Steve Jobs on Education: And they say WE stick our feet in our mouths

Gizmodo reports that Steve Jobs had stern words for the Teachers Union:

Well, Maybe Steve Jobs Doesn’t Know Everything
"Not content with simply railing on Windows Vista, a few days ago his Jobsness blasted teachers’ unions as the major cause of education problems in this country."

Their source is here:

Apple CEO lambasts teacher unions
"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.  "This unionization and lifetime employment of K-12 teachers is off-the-charts crazy."

First of all, I come from a long line of teachers.  More than half my relatives are teachers, principals, or school counselors.  If it hadn’t been for computers, I probably would have become a teacher.  I sometimes think about trying to become a substitute teacher when I retire.

Personally, I think Steve Jobs is being presumptuous, talking about a topic that I don’t think he has any real experience in. Just because you sell computers to K-12 schools doesn’t make you inherently knowledgable about education itself – especially when it comes to an entire group’s profession.  I’m not exactly wild about any unionized labor however the biggest challenge with Education in America has less to do with the unionization of teachers and more to do with issues such as a our legal system and the prevailing social climate that teachers have to teach in.

After growing up watching teachers all my life, (like waiting in the back of my Mom’s classrooms) my thinking has been that schools need to minimize the variation in child aptitude per class so that every group of students can move forward and progress together.  Dumping one problem child into a classroom hurts the educational quality of the whole class… much less dumping 3 or 4 problem children. Children with special needs have to be dealt with by teachers that are focused on dealing with them. Children with ADD, children with serious behavioral problems, children with developmental issues… having these children in the same classrooms as high performing students is completely par for the course.

And the imbalance of a constructive learning environment between "Home" and "School" is another big issue. Too many parents use school as ‘day care’ and really don’t care if their kids do their homework, live with appropriate social & behavioral boundaries, or adhere to strong role models.  Personally, I think all schools with the most difficult issues should switch to become boarding schools with uniforms to begin to enforce the basics of structure & boundaries 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Also most curriculum has been uninspired.  Bill Gates has been focusing on new ways and new environments to teach in, other than the chalkboard, cubby hole, and student desk we see in the typical classroom today.  The reduction/elimination of programs like music, art, drama, and after school activities have created even less structure for students while diminishing their opportunities to flex their learning aptitude while still being given good guidance.

And then there’s all the red-tape, legal regulations, and litigation concerns that teachers have to go through.  Frankly, I think a lot of that could be fixed just by America going to a "loser pays" model for litigation:  If a parent sues a school, and they lose, they’re responsible for the legal fees and labor income lost associated with the trial.  Every other modern country in the world has this principle in place and lawsuits don’t run rampant there as they do in the US.

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