NonUnion Apples for Teachers

In this wired news article Steve Jobs suggests that the teachers' unions are ruining America's schools because they prevent bad teachers from being fired. "I believe that what is wrong with our schools in this nation is that they have become unionized in the worst possible way," the Apple CEO told a school-reform conference in Texas on Saturday. "This unionization and lifetime employment of K-12 teachers is off-the-charts crazy." The solution, Jobs believes, is to treat schools like businesses: Empower the principal to fire bad teachers like a CEO.

Jobs has also been a longtime advocate of a school voucher system. Jobs argues that vouchers will allow parents, the "customers," to decide where to send their kids to school, and the free market will sort it out. Competition will spur innovation, improve quality and drive bad schools (and bad teachers) out of business. The best schools will thrive.

I have to admit that American education needs to be imroved but I am not sure that Jobs' ideas hold water. Leander Kahney, the article's author, disagrees with Jobs. What do you think?


  1. You were a longtime union member, you're better qualified than me to respond to the idea that unions cripple leaders from removing bad performers (sounds right to me, in my limited experience with unions).

    As a child whose parents sacrificed a great deal to send me to 12 years of private school, I think vouchers would be very upsetting for awhile, but would sort out the terrible schools and force them into some competitive position that could only improve them.

    There must some way to have a limited voucher: certainly pay some taxes for the buildings, since they serve the whole community as a public good, but not pay for teachers that aren't needed because children are going to a private school.

  2. My 7 years of low-level union participation and leadership (i.e. shop steward) caused me to see the union as just another large entity that seemed to, at times, care less about the mainstream rank-and-file tan corporate management.

    A particularly ugly interaction with a union VP helped me accept a management position in 1979 ... never regretted that decision.


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