Thursday, November 10, 2011

Jobs on Education

A colleague from the Student Affairs Collaborative posted these thought provoking nuggets from Steve Jobs--they're comments he made over the years when discussing education. There is a healthy mix of K-as- and HigherEd-focused statements, but there are some specific comments I find somewhat troubling. First, the list:

15 Quotes About Education From Steve Jobs

Now, I completely understand that Jobs was a remarkable business man, true visionary, and a ridiculously creative individual, but I think it bears mentioning that none of these make him an expert on education. He leveraged both his street smarts and the formal education he tolerated to become monumentally successful, but that was his path. Should we not be encouraging our students to be seeking their own open road through life rather than encouraging them to mimic the approach of others?

These two quotes I find to be particularly interesting to what we do as advisors:
“I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents’ savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months I couldn’t see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out.” – Steve Jobs
“The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn’t interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.” – Steve Jobs
The first one seems to have a bit of a negative tone to it, but that may simply be due to my own filters. It may be constructive, however, to view it as a common perspective. It seems Jobs simply didn't understand that part of the purpose of a university education is to find one's life goal. And perhaps he didn't have access to strong academic advising programs to help him discover it, but I wonder how many of my current, and past, students are feeling, or have felt, this same disconnect. Perhaps it isn't as self-evident as I believe that the ideal place to discover what one wants to do with their life is in college.

The second quote above simply irritates me. It seems to support the idea that one should seek a college education to continue to explore only that which interests them, or those subjects at which they already excel. This attitude further solidifies the aimlessness expressed in his previous quote. If you don't know what you want to do with your life, how on earth can you think you'll discover it by only exploring things in which you already have interest? Why wouldn't you think to explore new things? I'm sometimes surprised by the student who thinks s/he has come to college to collect a degree for simply doing that which they already know how to do.

Perhaps I'm reading way more negativity into the quotes in the linked post than really exist, but I wonder what some of you think.

Art Esposito
Chair, Commission on Undeclared & Exploratory Student advising
Associate Director of Academic Advising, Montclair State University
Twitter: @ArtEsposito

1 comment:

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