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Why didn`t Steve Jobs try to close The Gap?
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October 09, 2011, 04:00 PM
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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.