Apple CEO blasts teacher unions, says US schools are ‘unionized in the worst possible way’

“Apple Inc. CEO Steve Jobs lambasted teacher unions Friday [at an education reform conference in Austin, Texas], claiming no amount of technology in the classroom would improve public schools until principals could fire bad teachers,” April Castro reports for The Associated Press.

MacDailyNews Take: Never have we agreed more with anything Steve Jobs has ever said.

Castro reports, “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.””

Castro reports, “In a rare joint appearance, Jobs shared the stage with competitor Michael Dell, founder and CEO of Dell Inc. Both spoke to the gathering about the potential for bringing technological advances to classrooms. ‘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.'”

Castro reports, “At various pauses, the audience applauded enthusiastically. Dell sat quietly with his hands folded in his lap. ‘Apple just lost some business in this state, I’m sure,’ Jobs said. Dell responded that unions were created because ‘the employer was treating his employees unfairly and that was not good. So now you have these enterprises where they take good care of their people. The employees won, they do really well and succeed.'”

Full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Bizarro Ballmer” for the heads up.]
One very big reason why the state of U.S. public education is woeful is precisely because of what Jobs said today. And Michael Dell is a simpering ass-kisser who’s more concerned about saddling schools with his garbage PCs and reaping the profits than speaking the truth and trying to effect positive change. Those are two facts, as clear as can be.

Apparently, at the conference Dell also did not utter a peep about shutting down companies and giving the money back to the shareholders.

Two more points:
• Teachers for too many years were grossly underpaid, but at least you knew the majority of teachers weren’t in it for the money.
• While unionization served teachers very well, it has grown beyond what it should be. The situation is currently out of balance and has been negatively affecting the quality of U.S. public education for years.

And, before anyone starts, let it be known that we’re not jumping on the bandwagon just because Jobs said it. We’ve been on this bandwagon for years. One such example:

MacDailyNews Take (March 29, 2005): Teachers who don’t want to learn new things should be fired immediately. Sorry for the burst of truth, NEA. The NEA’s Code of Ethics of the Education Profession states: “In fulfillment of the obligation to the student, the educator shall not unreasonably restrain the student from independent action in the pursuit of learning. Shall not unreasonably deny the student’s access to varying points of view. Shall not deliberately suppress or distort subject matter relevant to the student’s progress.” The NEA has been around since 1857; supposedly “working to provide great public schools.” However, U.S. public schools are generally woeful. Is it the National Education Association or the National Education Anchor? Perhaps it’s time America tried something else, something that’s actually effective and improves the nation’s public school system?

Related article:
Apple CEO Steve Jobs: ‘I’m going to just stay away from all that political stuff’ – August 25, 2004


  1. The school=workplace analogy is flawed because we teachers can’t fire bad students- we have to educate everyone who walks through the door, no matter what language they speak or disabilities they have. You wouldn’t evaluate a manager if the manager couldn’t get rid of “F” employees. Besides, every teacher in California goes through a 2 year probationary period when they can be let go at any time. 2 years is plenty of time to know whether someone is right for the job and it it the administrators and the school board- not the unions- which hire and fire teachers.

  2. Too many American children are segregated into schools without standards, shuffled from grade-to-grade because of their age, regardless of their knowledge. This is discrimination, pure and simple — the soft bigotry of low expectations. And our nation should treat it like other forms of discrimination: We should end it. – George W. Bush, Republican National Convention, Aug 3, 2000

  3. Oh great…here it comes…the right wing anti-union, anti anything that isn’t white, straight, christian, apple-pie and baseball, minions will be out in full force with this one.

    As much as I usually agree with MDN and of course, his Steveness, to insinuate that the biggest problem facing education is the unionization of its teachers is ridiculous. I am a union (county) employee (SEIU) and, believe me, if we are incompetent, we can (and are!)fired and “forced out” just like anyone else in the private sector…and WE don’t get a severance package!!

    The problems in our schools are way too complicated to be blamed only on the union. Sorry Steve…doesn’t fly with me.

  4. That is the problem with these stupid “liberal” and “conservative” boxes that the talking heads on TV continuously want to put us in. It serves no one’s purposes but their own. I consider myself an intelligent thinking human being, not a knee-jerk ideologue. I’m happy to see that Steve Jobs refuses to have his thinking defined by the labels that have been put on him.

  5. That’s terrible analogy. What you’ve illustrated is exactly the flawed mindset that dominates public education–the problem is not us, it’s our customers (students)! If we could just pick out the smart students, from two-parent perfect families, we would be fine! In what other industry, do the staff and managers blame the customers for ALL their woes!!
    I like Steve Jobs even more today than before!

  6. Michael Dell is a simpering ass-kisser who’s more concerned about saddling schools with his garbage PCs and reaping the profits than speaking the truth and trying to effect positive change.

    Pure truth. Bravo, MDN!

  7. Let it be said: Steve Jobs has big cajones. Saying that in a state (California) that is lorded over by powerful unions, it takes someone unafraid to speak his mind. Govenator Schwarzennger tried this and got roughed up pretty bad by the union thugs (politically speaking). God knows, in such a politically correct country, it’s refreshing.

    A neighbor of mine is a career school teacher (and a dedicated Mac user) in California. She is livid with frustration at what unions and bureaucratic school district administrators have done to bloat budgets but leech away funds where they’re needed the most: in the classrooms. It happens far too much across the country, and the result is the US is falling behind other countries in terms of the competence of graduating students. If we bemoan the loss of programming and other tech positions to other countries, the cause in part is because we are becoming less competitive with respect to our math and science skills.

    I am sure Steve Jobs will face yet another onslaught of negative press for speaking his mind, fueled in the background by union bosses. That’s sad. Unions have a role to play by all means, but increasingly, the power of unions has served only to corrupt their ideals and make them lose sight of their mission. When the needs of students are forgotten, it’s a disgrace. Thank God for people like Steve Jobs with the guts to hold them accountable.

  8. Unions are the only thing teachers have going for them in this country. Steve has the debate backwards. The problem isn’t getting rid of bad teachers, it’s attracting good ones. Solve that problem and and the other issue goes away.
    Schools aren’t a business model, it’s a public service.

    Magic Word: tried – I tried teaching, and no amount of money is worth it.

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