October 8, 2011
The standard rich guy philanthropy these days is to try to close The Gap in school achievement. Bill Gates poured $2 billion into "small learning communities." A few weeks before The Social Network premiered, Mark Zuckerberg gave $100 million to the Newark public schools.
But the sainted Steve Jobs didn't, at least as far as we know. Why not?
Most obviously, he apparently didn't like giving away money.
More subtly, unlike Gates and Zuckerberg, he already had had lots of business experience with the K-12 market when he returned to Apple in 1996. The Apple II had been a huge seller to K-12 schools in the 1980s, but when Jobs returned to Apple, he ran as far away from that market as he could, targeting instead the Disposable Income demographic.
I was reminded of that reading a New York Times article about how K-12 software is always advertised claiming that "studies show" how the product raises tests scores, but the studies usually don't actually say that. There's no bubble in educational software, no hot trends, no nothing. It's just a small time market driven by salesmanship and personal relationships (e.g., public school officials get jobs with software companies then sell to their former underlings). It's a very depressing Willy Loman-type business.
The reason you always hear about software titans giving money to close The Gap is because they can't figure out how to do it themselves.
I'm not convinced, however, that the current dearth of good K-12 software is permanent. But, it looks bad right now. If Closing The Gap wasn't such a priority, they might actually get something done. But race makes realism untenable in education, so wishful thinking thrives.
By Steve Sailer on 10/08/2011