Steve Jobs a Hero for Integrity? Pick Another Virtue

20150429_141409_Beech_Down_Dr[1]At South Arbor Charter Academy, an elementary and middle school in Michigan, there’s a corridor called Heroes Hall. It featured murals depicting such personages Mother Teresa, Albert Einstein, Betsy Ross, Gandhi, and Space Shuttle Columbia astronauts. It made news last fall when those murals reportedly got replaced with paintings of President Obama, J.K. Rowling, Oprah, Steve Jobs, and others. Parents were outraged. “This is no longer a hall of heroes,” a parent told Fox News. “Now we have a hall of celebrities.”

I want to zero in on Steve Jobs. School spokesperson Christina Hoff said he’s depicted because he shows the children integrity.

Steve Jobs had a lot of admirable qualities. Brilliance. Dedication. Perseverance. Perfectionism. Creativity. Foresight. Technical smarts. Marketing smarts. Negotiating smarts. A zest for life. A relatively modest lifestyle considering his billions.

But integrity? From reading Walter Isaacson’s biography Steve Jobs, I didn’t get the impression that he was a model of integrity. He was notorious for putting others down – cussing and swearing at people, and being callous to them to the point that they feared his presence. And demonstrating a distinct lack of integrity as a senior in high school was the Blue Box escapade. He and Steve Wozniak constructed a Blue Box that enabled them to make free long-distance phone calls, thus depriving AT&T of revenue; essentially stealing. At first they used the Blue Box for themselves. Then, ever the entrepreneur, Jobs decided to build and sell them at $150 a pop. Over a hundred were sold.

It was the worst kind of greed – making money by selling a device that enables people to steal. The episode finally came to an end when Jobs showed the Blue Box to a gentlemen who was so interested that he pulled a gun on Jobs and told him to hand it over.

Said Jobs, “If it hadn’t been for the Blue Boxes, there wouldn’t have been an Apple.” So in other words, Apple’s origin was based on an episode that exemplified the opposite of integrity. No word on whether Jobs later in life ever offered to pay AT&T back.

Another example of lack of integrity: Jobs evidently wanted to abort his child.

When at age 23 he got his girlfriend pregnant, Jobs didn’t want to be a parent. He told Isaacson, “I was all in favor of her getting an abortion, but she didn’t know what to do.”

(Update, 10-4-15: Lisa Brennan writes, “I know it’s widely believed that Steve asked me to have an abortion. And Steve, himself, has apparently been quoted as saying so. He even actively led people to believe that I slept around. But none of this was true.”)

Chrisann Brennan had the child, Lisa Nicole Brennan. After the baby was born, Jobs skedaddled, as Chrisann went on welfare. “He didn’t want to have anything to do with her or with me,” said Chrisann Brennan. He even refused to pay child support. It wasn’t until years later that Jobs reconnected with Lisa.

Rubbing salt in her wounds, when the county sued Jobs for child support, Jobs and his lawyers tried to line up evidence that Brennan had been promiscuous – thus harming her reputation – in a failed effort to prove that he wasn’t the father.

A year after Lisa was born, Jobs agreed to take a paternity test. But that appeared to be based on self-centered motives. “Jobs knew that Apple would soon be going public and he decided it was best to get the issue resolved,” writes Isaacson. With the test being positive, Jobs finally started helping Chrisann and Lisa financially.

Jobs said that when he met his biological mother, Joann Simpson, he thanked her – apparently for not aborting him. “I wanted to meet my biological mother mostly to see if she was okay and to thank her, because I’m glad I didn’t end up as an abortion.”

Was Jobs glad that he wasn’t aborted at the same time that he allegedly wanted Lisa aborted? If so, then that’s even more shameful.

So again, for all of Steve Jobs’ virtues, integrity didn’t seem to be among them – at least as a young adult. Well, at least he expressed regrets. Reveals Isaacson, “Years later Jobs was remorseful for the way he behaved, one of the few times in his life he admitted as much.”

Attention administrators of South Arbor Charter Academy: Steve Jobs may deserve a spot in the Heroes Hall for a variety of reasons. But I don’t think that, among the heroes, he should be the one to represent integrity.

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