In a Nov. 6 interview with Education Week, Craig R. Barrett, 62, the chief executive officer of Intel Corp., the world’s largest maker of microchips and a leading sponsor of educational initiatives in many countries, discussed some of his views on education with Staff Writer Andrew Trotter.
Q. What does Intel gain from its education initiatives?
A. Because we’re a high-tech company, we probably get two indirect benefits. People get excited about the technology and use the technology. And people who get excited about the technology tend to major in the technology and become [Intel] employees.
Q. You want to raise the academic standards in America’s schools. Why focus on areas that are not directly related to technology?
A. I travel to about 30 countries a year and see people’s attitudes, governments’ attitudes, around the world recognizing the importance of education—particularly science and math education—particularly science and math education.
I don’t see the same urgency and necessity here in the U.S.—maybe because we have the benefit of a very strong background in technology, a strong economy, a strong standard of living, and therefore people are relaxed at the steering wheel. They’re not being aggressive about what’s necessary to maintain that standard of living.
Q. Is the so-called “digital divide” a serious problem?
A. The obligation of parents, government, business, schools, whatever, is to provide every child with the educational opportunity to allow them to fully develop as a person. You can make a clear argument that you do not need a high computer density per classroom to get that.
Just look at the United States, which has the highest density of computers and Internet connections of any country in the world—and look at where the U.S. ranks in terms of math and science comprehension. They are disparate—at the top in one, the bottom in the other, unfortunately.
There are lots of ways you can give youngsters access to good education and to computers, without having a computer for every child.
A version of this article appeared in the December 05, 2001 edition of Education Week as Intel Chief Talks About Education