Perhaps this is a hollow, even narcissistic, question. Brazil hasn’t produced a Steve Jobs; neither has China, the Philippines, Zambia, Australia or any one of dozens of countries around the world. We cannot even be certain that America “produced” Jobs, in the sense that a factory produces an automobile, by processing a load of raw material into a finished specimen; Jobs may have been entirely sui generis and only coincidentally American. But I put the question anyway to Aditya Dev Sood, the founder and chief executive of the Center for Knowledge Societies, a consulting firm that works in what may be considered Jobs’ pet areas: user experience design and innovation management.
The question of innovation has been weighing particularly heavily on Mr. Sood’s mind because, later this week in Bangalore, his firm will host Design Public, a conference on innovation and the public interest. Mr. Sood’s first thought, unsurprisingly, concerned the Indian education system, “which prepares us for society by a series of instrumental grading mechanisms that treat us like chickens in a hatchery.” This is, he contended, a legacy of colonization, and although Thomas Babington Macaulay’s infamous Minute of 1835 is now deep in India’s past, it still lays out colonial sentiments on education vividly.
Macaulay, who served on the Indian governor-general’s Council of India between 1834 and 1838, presented his Minute as part of discussions leading up to a reform of English education in India. Macaulay saw education in India as fit only for “conveying knowledge to the great mass of the population,” and he decried scholars who “who live on the public while they are receiving their education, and whose education is so utterly useless to them that, when they have received it, they must either starve or live on the public all the rest of their lives.” Macaulay’s views fitted the principles of colonial governance, Mr. Sood said: “They needed people to run around and man the arms of the state, not to propel the economy forward. We still haven’t reformed that system of education.”