Why I wouldn’t let Steve Jobs teach my class.Posted: February 15, 2012
There is no doubt that Steve Jobs has had an incredible impact on the world in general – let alone the computing industry. Unfortunately, everything I’ve heard and read about the man has convinced me of one thing: he is probably the last person I’d want teaching people who are not exemplary. By construction, my classes contain a range of students and most of my job is working out how to educate all of them without boring the faster and killing the slower – Apple is not such an environment so it’s unsurprising that what worked for Steve would be anathema to my classroom.
Now, my apologies to Steve, whom I will now never meet, but his passion for doing things well and doing things ‘right’ appears to have come with an equally passionate lack of tolerance for failure, or not meeting his exacting standards in some way. And, like any educator, I don’t necessarily have that luxury. Yes, some standards are non-negotiable, but to nowhere near the same degree!
My class is full of passers. Scrapers. “Getters-by”. People who do dumb things and fail. I can’t yell at them for hours. I can’t get into a lift with 8 students and get out with 7, having un-enrolled and failed one between floors 4 and 5.
Now, before you think I’m having too much of a go here, I can understand places where the level of training and expertise is so high that my techniques are not valid. Education comes in many forms. I don’t have to worry about people wetting themselves and early primary educators don’t have to teach calculus – it all balances but it’s not all uniform.
But let’s talk about the places where things just have to be right. Airline pilots spring to mind. Years of training. Lots of mentoring.
Near enough is not good enough!
There is no ‘conceded pass’ or supplementary examination for landing a plane. It is either landed correctly or it is not, and you’re unlikely to get a second chance. I can see there being different standards of conduct and examination at this point because of the professional standards required.
What about my students? While they’re with me, we’re in the soft landing zone – the ‘try again’ zone. I can offer opportunities for redemption because nobody has died or was in danger.
But my students may control nuclear reactors, tank weaponry or aeroplane navigation systems. When they’re in the workforce, I can completely understand someone demanding their best, all the time, and to a given standard.
My point, hidden in all of this, is that I can see why Steve Jobs did what he did with his business, but I’m not sure that my students are ready for that yet. When they graduate? I hope they’d be up to the technical level required (I certainly will aim to do that) but I’m still not sure if they’d be all the way up to that level of perfection. Until that point? No way is he getting near my class – he would have killed them!
It’s an interesting thing to think about.