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Steve Jobs talks teachers unions and education reform

In a hotly anticipated biography about enigmatic Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, the brain behind the iPad and iPhone is shown to have a pessimistic view of the state of education in the United States.

The author of the biography, Walter Isaacson, wrote Jobs thought teachers unions are crippling schools. Here is the snippet, courtesy The Huffington Post:

Jobs also criticized America’s education system, saying it was “crippled by union work rules,” noted Isaacson. “Until the teachers’ unions were broken, there was almost no hope for education reform.” Jobs proposed allowing principals to hire and fire teachers based on merit, that schools stay open until 6 p.m. and that they be open 11 months a year.

Jobs’ attitude towards unions is in line with other lukewarm supporters of president Obama who feel labor groups protect teachers regardless of their performance.

Several marquee Democrats, including former head of Washington D.C. public schools Michelle Rhee, have vilified teacher groups like American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association.

An argument can be made that those criticisms are unfair in light of labor union support for the reforms Jobs is reported to have supported.

AFT head Randi Weingarten has endorsed a teacher evaluation method that is partly dependent on how students perform on standardized tests. Labor groups in general do not oppose merit-based evaluations, and principal reviews are a major part of the review process of teachers already.

Labor groups have also backed extending the number of hours students spend in the classroom. A largely successful initiative in Massachusetts to expand the instruction time students receive was noted for the harmonious relationship between a state head of a major labor group and the Massachusetts government.

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