Steve Jobs and the boundless wisdom of the super-rich

Jobs

One thing you can’t say enough about Steve Jobs is that he was a man of his time:

Jobs, who was known for his prickly, stubborn personality, almost missed meeting President Obama in the fall of 2010 because he insisted that the president personally ask him for a meeting. Though his wife told him that Obama “was really psyched to meet with you,” Jobs insisted on the personal invitation, and the standoff lasted for five days. When he finally relented and they met at the Westin San Francisco Airport, Jobs was characteristically blunt. He seemed to have transformed from a liberal into a conservative.

“You’re headed for a one-term presidency,” he told Obama at the start of their meeting, insisting that the administration needed to be more business-friendly. As an example, Jobs described the ease with which companies can build factories in China compared to the United States, where “regulations and unnecessary costs” make it difficult for them.

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.

There’s really no other subset of the population that struts about, unconcerned with the quite real possibility that they might not know everything there is to know in this world, quite like the hyper-successful CEO. These people, usually men, have an almost envious ability to confront myriad intractable problems—quandaries that many other very smart (sometimes, believe it or not, even smarter!) people devote their entire lives to unraveling—with a blasé and boundless self-confidence in their almost divine ability to provide simple, easy answers.

How the knowledge that allows one to create a handheld hard-drive, and the cunning to enlist another party far, far away with the grisly business of implementing child and slave labor in its construction; how this knowledge transfers over to knowing anything of value about educational reform is a question I can’t answer. Whether or not Jobs was aware that, as Diane Ravitch has noted, “[T]eacher quality accounts for about 7.5–10 percent of student test score gains,” and thus nowhere near enough to solve America’s public education problem, is another bit of knowledge I don’t possess.

But, keep in mind that my net worth is nowhere near Jobs’s reported $7 billion. It’s not even in the millions! And while I suppose I could devote myself to closely studying the issue of education reform in all its nuance and aggravating imprecision, I’m starting to think I’d be better off striking it rich somehow—it doesn’t matter at all how—so that my expertise and understanding becomes just that much more encyclopedic with every felicitous uptick in the market.

Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a freelance journalist and blogger. He considers Bob Dylan and Walter Sobchak to be the two great Jewish thinkers of our time; he thinks Kafka was half-right when he said there was hope, "but not for us"; and he can be reached through the twitter via @eliasisquith or via email. The opinions he expresses on the blog and throughout the interwebs are exclusively his own.

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