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  1. #1
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    Default Steve Jobs to President Obama on Education

    From the forthcoming Isaacson biography:

    Jobs met with Obama in fall 2010 and said it was too difficult to build a factory in the U.S., which led the company to build manufacturing plants in countries like China.

    "You're headed for a one-term presidency," Jobs said to Obama.

    Jobs also said teachers' unions "crippled" the education system in the United States. Among his requests to Obama were an 11-month school schedule, school days that last until 6 p.m. and a merit-based system for employing and firing teachers.

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    It would be interesting to know Jobs' politics. Anti-union is a popular opinion on the right, un-American as that position is.

    Finland, it turns out, is characterized by teacher unions stronger than ours. Of the factors "holding us back," I'd put unions pretty far down the list behind the need for (in no particular order) added time on task, improved teacher training, higher quality curriculum, and access to effective technology.

    And while the kids might not be wild about 60% more school, I have no doubt that a well-designed program would improve results. Now, as to coming up with those 60% more dollars ...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    It would be interesting to know Jobs' politics. Anti-union is a popular opinion on the right, un-American as that position is.
    Left and Right are ludicrously one-dimensional labels. I fully support the principles of organized labor, for example, but I consider the Teamsters Union in its heyday to have been no less corrupt and thuggish than the notorious garment industry sweatshop owners that motivated the organized labor movement. Some of the stuff I'm seeing from teacher unions makes me cringe - like this. Am I "un-American"?

    As for Jobs, he largely avoided politics, though we do see him here sitting next to President Obama in the company of the Valley's Democratic aristocracy.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    Finland, it turns out, is characterized by teacher unions stronger than ours. Of the factors "holding us back," I'd put unions pretty far down the list behind the need for (in no particular order) added time on task, improved teacher training, higher quality curriculum, and access to effective technology.
    Most professionals - doctors, lawyers, engineers, professors - are not union members. Why not? The demand for their skills largely prevents organzied misbehavior by managements. When the position of preK-12 teacher reaches comparable levels of selectivity and compensation, I suspect that teacher unions will fade into irrelevance.

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    Left and Right are *useful* "starting point" labels despite their one-dimensionality.

    "Fully supporting the principles of organized labor" is not remotely an un-American position, but I wasn't accusing anyone of being un-American, just of holding such positions (that is, counter to the basic principles on which our country was founded and has evolved).

    In Finland, teacher compensation and selectivity does reach that of at least some of the professions you site (based on what little I know about Finland), yet my understanding is that unions in that country are far from irrelevant. That said, the aspects of unions that we all find frustrating (protection of inadequate employees, for instance, or membership coercion) may not be as much of a factor there as they are here.

    I wonder how much the unionization of any given profession is a factor of compensation and selectivity compared with the public versus private sector nature of the position.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    Left and Right are *useful* "starting point" labels despite their one-dimensionality.
    If the objective involves making progress in any important dimension, I strongly disagree. Polarization is an enemy of progress. Progress is achieved by establishing shared objectives and forging high-performance teams driven to achieve those objectives. One seeks to marginalize differences, not magnify them with one-dimensional labels.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    I wonder how much the unionization of any given profession is a factor of compensation and selectivity compared with the public versus private sector nature of the position.
    Public or private, a union's value is the protection it offers its members. When that protection becomes unnecessary, the union will fade away. Arguably, a union's ultimate objective should be to transform its industry in such a way as to make itself unnecessary...

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    Quote Originally Posted by DHBernstein View Post
    Polarization is an enemy of progress.
    I have to smile, Dave, at your objection to polarization, given your proclivity for tossing off such polarizing bon mots as "Left and Right are ludicrously one-dimensional labels." [emphasis added]

    Quote Originally Posted by DHBernstein
    Most professionals - doctors, lawyers, engineers, professors - are not union members. Why not? The demand for their skills largely prevents organzied misbehavior by managements. When the position of preK-12 teacher reaches comparable levels of selectivity and compensation, I suspect that teacher unions will fade into irrelevance.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach
    I wonder how much the unionization of any given profession is a factor of compensation and selectivity compared with the public versus private sector nature of the position.
    Public or private, a union's value is the protection it offers its members. When that protection becomes unnecessary, the union will fade away. Arguably, a union's ultimate objective should be to transform its industry in such a way as to make itself unnecessary...
    If the disappearance of teachers unions requires compensation parity with professions such as the ones you cite, we would be best-advised not to hold our breath. The reason that I bring up the public/private distinction is that the majority of union members in the US are now government employees. One reason for this is likely the difference between the revenue models of companies versus federal, state, and local government functions.

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