Scoble’s Note to Steve Jobs

    February 18, 2007

Steve Jobs is right that unions are corrosive on the quality of our schools. Our schools are bad because we can’t get rid of bad teachers. But, it’s worse than that — Steve Jobs’ fix wouldn’t fix the total problem. Patrick’s Mom was a teacher for a while. She left for a variety of reasons, but partly because the pay is so bad for the work you put into that job.

If you want better schools, pay teachers $80,000 a year or more, AND give the staff power to get rid of bad apples (bad pun, given the cause of today’s post, I know) and you’ll see school quality turn around in an instant.

The problem is that the political system here won’t allow politicians to increase taxes to pay for higher school wages and the unions won’t allow reforms to get rid of bad teachers. Instead we get stupid patches to the system like the “no child left behind” initiative which tries to improve results by mandating tests (most teachers I talk with say that initiative is a disaster).

Translation: the school system is just going to keep getting worse and worse. It’s so bad in my neighborhood that people openly talk about how bad it is and most parents here drive their kids 30 to 50 minutes to private schools in Silicon Valley.

We all know the school systems here (especially in California, where per-school spending is behind most other states) sucks. We just aren’t willing to do the things that need to be done to correct the problem.

Steve Jobs deserves praise for at least speaking half the truth.

Aside: he also says that he expects to lose some business because of his stance. I think he’s being disingenous there. I was on the technology committee at my son’s school. The teachers had almost all the power. If the school bought technology they didn’t like (hint: it almost always was Apple tech) they rebelled against it and caused the school management a lot of trouble.

Teachers don’t like this system either, which is why they cheered Steve Jobs’ remarks. Think about it. If you worked with someone dragging your profession down (or, worse, ill preparing kids in a grade before yours) wouldn’t you want to get rid of them too?

UPDATE: Dan Farber says pretty much the same thing I do too. So does Don Dodge, who then goes further and says the problem is a lack of incentive. I totally agree with that too. I know many college professors who are teaching the same class they did years ago. There’s no incentive to innovate, even when the world is changing around them.



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About the Author

Robert Scoble is the founder of the Scobleizer blog. He works as’s Vice President of Media Development.

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