oscar run xxviii: the prestige
oscar run xxix: animated short films

has there ever been a less appropriate last name than “jobs”?

More on Steve Jobs' misinformed rant against teachers unions. The technology blog at SF Gate has a post, "Steve Jobs angers teachers," that includes the following excerpt from a response by the California Federation of Teachers:

In the years before the iPod saved Apple from extinction, its computer advertising exhumed dead geniuses for its "think different" campaign. Black and white photos, each featuring an instantly recognizable off-center hero, carried the message that if you bought a Mac, you'd be a brilliant hipster, too.

Luckily for Apple, no one could ask the deceased what they thought about that. One of this ad campaign's most enduring images was of Chicano civil rights icon Cesar Chavez, arm draped over a hoe. Farm worker union organizers had so often failed to crack the power of the state's agribusiness elite it was common wisdom that it couldn't be done. Chavez's historic achievement was to build the first farm worker union that lasted.

The ad, of course, doesn't endorse unions. It simply appropriates the image of a Chicano hero in a state with a growing Chicano population and, presumably, potential market for Apple products. Indeed, in the 1990s Steve Jobs and Apple notoriously resisted granting union recognition to its largely Latino, low paid, contracted out Silicon Valley janitorial workforce until the Justice for Janitors union campaign embarrassed the corporation sufficiently to bring Jobs and his company around.

I looked forward to reading the comments attached to the post, naively assuming Jobs would take it on the chin from enlightened readers. Boy, was I wrong. "Klingon" wrote:

Talk about revenge of the nerds. Education majors were/are universally regarded as the dumbest of undergrads/graduate students and for good reason. They have yet to realize that unionization is antithecal [sic] to professionalism. Merit, not longevity, should be the yardstick. That plus the eduNazis constantly holding children hostage for their monetary demands is despicable….

And "mmms":

Jobs merely said what everyone knows. The educational system went to the dogs a long time ago.

I posted my own comments:

I've been teaching since 1987, and have been a member of teachers unions for all of those twenty years. I am not dumb, despite what Klingon might think ... in fact, I have a PhD from Cal that I like to think I earned. I also have won teaching awards. I am proud to be in my union, which among other things provides protection against the attempts of some to apply misguided notions of "merit" as an excuse to get rid of teachers they don't like. No one likes bad teachers, but defining "bad" is far more complicated than the above commenters seem to realize. Is a teacher "bad" because he or she assigns an R-rated movie? Are they "bad" because they assign any movies at all? How about teachers who try to teach critical thinking skills to students whose parents believe critical thinking begins and ends with whatever their particular religious text tells them is right? Who do you think has the back of teachers at times like this? It sure isn't Steve Jobs.

As for holding our students hostage over "monetary demands," teachers are well aware of the negative impact labor conflicts can have on the students, and do not take actions frivolously. Klingon makes it sound, though, as if well-to-do teachers are trying to expand on their upper-middle-class existence at the expense of poor students. In twenty years, the most I have made in a single year is $40,000, and that was once ... in almost every other year, I made less than half of that. I spent ten years as a steelworker, and I made more in each of those ten years than I made in 19 of my 20 years as a teacher (which isn't to say I got rich in the factory, but just points out that teachers are woefully underpaid).

Hard-working teachers ... and there are a lot of them ... know better than anybody how pitiful the educational system is today. Teachers are working in the trenches, and are part of the solution, not the problem. If Steve Jobs or anyone else wants to point fingers at the culprits who are bringing our educational system down, they need to look somewhere besides teachers.



Excellent comment. Can't wait to read what the response is to that.

David H Dennis

Jobs is actually a pretty appropriate last name, because he holds a couple, either of which would exhaust a typical person. Heading Apple and at least advising Disney/Pixar is quite a combination. I doubt that either of us could do it.

From the outside - meaning where adults see the consequences of poor education to children, our educational system certainly seems like a failure. Simply ask a high school student to write something, anything, about a matter important to them, and try to read the result.

In the mean time, people who are homeschooled, or who learn at private schools, have somehow acquired the ability to read and write.

Furthermore, a generation or two ago, people in public schools somehow managed to learn to read and write, maybe not to the highest standards, but to much higher ones than they do today.

Those facts make me believe that the public schools are a disaster, and all the money we have pumped into them in the last decade or so has been wasted.

So are teachers' unions the problem? Certainly unions as a whole reduce flexibility by trying to divide work into bite-sized categories, and that can't be good for schooling, where I would think flexibility would be vital. And since public bargaining doesn't seem to have increased your laughable (by your own admission) salaries, perhaps the union isn't even that useful in that regard.

The problem could be the attitudes of the students, but why are those attitudes better in homeschools or religious schools? Perhaps some of the techniques of those instittuions should be emulated instead of dismissed.

You'd better hope that someone like Steve Jobs does discover something to improve our educational system, since what I'd do with the schools is to get all the people out, blow up those awful buldings, sell the sites to a shopping mall developer and use the proceeds to fund vouchers and private schooling.

Don't like that plan? Tell me why public schools deserve not to be put out of their misery, when their educational product quality, as measured by people capable of reading, writing and arithmatic, is simply dreadful.

Tell you why you deserve a second chance, or a third or a tenth, after decades of nothing but failure and declining performance.

Let it be a challenge to you.


From what I am hearing from most teachers, they feel that Jobs is correct about most of this.

And while it may NOT be true that teachers have failed our society, I feel that teacher unions have certainly failed teachers.

Jobs is a genius, if you haven't noticed, then you probably haven't used your computer much, or maybe you feel you have all you need with windoze. Maybe, if you don't need much of a computer.

Tim Selander

> The problem could be the attitudes of the students, but why are those attitudes better in homeschools or
> religious schools? Perhaps some of the techniques of those instittuions should be emulated instead
> of dismissed.

I am unqualified to speak on education other than as a parent who sent his kids to private schools. It seems obvious to me that educating kids is a partnership between school and parent. How can a school educate a kid if at home he is being 'told' that education is not important, that there are no consequences for blowing off homework, etc., etc. By the simple fact that parents are willing to spend _serious_ amounts of money (it was a real strain) to send their kids to private schools, you have proved that they have an above average interest in the education of their kids. Of course, on the whole, those kids will get a better education because their parents are invested in the situation. In many an industry, unions have become counter-productive -- the pendulum has swung too far to rewarding workers at the expense of those who have put up the capital and brains to create the businesses. However, while I object to the extremely liberal political stance the teachers unions take, I cannot say that the whole mess of education in America can be laid at their feet. It is a complicated problem, and I can't help but feel the larger fault lies with parents who are too lazy, ignorant or disinterested in helping their kids gain the tools they need to succeed in the world.

Barry Crockett

If you want to know who is to blame for the (presumably) poor standard of your public schools then you need to look in a number of places. I suspect that teacher unions and teachers are not one of them. You need to look seriously at Governments and Administrators that expect more and more to be done with fewer and fewer resources. You need to look very hard at parents who see schools as nothing more than babysitters. You need to look at ill informed media (often right wing) who have some perverse barrow to push in denigrating public education and you need to look at a culture which so often mistakes expensive with quality. As a teacher in Australia, I am not very familiar with the U.S. education system (although I have visited on a number of occasions). However the problems you describe are very familiar, as here in Australia, we have a Federal Government which is intent upon driving students out of public schools and into private schools where more of the fees are paid by the parents and less by the Government. Despite international rankings which show that Australian education standards are most competitive in relation to other countries, our Government has run a most successful and demoralising campaign against the very system which they are at least partly responsible for! Teaching is a tough job, with relatively few material benefits - teacher unions (in Australia at least) play an important role in moderating the more outrageous demands of out of touch administrators, attention seeking radio shock jocks and pig ignorant politicians whose last experience of school was a detention for truancy at the end of year ten.
Thanks for the opportunity to rant :-)
Barry Crockett
Science/IT Teacher

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