Is Steve Jobs the enemy? Probably not.

Just wanted to point to a few posts recently by two very influential bloggers: Christian Long and Jim Forde. Regarding Steve Jobs recent comments in Texas about the affect of unions on the current state of technology in education, each writer has a fantastic spin:

Christian, salient as usual writes:

Perhaps if we got off the union’s back for one, but also realized that the union served a different era. Perhaps if we stopped trying to burn the education system at the stake for another, and began to celebrate how profoundly successful it was in a zero-to-million-miles-an-hour way.

And then maybe we can begin to get on with the business of focusing on learning. Not systems. Not unions. Not accusations. Not business vs. teachers. Not federal mandates vs. anti-testing.

Just learning. By any means necessary. With an eye on tomorrow. Not the history books. And not the lines in the sand, either.

At Jim’s blog, where I originally found this story, he and I engaged in a short discussion regarding this:

When your livelihood depends on the whims of municipal taxpayers, school boards, and shrinking state funds, any protection you can latch on to is essential. Our system of tenure, enacted long ago to protect teaching positions from shifts in political power, affords us a job security that few other professions enjoy, but makes it difficult to free a district of a failing, or even criminal teacher.

What Jobs said is not something we haven’t heard in some form from other business leaders. What I take from it is that the public perception of teachers needs to be changed. To do this, I love the idea of total transparency, of taking the work that our teachers and students are doing and holding it up before the public. I have confidence in my fellow teachers, and the work they do would stand up to any public scrutiny, making those comments by Jobs or by the “Tough Choices or Tough Times” signers seem off-base.

Jim responded in kind:

I like your idea for using transparency as an antidote sweeping negative generalizations.

I agree with you in that my experience in schools is that the VAST VAST majority of tenured teachers are hard working people who care about kids. Without them, the system, as agrarian as it is, would come to a screeching halt.

A colleague of mine once said that when parents are asked about “the” public schools they generally commented negatively but when asked about “their kid’s” schools they generally commented positively. I think this speaks to the fact that the more people understand what is actually happening in schools, the more they will be awed by the amazing commitment that an average educator shows for the kids in their learning community.

It’s an age old argument, but I really like believing that we are capable of Christian’s vision here. This has to be a bottom-up movement, unlike so many educational reforms of the past (the idea of the pendulum). We should be in the business of focusing on the learning.

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