During the last twelve hours I’ve been listening to an endless stream of tributes to Steve Jobs. Of all the assessments of who he was and what he accomplished, the one that most resonates with me was the one that described him as having a “singular ability to simplify complexity.” Before Jobs, digital music and MP3 players were available, but no one else was able to deliver it in a simple and elegant way like the iPod did. Before Jobs, smartphones were available, but no one was able to simply integrate a phone/music/internet device the way the iPhone did. These two devices have significantly changed our worlds and they epitomize complexity simplified.
What does all of this mean to a middle schooler at MME? It means that if you want to be a person who can simplify complexity, it is not enough to get the math problem right; you need to understand how math explains relationships. It means that it is not enough to remember the facts of WW II, you need to understand how themes like power, greed, autonomy, scarcity, values, and resources influence human behavior and create conflict, which shape history. It means that it is not enough to know the periodic table and the life cycle of a frog, you need to understand how the scientific process and engineering design principles are the foundation to understanding how our world works. Finally, for us as adults, it means always encouraging them to understand the “why” behind the “what.” That intuitive understanding of the “why” and what to do with it, is what made Steve Jobs a legend.