What do Tetteh Quarshie and Steve Jobs have in common
Youth leadership forum with Anis Haffer
A Colleague sent the following story recently: A PhD graduate and a friend went camping. They set up a tent and fell asleep in it. Some hours later, the friend woke up, and said, “Look up. What do you see”?
The PhD man replies: I see millions of stars.” Then the friend asks: “What does that tell you?” the PhD man ponders the question, and says “Astronomically speaking, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies. Astrologically, it tells me Satan is in Leo. Time wise, it appears to me it’s about three thirty. Theologically, it’s evident that God is all powerful. Meteorologically, it seems tomorrow will be a clear day. And, may I ask what does it tell you?”
The friend is silent for a minute, and then says “Practically, it tells me that someone has stolen our tent” The conclusion: Be educated in the right way! Don’t lose your common sense!
A story I remember as a boy at St. Peter’s School- Kumasi, is about Tetteh Quarshie. He was from La, near Osu-Accra; and was born in 1842. He learned to be a loader, a shoemaker, and a blacksmith in his youth. Being dependable, he was taken along by his boss when the boss relocated to Fernando Po in 1870.
While plying a trade there as a blacksmith, Tetteh Quarshie noticed that cocoa beans were grown commercially as a major cash crop on the island and a beverage was extracted out of the beans.
On returning home to the Gold Coast in 1879, he brought with him a few cocoa seeds. The story has it that he planted some at Osu, but they didn’t do well. So he moved further up the country to Mampong- Akwampim where he grew the rest of the seeds. The climate there was suitable and his plantation flourished. Other farmers joined the booming enterprise in various places, and cocoa became a most thriving income earner for the Gold Coast. The rest is history. Today, cocoa is one of Ghana’s chief foreign exchange earners.
The teacher who taught this lesson mocked our history class often. He used to say that had it been any of us noticing an apple fall from a tree, we’d have rushed for the fruit and eaten it on the spot instead of thinking like Isaac Newton and hypothesizing that “the force of gravity” made things drop to the ground. His advice was that we should think like Tetteh Quarshie, Isaac Newton, and like-minded people. He said such people learned by observing and did incredible things with what they learned.
Tetteh Quarshie came to mind, for this column, through the book, “Attitude is everything: 10 life-changing steps to turning attitude into action” by Keith Harrell, a former IBM training instructor in the U.S. In the last chapter, “Make a Mark That Cannot Be Erased”, he refered his readers to Tetteh Quarshie’s story, and said, “the most important thing we can do with our lives is to understand our purpose and release our potential so that we can plant positive seeds –seeds of hope, love, encouragement, and faith – in the lives of others”.
A similar advice came from the Apple Computer icon Steve Jobs who helped raise printing from drudgery of mechanical typewriters, scissors, rulers, cutting paper, glue, and pasting. In his commencement address to Stanford University – June 12, 2005- he advised the youth to find out what they wanted to do early in life, and “connect the dots”.
He said, “Your time is limited so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma- which is living with the results of other peoples thinking. Don’t let the noise of other peoples opinions drown out your inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition”.
Both Tetteh Quarshie and Steve Jobs share a common history. None of them attained university education. But they sought education in the right way, and pursued their interests relentlessly; and never lost their sense of direction, their goals. Moreover, they sought ways of benefiting the greatest number of people.
So what again do Tetteh Quarshie and Steve jobs have in common? They both “connected the dots” for successful outcomes. Similarly, an “Education for Transformation Model” may consist of the following: One, a sense of observation; Two, the thinking (or hypothesizing) that puts the observation In clear perspective; Three, the application to make the initial observation useful, or to make something out of observation; Four an end product or service that arises out for the application to be manifest; and Five, the benefits that transforms society. The approach captures both the cognitive (the thinking) and non cognitive (the attitudes and habits of mind) that make great things happen.
Though on a medical leave – after a rear pancreatic cancer surgery in 2004 and a liver transplant in 2009- Steve Jobs availed himself for a meeting of the great minds with President Barack Obama in Woodside, California, Feb. 17, 2011. The technology experts included Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg; Google Inc Chief Executive, Eric Schmidt; Oracle CEO, Larry Ellison; Carol Bartz, President of Yahoo; John Chambers , Chairman of Cisco Systems; Dick Costolo, CEO of Twitter; Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix; Art Levinson, Chairman of Genetech; and Steve Westly, Founder of the Wetly Group .
Their task was “aimed at promoting technological innovation to help boost the struggling U.S. economy and reduce stubbornly high unemployment.” According to Reuters (Feb.18, 2011), the goal was to double U.S. “exports over five years to support millions of American jobs”, and promote “new investments” in education.”
Education, as we know it, is changing fast right before our very eyes. De Paul University admissions, like MIT, require both the cognitive (exam scores), and non-cognitive (attitudes). For De Paul, high school test scores are enough, and additional academic scores like SAT, and the rest may not be necessary. They screen candidates’ attitudinal habits that can make a difference to the larger community and beyond.
It is no secret – at least, in the computer industry- that the strides of Bill Gates and Steve Jacobs have affected the ways in which top notch schools are re-thinking education. Unorthodox, down-to-earth ways have informed how university instructors of various hues comport themselves these days. Education today is not all about lofty titles and ivory tower accolades. At the end of the day, the worst thing that may befall any graduating student is to have followed curricular instructions expeditiously and still come short on functional literacy and employment. Such disappointments tend to cast suspicions over academia.
In many instructors’ own profiles – at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE), for example - practical experiences teaching at the elementary, middle, and secondary schools are highlighted as key components for competence. Additionally, the instructors go easy by their first names; for one thing, it’s really what they do, or have done previously in the trenches that are showcased on their resumes.
In asking at a reception, “Where do I find Professor so and so?” the response is simply, “Kathy is on the fourth floor, room 123. “ A knock at the door and a lively office opens out with the greeting, I am Kathy. Good to see you. Please come in. How can I help you?”
The irony, in germane education these days, is that the qualities that traditional type education tends to despise are some of the very same qualities that made the likes of Tetteh Quarshie and Steve Jobs. As opposed to being regular, predictable and gullible, such men possess the instinctively eccentric, stubborn, intuitive, daring, inspired, fearless, and gutsy. Geniuses tend to be steps ahead of the pack, in their own peculiar ways.
Mavericks, renegades, and risk takers are showing up disguised in various forms to advance education these days. They seem to possess some of the qualities that some tertiary institutions are screening for. True saviors come in many forms, and academics may not necessarily offer the only ways to find them out.
Daily Graphic Page: 19 Monday, February 28, 2011