A flurry of interviews and news stories about Steve Jobs has flooded my email Inbox, Facebook updates, and Twitter feed today. All of them, rightly, laud the genius inventor for his contributions to society. From the iPhone to Pixar and hundreds of inventions in between, Steve Jobs was a quintessential American success story.
The Steve Jobs the public knew was the CEO of Apple who was comfortable on a stage, easily filling his role as a master salesman and marketer for the company that famously started in his garage. He was also known for his commitment to his own privacy, only occassionally remarking on his personal opinions.
One interview I read this morning particularly piqued my interest because it was the most direct position I had read about Jobs’ passion for vouchers in the education system. He had occasionally been vocal in his desire for education reform, but in this Oral History Interview with the Computerworld Smithsonian Awards Program, Jobs was very straightforward about his opinion as to how to revolutionize America’s education system.
“But in schools people don’t feel that they’re spending their own money. They feel like it’s free, right? No one does any comparison shopping… I believe very strongly that if the country gave each parent a voucher … that they could only spend at any accredited school several things would happen. Number one schools would start marketing themselves like crazy to get students. Secondly, I think you’d see a lot of new schools starting… The third thing you’d see is I believe, is the quality of schools again, just in a competitive marketplace, start to rise. Some of the schools would go broke. A lot of the public schools would go broke. There’s no question about it. It would be rather painful for the first several years.”
He also said:
“[U]ltimately I think the customers [of education] are the parents. Not even the students but the parents. The problem that we have in this country is that the customers went away … 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.”
Steve Jobs had enormous vision that has changed the world for the better. His vision for the American education system would have similar impact on the future of our country.