of what’s wrong with a school the “CEO” can control. But from my experience the bigger impact is felt when the community (even those who don’t have kids in the schools) and parents are part of the solution.

  3. As a teacher and a parent, I feel the need to comment. Yes, there are some bad teachers out there but Judi’s point that teachers get blamed for bad parents is incredibly valid. Jobs’ idea that the principal should be in charge is exceptionally unrealistic — perhaps it would help but it’s so far from reality that it’s crazy to talk about — principals are NOT the CEO. They are controlled by the school district, the state, the feds, the parents, and the teachers to a large degree. The challenges that face education are daunting and to propose a quick fix is insane. Yes, bad teachers should be let go — no argument from me. But, what about bad laws? The feds regularly hand down mandates to the states about what will be taught in schools or how programs will be managed and then provide little to no funding for those programs. States typically pass the problem (but not the bucks) down to the counties and then the school district who pass it on down to the principals who have to make it work. Yea, they are the masters of their own destiny alright — if only they could fire bad teachers!

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