They don’t have to care


Larry Sand channels Steve Jobs on teacher unions and education on

A 1995 interview with the late Apple founder Steve Jobs has just resurfaced and is available on YouTube. While the interview, conducted by Computerworld’s Daniel Morrow, went on for 75 minutes, the 3:42 Jobs spent talking about education is memorable. The Silicon Valley visionary knew as much about how to run an education system as he did about operating a wildly successful tech company.

The problem there, of course, is the unions. The unions are the worst thing that ever happened to education because it’s not a meritocracy. It turns into a bureaucracy, which is exactly what has happened. The teachers can’t teach and administrators run the place and nobody can be fired. It’s terrible….

Jobs went on to explain the effect that a monopoly has on a customer.

What happens when a customer goes away and a monopoly gets control, which is what happened in our country, is that the service level almost always goes down. I remember seeing a bumper sticker when the telephone company was all one. I remember seeing a bumper sticker with the Bell Logo on it and it said “We don’t care. We don’t have to.” And that’s what a monopoly is. That’s what IBM was in their day. And that’s certainly what the public school system is. They don’t have to care.

“They don’t have to care.” And that is at the heart of the matter.

To state the obvious, public education in America is big taxpayer-funded business – a business that eats up $670 billion a year, every year. And Jobs proposes a free market approach to improve the very troubled enterprise. (Since Jobs has created largest and most profitable company in the world, with fanatically loyal customers, maybe he knows what he is talking about?)

The market competition model seems to indicate that where there is a need there is a lot of providers willing to tailor their products to fit that need and a lot of competition which forces them to get better and better.

A strong universal voucher proponent, the visionary Jobs knew what we needed to do. If Jobs’ ideas were to be implemented, student achievement would rise as would the paychecks of star educators. The only losers would be unqualified teachers, bureaucrats and unionistas, none of whom at this point care about educational quality.

Because they don’t have to.

(Courtesy of the Wayback Machine, a full transcript of the Jobs’ interview is available here.)

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.