Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Bite that Apple.

Seems Steve Jobs is the savior-of-the-day. Unconventional, bad-assed, determined, monomaniacal, he seems to have revolutionized the world as we know it, put a "ding in the universe," just as he had hoped.

So now, I'm wondering what he'd say about my monomania for the last 18 years: public education. James Allworth's recent article in the Harvard Business Review leads me to speculate that he'd be an outlier once again, and once again, he'd be someone we should listen to.

They say (okay, I say) a person's bookshelf is a window into his/her soul. It was this notion, I suppose, Allworth had in mind when he set out to examine the books Steve Jobs sited as most influential on his thinking. Allworth took particular notice of The Innovator's Dilemma by Clay Christensen, which Jobs found "deeply (influential)." In The Innovator's Dilemma, Christensen's premise is simple: innovators are inevitably caught between the impulse to be creative and the pursuit of profit.  It's an age-old dilemma, one that has forever plagued corporate America as well as the minds of its citizens during sleepless, soul-searching nights.

According to Allworth, Steve Jobs defied the innovator's dilemma; he "solved the [conundrum]" when he focussed on creating a great product rather than achieving profit. In doing so, Jobs took Apple from the near bankruptcy to unimaginable success and while doing so, ended up maximizing both innovation and profit.

And so, I can't help wonder, while everyone seems to be quoting Steve Jobs these days and applying his unconventional conventions to models of all sorts, what would the king of technology say about the state of eductaion today? In other words, W.W.S.D?

Perhaps we can come close to an answer by reading Allworth's article, and substituting the words "schools" for "business" and "test scores" for "profit."

Try it.

I did, and I tripped, I think, upon a pretty close rendition of what Steve Jobs might have said about education: When we substitute profits for product, when we focus on test scores instead of students, when we rigidly adhere to short-sighted educational legislation rather than providing authentic learning experiences for children, we are headed straight for bankruptcy, bankruptcy of mind, bankruptcy of innovation, bankruptcy of our future.

Bite that apple.