Steve Jobs Takes On Teacher Unions

Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple, blames teacher unions for most of what’s wrong with education today:

AUSTIN — Apple Inc. CEO Steve Jobs lambasted teacher unions today, claiming no amount of technology in the classroom would improve public schools until principals could fire bad teachers.

Jobs compared schools to businesses with principals serving as CEOs.

“What kind of person could you get to run a small business if you told them that when they came in they couldn’t get rid of people that they thought weren’t any good?” he asked to loud applause during an education reform conference.

“Not really great ones because if you’re really smart you go, ‘I can’t win.'”


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.”

This surely won’t endear Jobs or Apple to the National Education Association, but Jobs is completely right.

H/T: Club For Growth

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  • Alan

    Yup. Teachers unions make a lot of trouble for anyone trying to make any meaningful change.

    I think they’re a subset of the general problem though, which is that the schools are government run. When people can’t take their money and go somewhere else for better service (a monopoly), most people are just going to be stuck with it.

    Now government schools are not a total monopoly, but since most people don’t have the money to pay for private school (along with paying taxes for government school), for those people it is effectively a monopoly.

  • Albo

    If the Mac crowd is really progressive, they would get behind Jobs’. His points actually go beyond being just “anti-union” — they speak to the heart of an education hierarchy that is removed from accountability toward its main clients — the kids ! And it goes beyond K-12, too… The cancer that is “tenure” extends well into universities as well. Jobs only sees what any parent sees, which is that public schools are a cruel joke on our kids. Remember, he didn’t criticize teachers, just the system that guarantees mediocrity.
    And by the way, technology is not the answer. The answer lies in the freedom to innovate and fix the current mess — without union constraints.

  • Randall

    Jobs blames teacher unions for poor performances of students?! Maybe if the teachers could get the students to take their iPODS out of their ears and listen, or if the GOP would put forth a decent education bill, or if the parents of said students took an active interest in their child’s education instead of simply demanding that school boards raise their kids, the union wouldn’t have to stand up for their rights and neo-Reaganites like Jobs who have made their millions selling hyped up products to kids could complain about something else.

  • Joe

    While I can’t disagree that _some_ parents don’t take an “active interest in their child’s education”, that is far, far from a blanket statement about all parents. The problem with teacher unions is that it’s nearly impossible to fire a teacher, no matter what the reason (if you don’t agree with me, check out the 20/20 Special: Stupid in America). You cannot deny that a bad teacher is going to have students with lower test scores and less preparedness for high school/college than a good teacher. The school usually knows which teachers are good, which are bad; but they can’t do anything about it. In any other business if an employee produced a product that has defects (this may seem like a cold comparison to you, but effectively a school is a business and students are the products by which people judge the business) that employee will be severely reprimanded, or even fired. Because of teachers’ unions, school administrators’ hands are tied. They cannot fire the bad teachers and they can’t reward the good ones, because that would be deemed unfair to everyone else.

  • uhm

    I want a free education system (supported by ads on the web) which is privatized mostly. Have standardized requirements that everyone must meet to get a high school diploma. Everyone should be able to read, write correctly and do Calculus level math. We should allow industries to set standards of what knowledge is required for certain jobs. All the information needed to know to do the job would be freely available on the internet. People would need to learn at least say 90% of the information. Then they go to college and get hands on training and then they start the job they were trained for. We could cut down on school overcrowding by letting grandparents (they will need income to survive) take care of the young whipper snappers and get paid for it by their parents. The children will more likely focus on learning rather than each other. Private organizations could have the information available online or buy it in a store but all of it would be within the public domain. We would no longer have to worry about the government brainwashing our children.

  • Pat

    I’ve read multiple books and articles on the state of our education system. The problem is not that the points are wrong about what’s going on in education but that the solutions are always about hacking teachers not the political process at the local, state and federal level.

    Education has become a poltical football driven by two faced politicans and corporations. The corporations who are antiunion (workers) want a cheap labor force. Studies show that the more educated the more money you make or at least negotiate for. Jobs and Apple are fiercely anti-union. Dell Computers CEO Michael Dell stated unions were developed because “the employer was treating his employees unfairly and that was not good,” but you didn’t see that reported

    When teachers union have stepped forward with proven policies that enhance the class room such as smaller class size, up to date non politically edited course books, accountabilty with safe guards so as to disapprove corporate or political favoritism, etc. There’s a whole list that’s been meant with no comment or consideration from the anti-union or education reform trumpanters.

    Some academics blame the unions when student achievement remains stagnant. If scores are low, the critics say it must be because of the teachers’ contract, not because the district has a weak curriculum or lacks resources or has mediocre leadership. If some teachers are incompetent, it must be because of the contract, not because the district has a flawed, bureaucratic hiring process or has failed to evaluate new teachers before awarding them tenure.

    No one also want to address the states that prohibit collective bargaining for public school educators,like: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming. A majority of these states per capita spending on education is ranked in the bottom half of the USA.

    Public education was started by our forefathers because they knew that an educated voter would make the right decisions for the democracy not for the select few.

    If we continue down the path of corporatizing public education we will destory America future.