Remembering Steve Jobs: Education and the Empowerment of “Black-Collar Workers”

5 Oct

CC License – Jon Snyder/Wired.com

“There’s an old Wayne Gretzy quote that I love.  ‘I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.’ And we’ve always tried to do that at Apple.” – Steve Jobs

Today, one year after the loss of Steve Jobs, people still remember, celebrate and live according to his bold entrepreneurial lifestyle.  And I think that the education reform movement can gleam a lot from his example.

In his new book World Class Learners, Yong Zhao proclaims, “Everyone needs to be entrepreneurial in the 21st century.”

Zhao continues, “Entrepreneurs today are the “black-collar workers,” a term coined by Auerswald with inspiration from Steve Jobs’ black turtleneck (Auerswald, 2012b). A teacher who does not believe we need all to be entrepreneurs asked me the same question that Auerswald answers:

From where we sit now, it seems improbable that an entire economy could be built of such workers. Where are the drones in this picture? Where are the undifferentiated masses of the unfulfilled? Try asking yourself this question instead: from the standpoint of a 15th-century peasant, how likely is the reality of the present day? . . . Just as former farmers were compelled to convert themselves into blue-collar workers to realize their potential in the economy of the 20th century, so will former factory workers (and retooling economic drones of all types) convert themselves into black-collar workers to realize their potential in the economy of the 21st century.‘ (Auerswald, 2012a)

The future success of our students is dependent on their ability to be self-directed, to create, to be entrepreneurial.  It is not enough to teach the content of reading, writing and arithmetic, or even the literacies of the 21st century information economy, without also giving intentional thought to how the pedagogy, the processes behind that teaching, is affecting the student-ownership of that very education.

Education, pedagogy, the learning process itself, must belong to the students.  We can no longer treat students merely as the customers of the current educational system, but instead must empower them as vital participants in developing the information economy of the future.

As Alan November states (in this video interview), “[Students] need to be self directed. They need to be life long learners, which means they need to be empowered to manage more and more and more of their own learning.”  Though a systemic shift of control from “the teacher managing learning” to “interdependent, globally connected students” may take the five to ten years November predicts, as educators, there are so many things we can do in the present to usher in this change and to prepare our students for the 21st century “black-collar” culture.

It is my goal to continue passionately pursuing educational practices that directly address strategies for empowerment and the development of student-driven learning.  I look forward to having you join me for the journey!

In remembrance of Steve Jobs for his unapologetic creativity and innovation
February 24, 1955 – October 5, 2011

Auerswald, P. (2012a, March 11). Bliss is on the way: Black-collar workers and the case for economic optimism. Good. Retrieved April 5, 2012, from http://m.good.is/post/bliss-is-on-the-way-the-case-for-economic-optimism
Auerswald, P. (2012b). The coming prosperity: How entrepreneurs are transforming the global economy. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
November, Alan. (2010). “Alan November on Curriculum21.” Video retrieved on October 5, 2012 from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ivq3TZ6Bfic&feature=player_embedded.
Zhao, Yong. (2012). “Introduction.” World Class Learners: . Retrieved on October 5, 2012 from http://zhaolearning.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Introduction.pdf.

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