From the mouth of Steve Jobs

I looked at a lot of oral histories and interviews while I was preparing my semester project, but one of the most interesting by far was an interview of Steve Jobs posted with the Smithsonian. As his company continues to make products the Web 2.0 users are buying religiously, his opinion carries weight. In the interview, Jobs addresses education directly, and computers in education specifically.

He reinforces one of the things I believe about education. Children are smart and inquisitive until we screw them up. Says Jobs, “I encountered authority of a different kind than I had ever encountered before, and I did not like it. And they really almost got me. They came close to really beating any curiosity out of me.” I do believe that the beuracracy of the system can, unfortunately, squash the creativity and drive out of its students and even its teachers. We have to fight against what is easy, what is comfortable, and challenge ourselves and our students. We need to recognize our differences and incorporate them as strengths, not iron them out to some uniform ideal that doesn’t exist. He also recognizes the value of a good educator: “I know from my own education that if I hadn’t encountered two or three individuals that spent extra time with me, I’m sure I would have been in jail. I’m 100% sure that if it hadn’t been for Mrs. Hill in fourth grade and a few others, I would have absolutely have ended up in jail.”

And he says that computers are not the most important thing in schools: “helped with more computers in more schools than anybody else in the world and I absolutely convinced that is by no means the most important thing. The most important thing is a person. A person who incites your curiosity and feeds your curiosity; and machines cannot do that in the same way that people can.”

But good ol’ Steve also says some things I don’t agree with. He’s pro-voucher, for one thing:I believe very strongly that if the country gave each parent a voucher for forty-four hundred dollars that they could only spend at any accredited school several things would happen. Number one schools would start marketing themselves like crazy to get students. Secondly, I think you’d see a lot of new schools starting. I’ve suggested as an example, if you go to Stanford Business School, they have a public policy track; they could start a school administrator track. You could get a bunch of people coming out of college tying up with someone out of the business school, they could be starting their own school. You could have twenty-five year old students out of college, very idealistic, full of energy instead of starting a Silicon Valley company, they’d start a school. I believe that they would do far better than any of our public schools would. The third thing you’d see is I believe, is the quality of schools again, just in a competitive marketplace, start to rise. Some of the schools would go broke. Alot of the public schools would go broke. There’s no question about it. It would be rather painful for the first several years.”

Spoken like one of the “haves,” Steve.

So there are things I agree with here, and there are some things that make me go, “WHAT?” Either way, an interesting viewpoint. Check out the full interview


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