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Extending the Mac or PC Debate

March 22, 2011


Mac or PC? Design or functionality? Variety or consistency? The debate has been labeled as eternal and maybe for good reason, maybe because it extends further than the computer we use on a daily basis–maybe this is just one incarnation of a discussion that is more about perspectives than computers, and if that is the case then your answer to the question of “should I buy a PC or a Mac?” says something about you as a person. Each company takes a completely different approach to the world and to a certain respect, you buy into that perspective as a consumer of one product or another. So what does this have to do with geography and education? Well, recently the founders of both Apple and Microsoft have spoken up about the future of higher education and I think their perspectives, which are embodied by the legacy of their individual companies, pretty well represent either end of the spectrum on the issue.

It is important to mention here that both Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, and Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, are college drop outs–Jobs from Reed College in Oregon and Gates from Harvard in Massachusetts. Now they have something to say about higher education and, before we get into the merits of their arguments, it’s important to ask: why should we care? What kind of say do they have in a discussion about an experience they never saw through in the first place? Well, as they are arguably  two of the most successful buisness-people in the world, their opinions are relevant only insofar as you define success and in this particular conversation success is defined as annual salary which is can be misleading. It does, however, provide an important reference point–one which we can work from to answer some basic questions such as what kind of college majors have the most “success” in the work world?

At the end of the day though, no matter what kind of computer you buy, each founder has an important stance on a debate that has come to the forefront of higher education in recent years with the explosion of jobs in science, engineering, technology and mathematics jobs: should we be focusing more on computer science, mathematics, science and make room for doing so by cutting back on the liberal arts educational experience? A couple of days ago, New York Times had an excellent discussion on this topic between experts in their “Room for Debate” series–a great part of the online paper that I alway get excited about. Check it out if you haven’t.

One posted a couple days ago was centered on recent comments by Jobs and Gates. Jobs was quoted at the unveiling of the iPad 2 that, “it’s in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough — it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our heart sing and nowhere is that more true than in these post-PC devices.” Meanwhile, Gates recently made a speech to governors nationwide “arguing that education investment should be aimed at academic disciplines and departments that are ‘well-correlated to areas that actually produce jobs’.” New York Times editors opened up the discussion by bringing in contributing columnists from a wide variety of backgrounds to discuss. The result is very thought-provoking, and ties into our theme this month great. As you might have noticed, we have talked a lot about personal geographies this month–a month about education. This is not a coincidence. We are defined by our education, formal or informal, and it shapes our take on the world like few other experiences can. Every geographer will have his or her own definition but for me, personal geography is just another way of saying perspective. Education shapes perspective; perspective is personal geography; personal geography defines you. Sounds like a classical logical proof with the last line being education=you.

Where do I land in this debate? Well…let’s just say that I’m writing this on my Macbook Pro while streaming my musics from an Apple Airport Express; I Facetime with Cheyenne every week about the blog with my iPhone; I have owned an iPod since 2003 and I am in the process of getting a degree in geography.

Until next time.

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