I really don't want to speak ill of the dead, but there sure is one thing you can say about Steve Jobs--he hired the best PR folks money could buy. His recent death has inspired a deluge of fawning, drippy, worshipping fluff pieces such that the next step must surely be canonization.
Before we start ordering the stained glass, let's remind ourselves of a few things. The man was a billionaire many times over, and you don't get there without stepping on people. A LOT of people. Despite an estimated worth of over 8 billion dollars, he ended Apple's philanthropic efforts in 1997 because he wanted his company to make more profits. He never restored those efforts despite the knowledge that he was terminally ill and that Apple had grown into one of the most profitable companies in the world. Surely a smart man like Jobs knew that he couldn't take it with him, yet he was singularly reluctant to part with it. Even Bloomberg and Gates, for all their failings in the education sphere, have contributed far more of their wealth to charity.
Perdido Street School blog meticulously detailed how Apple and Jobs used child labor to help build their fortunes. And who can forget that there was a rash of factory workers in China committing suicide presumably because of the dreadful working conditions while putting together all those iPods? Jobs claimed that he was going to do something about it, but all I ever heard was that he put steel mesh over the windows to prevent more workers from jumping. Forcing assembly line workers to toil in 34 hour shifts isn't exactly the stuff saints are made of.
Since this is an education blog, I may as well mention that Jobs was anti-union and anti-teacher, having infamously said, "The problem [in education] of course is the unions. The unions are the worst thing that ever happened to education because it’s not a meritocracy. It turns into a bureaucracy, which is exactly what has happened." Presumably, if Jobs had run the schools, he'd have broken the unions and installed mesh on classroom windows to keep teachers from jumping. Despite the fact that schools and teachers had a great deal to do with Apple's success, he wasted little time stabbing us in the back.
In the final analysis, Jobs did some great things. Some of his innovations have changed the way people live. Still, it seems clear that he also trampled workers' rights, vilified unions, and shunned corporate philanthropy despite running a wildly profitable business. Jobs was a rich man, and a flawed one, like most of us (I mean the flawed part, not the rich part, unfortunately).
It seems strange to me that the press can spend endless time and effort berating teachers while glorifying Jobs. Then again, we don't have the same PR team that he did.