In 1995, Robert X. Cringely interviewed Steve Jobs, then the head of NeXT. That entire “lost interview” is now available for rental in iTunes and through YouTube.
I saw this 1995 interview of Steve Jobs back in October 2011 after his demise when select theatres across the United States aired it for two days. I still remember the euphoria upon leaving the showing, especially because so much of what Jobs identified as wrong with Apple and IBM in the late 80′s and early 90′s is applicable to independent schools as well. In one segment, Jobs blames the decline of Apple on the marketing and PR crews having final say over product and engineering, a reversal of what he considered prudent strategy and common sense. Independent schools face a similar issue now as more of us need to explicitly address our value proposition and who will define those terms: Will it be the school as a business or the school as an academic institution? Families have the right to know what they can expect for the $25,ooo+ tuition they pay each year that their local public school, online services, or a combination of the two cannot provide in equal measure or better at a lower cost? Traditional arguments such as a small community or student-teacher ratio that have sustained the market for several decades are no longer enough in the 21st Century. Independent schools are also no longer the main feeder schools to elite secondary schools or colleges and universities. So we need to refocus our energies, strategies, and efforts on the “product [student] and engineering [curriculum]” and let marketing and development follow our lead. After all, without a quality product, there can be no authentic marketing or development strategy.