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Education issues raised during the United States election campaign, including funding; education issues in New Zealand, including funding and teacher supply; student type based on Carl Jung theory of psychological characteristics

JANE FIGGIS: We've got two things on the program this morning: first, how education is faring in national elections, both in the United States and in New Zealand. But then we change pace from politics completely and look at some of the different psychological temperaments children exhibit and how schools - and indeed parents - can respond positively to all types.

But to Washington first. Anne Lewis has been writing about education and politics for many years, and for many publications. But perhaps she is best known for her monthly column in the education journal The Kappan. She thinks that school education is being aired as a reasonably prominent issue in the presidential campaign.

ANNE LEWIS: I guess it was about the 1980 election, I remember interviewing Albert Shanker, who's President of the American Federation of Teachers here, and a very savvy political person. And he said education will never be an issue in a presidential campaign until it is tied to economics, until people make a connection between better education and better economic futures for their kid. And certainly is being made by Clinton because education is one of his pillars, if you want to put it.

The issue for the Republicans is another reason why education is in the forefront, and that is that the conservative wing of the Republican Party has pushed family values issues. This has produced a lot of interest and discussion around the issue of choice: you may not know how our system operates, but about 85 per cent of the K through 12 students in this country go to public schools, the remaining 15 per cent are either in parochial schools or non-sectarian schools, for which parents pay. We have always had a tradition in this country, a constitutional one, that public money does not go to the private or non-public sector.

Well, the Republican Party has pushed the envelope on this one, and is saying that parents should have vouchers for their children to go to any school that they want to. It's been tried out in several places, and it's also in the courts in several places.

JANE FIGGIS: So how is Dole's message being received then, because it sounds as though there's another way around the problem - it might not be a quick fix but it's a rather different .. it is philosophically different.

ANNE LEWIS: Yes, it's slow to catch on. The public, according to the polls - and people have been polling every year to find out public sentiment on this - the public is still not in favour of vouchers to parents. They are a little bit more in favour than they have been in the past, but they are still overwhelmingly opposed to giving public money to non-public schools. However, the percentage is not like it was in the past. Most people, when given a choice in polling questions - if they had a voucher they would continue to send their kids where they were now in school. The major exception to that are poor parents in their urban schools - they really don't like their school and want some choice or some alternative.

Clinton has backed choice, he supports choice but only within the public sector. So you might see more of what we have now in this country called charter schools, where parents or teachers or groups within the public system get together and organise a school around their values or their goals.

JANE FIGGIS: Claudio Sanchez covers education for NPR, National Public Radio in the States, and he views the situation a little differently from the way Anne Lewis did. He would agree that the candidates are talking about education and that they tend to be talking past each other, selecting different topics so they don't really engage in debate with each other. But Claudio thinks there is another kind of disconnect: that neither candidate is engaging the educational issues the voters think are important.

CLAUDIO SANCHEZ: Americans in this country, in the United States, aren't really anxious about the things that candidates seem to think that they're anxious about. So when you have the candidates' debate or argue about whether we should support public education or not, whether it needs more money or not, the voters I think eventually tune out. What they're really worried about are the things that are most local, the things that are most relevant to them, .... the schoolyard is a big issue in this country, so is class size, so is better teaching and academic standards for kids. And yet none of the candidates are addressing this because they know, as do most voters, that the President of the United States and the Federal Government for that matter, cannot do anything about those things, those are local issues.

One of the opportunities, however, that's being lost in this debate, is the fact that there are two major trends in this country that are very worrisome: first, there is a constant and increasing rise in the number of children living in poverty, children and teenagers, almost 16 million. Now, if you consider that there are 50 million school-age children in this country, and 16 million of those kids are living under what the Federal Government describes as poverty, you really do have to worry what kinds of education they have access to and how they're performing in schools. And that raises the other problem, the other trend anyway that's worrisome, which is the fact that only one household in four in the United States has children in public schools.

You have to keep in mind that this country is far from resolving what some people consider is a racial and cultural schism, and you can hear it in campaign speeches. Mr Dole, a year ago, here's a man who has never had a very extensive record on education and yet he went before one of the largest war veterans' group, the American Legion, and essentially said schools were contributing to the erosion of what it was to be an American. He said we should really worry about what children are learning in schools because it seems that children are being told that they're no longer Americans, that multilingualism and multiculturalism is in vogue, and that this is all being done deviously, in his view, to attack one of the most important tenets of being an American, which is that we are all one, that we're all a single community and that we're all one nation. Now, these are things that are seen as very divisive and unnecessary for the most part.

JANE FIGGIS: You made the point that the presidential office doesn't have any direct connection, levers to schools, but if it were willing to spend money, could there be a presidential policy in this election that would deliver back at the schools level, things that are worrying people at a local level?

CLAUDIO SANCHEZ: It's very unlikely. In this political climate in which you've got a Congress that is intent on reducing the role of Federal Government, certainly the budget of the Federal Government, in the last two years, at least two major studies for example, have suggested or actually documented that the infrastructure of public education, the buildings, the facilities are literally falling apart. The average age of the school building in this country is about 50 to 70 years old, and older. When you look at how much it would take to build new schools, certainly to keep up with the school population, or to level the old ones and to build new schools that are safer, certainly better able to handle all the technology improvements and the adaptations to technology that are necessary, you're looking at over $120 billion, that's with a 'b'.

The Federal Government is not about to say that it's going to be responsible for, or interested in funding, even a fraction of that. Yet you do have Mr Clinton talking about it extensively. Now, he has proposed a $5 billion fund to take care of at least the most urgent needs. And Washington DC, ironically, the school system in this nation's capital, is the perfect example of how inadequate local government is when it comes to fixing at schools. The school year this year in Washington DC was chaos because as many as 16 schools weren't able to open because the roofs were leaking. Now, that angers people and that raises very difficult questions, and it's here in the nation's capital and it's embarrassing to people, and yet nobody is there to say, 'Well, here's what we could do differently.'

JANE FIGGIS: So it's not going to reflect upwards, that even though those are issues for electors, obviously very real ones at a local level, that won't be reflected in their presidential vote?

CLAUDIO SANCHEZ: Exactly. And also I should say that Mr Clinton has been criticised for, to some degree, trivialising the issue of education. In his rush to appease or to appeal to voters from one corner of this country to the other, he has showed up that literally every campaign stop and promised something - usually piggybacking on local efforts. And I think that that has certainly contributed to this idea that Mr Clinton will do and say anything that helps him get elected. He has taken credit for a lot of things that he really has no right to take credit for, whether it's truancy laws, whether it's anti-drug efforts in the schools, whether it's school uniforms which he has made a big deal of promoting, he has no role directly or indirectly really - other than talking about it - in making sure that those things happen, yet he speaks about it extensively in almost all his campaign speeches, and he gets all the applause that he wants. But realistically you know, it's far more complicated.

I mean, the education enterprise in this country is in trouble and Mr Clinton hasn't really spoken about the big issues, he has really relied more on what, I guess, the polls are saying about people's concerns about discipline and about drugs and about violence in the schools, and maybe that's fine for pollsters and for political candidates, but again it does not serve the public discourse well.

JANE FIGGIS: And it sounds to me a very great frustration for an education reporter.

CLAUDIO SANCHEZ: It does, because we're all put in this very difficult situation of these little things kind of driving the news and kind of taking us out of the bigger picture. I resist often the campaign pronouncements, or at least having to do stories about them, and argue vehemently that a lot of what we're hearing is rhetorical and a lot of what we're hearing is not just rhetorical, it's old and it's old hat and really is of little significance. But of course we are obligated to try and explain to people what is important as an election issue, and we do have an obligation there. I don't mean to minimise it.

On the other hand, it's really having to be very careful of how we cover our stories. The American press gets roundly criticised for ignoring the big issues often, and doing what they accuse the President of doing, which is trivialising it.

JANE FIGGIS: Claudio Sanchez from National Public Radio.

The Chronicle of Higher Education in the States has focused its election coverage primarily on the issue of financial help for students going to college. 'College', you know, is the American parlance for 'university' education, and in the States it's very expensive. Interestingly, Stephen Burd says there has already been an impact from the election on the budget for fiscal 1997, which starts this week.

STEPHEN BURD: The focus on education and higher education that has been in both the presidential and congressional campaigns, and specifically negative publicity that the Democrats have put on the Republicans for 'cutting financial aid, cutting student loans' has actually had a really interesting effect on all the programs. And there are proposals now to raise them two levels that they haven't been in - proposals that in other years no one would really think possible, I think.

JANE FIGGIS: The increase is actually about 10 per cent to $2,700 for the very poorest students. But basically, the Chronicle hasn't found that much to report about the presidential election and higher education.

STEPHEN BURD: The Dole campaign has made some proposals, one of which was to create a tax-free account for people to save money, you know for families to save money for college. But, basically, I think that a feeling among some of Dole's advisers was that Clinton had spread the fields with so many different little programs, that it was hard to compete with him on higher education.

JANE FIGGIS: I was going to say he's also been President for four years and he talked a lot about higher education in the campaign in 1992. Has he delivered on much of that?

STEPHEN BURD: Most of the programs he talked about creating in '92 have been created. He had talked about an alternative student loan system for the United States where the Government would provide the money to the colleges to go directly to the students, eliminating banks and private banks. A lot of people felt that the guaranteed loan program was giving too many profits to banks and to private industry, and that it would just be cheaper for the Government to run its own loan program, and so he did start a program like that. The Republicans on the other hand, support the bank program, the guaranteed loan program, and actually believe it will be more expensive for the Government to run it. And so there's a lot of debate about that, and nothing is too clear yet.

He also started a program called Americor, which was a community service program whereby students would do community service and then, in return, the Government would help them pay some amount of their tuition. That started, but he really wanted it on a very, very large scale, and he still wanted it to be his Peace Corps initiative, and the political realities of it and the budget realities of it led to it being a fairly small program, and I don't think it's had the impact that he would have liked.

JANE FIGGIS: Stephen Burd in Washington for the Higher Education Chronicle.

New Zealand goes to the polls in ten days' time. The election itself and the new mixed proportional representation seems to be the most discussed issue in the campaign. Health is probably next, with some very big questions about the reforms that were put in place. But education does feature. Jim Doyle is the Executive Director of the Association of Polytechnics in New Zealand.

JIM DOYLE: The biggest issue in the schools is the question of teacher supply because for some extraordinary reason, they completely failed to match the supply of teachers with demand because there was a big demographic bulge coming through - somebody described it as a tennis ball working its way through a snake - and it's about a six year period. And that's well and truly in the primary school system now. So they've got this huge problem of a dramatic shortage of primary school teachers and they've had to recruit overseas and look at compressed teacher-training programs, and so that's been dealt with at the moment in a sort of typical crisis management fashion - it's all hands to the pump and we're working through that one.

JANE FIGGIS: Six new teachers' colleges, I think, or teachers' programs have been set up.

JIM DOYLE: Well, there are six colleges of education, and part of the remedy is to open up to other providers teacher training opportunities, and the polytechnics have been quite keen to get themselves involved in that, much to the annoyance of some of the teachers' colleges. That's resulted, I guess, in just about all of the additional money and all of the growth in tertiary education has been allocated to teacher supply, teacher training.

So that hasn't gone down well, I must say. People are pretty bemused and somewhat annoyed that this was allowed to happen. How could you possibly get it so wrong, when you know exactly how many five-year-olds, six-year-olds and seven-year-olds there are in the country, and so on. So that's a bit of a crisis. That's the main issue.

There was another issue that emerges every now and again, and that is the issue of bulk funding of schools. The Government was quite keen, the previous Minister was very keen, to introduce into the schools area the principle of giving schools all of their operating money, including salaries, and the unions fought that to the last ditch because they saw that as a first step on the road to damnation. And the solution the Government adopted was to make it voluntary. So if boards or trustees wanted to adopt this approach, they could do so. And I think a relatively small number have done so, though it's growing slowly but steadily.

JANE FIGGIS: Jim Doyle. Can I ask you to think for a moment about what your image of the ideal student is? It's tempting, isn't it, to imagine a perky, outgoing child, participating in whatever's on offer in the classroom, eager. And teachers often prefer that kind of child, thinking less well of more reticent, timid children.

Elizabeth Murphy, who has been visiting Australia from her base in Texas, has written and lectured extensively on how to accommodate and enjoy a much fuller and more honest range of children. She bases her work on the psychological types discussed by Carl Jung, things like extroversion and introversion, although she warns that one must use these terms with care.

ELIZABETH MURPHY: Socially, people may have a misconception of what those terms mean. Jung had very specific ideas, that talked about energy. Where do I get my energy for interaction? The extroverted individual loves doing things, they love being involved and, when they are most tired and exhausted, the way they get their energy back is by doing something. Instructionally, we know that if we want to wear out the extroverts in our class, all we have to do is lecture, lecture, lecture and make them sit and listen, and their eyes will close over and they'll start to fade out and be lost.

The introvert gets their energy through privacy and isolation, so that when they are most exhausted from the day, the introverted individual looks for a few moments of respite by themself in order to recover their energy so they can interact again. Another scale that wasn't defined by Jung precisely, but was implied and then defined more fully by Isobel Myers and Katherine Briggs, is called judging and perceiving. And again, it's one of those terms that may be mis-heard by others - judging has nothing to do with being judgemental, and perceiving has nothing to do with being extra perceptive. They have unique definitions in this theory.

But people with a judging preference control their world by being prepared for it. So these people plan ahead, and we've seen three-year-old children who are preparing to go to Grandma's, and will pack everything up and get everything ready; and we see 33-year-olds who are preparing to go to Grandma's and do the same thing - it's their way of coping with the world.

Perceivers' gift to the world is their flexibility and their adaptability. So instead of planning ahead, they respond spontaneously to the moment, which means they may have a general idea of what they're going to do, but at the last moment, if something interferes, they go, 'Well, okay, we'll do this instead.' A piece that goes with that is that judgers seem to have a wonderful natural sense of timing. They know how long an event is going to take, they know how long a job is going to take. Perceivers come into this world with a sense of love and fun and playfulness, but must learn timing. So what happens is many perceiving students believe they can get that homework done in 10 minutes, and it's a two-hour homework. Or if they have a six-weeks' assignment, it doesn't get done until the night before the six weeks are due. It is not just procrastination, it's about 'Where do I get my energy?'

If you have a deadline and you have a judging preference, you get your job started and do it, and the closer you get to the deadline, the more the deadline is a negative influence; it interferes with your thinking, it makes you less effective, so your best strategy for effectiveness is to get it done before the deadline. Perceivers have a deadline, and they consider all possibilities, and they don't want to start too soon because they might think of another better idea later. And what happens is, the closer they get to a deadline, the more the power of that deadline is a positive power that actually facilitates them doing their best job.

So that when we have perceiving kids who miss deadlines, we will sometimes have teachers say, 'If you'd just started earlier and worked a little bit, and a little bit, and a little bit, you would have gotten it done.' Whereas we find the most effective way for those kids is to say, 'What is the absolute last minute you can start this and still get it done?' and then help them think backwards to the true beginning point.

JANE FIGGIS: Do you test kids in a systematic way to bring out these characteristics, or can you decide by just watching a kid in class?

ELIZABETH MURPHY: I have a biased opinion on that. I think we are unfair when we decide for people what their personality is. I believe the individual has a right to tell us what is important to them or not, because behaviourally you can do one thing, but is that your primary source of energy? For instance, we might have a perceiving child who is also a strong feeling child, and feeling children, especially at the primary level, will do anything to get the teacher to like them. So if they think the teacher wants me to do all of these things this way, and start now and work then, they will do that, even though it's counter to their inner nature.

But I also don't think that we need to assess children. We know that if you have three children in the classroom, you'll probably have a judger and a perceiver. So what we want teachers to do and we want families to do is to appreciate that I can make accommodations for both styles. I'll give you an example at a primary level. Children have to read a story and then answer notebook questions about the story. So I have the kids read the story and then I say, 'Those of you who would like to talk about the story with your friends before you answer your questions, come on over here' which might be more typical of an extrovert. 'And those of you who would like to answer all your questions, and then maybe review them with your friends, come on over here.'

Now, the nice part about that is, I don't need to know if they're extrovert or introverted, and the child may not know. What the child does know is, 'I think I'll try that today' and if it doesn't feel good to them, or they don't think that's right for them, next time I offer that choice they might try the other way. But it is through exploring both options that they'll discover their best preference. Then all of a sudden we're going to have an assembly that's going to take an hour. I'll say to them, 'Some of you will find that listening at that assembly an hour is a long time, but not too long for you, and some of you are going to say 'Oh, an hour, so long, just to listen' and you're going to have to pull up extra energy, just to stay focused. So if you know you're one of those kids who has to pull up some extra energy, take a deep breath and get it now, because assembly's going to start.' And it's kind of like playing with them, but it's also helping them to value that my way may be different from someone else's way, but as long as we both do what we are expected to do, which is attend to the session, we're both okay.

JANE FIGGIS: But you're also saying that you don't just say, 'Well, this is what you are', and so that determines you'll always be.

ELIZABETH MURPHY: No. Because Jung said a person discovering their individuality does not mean they get their individual way all their life, that when you truly discover who you are, you use that in a socially responsible way to interact and do well with others. But we do know that when you know what your style is, you know when you have to work harder. If I know I'm a holistic person who's looking at the main idea, and I have to remember the periodic table, I know I have to pull up extra energy, and I also know I might need some special tricks and strategies to do this, and it's not related to intelligence. I also know I might get frustrated with that, and when I get frustrated, how am I going to help?

I had two styles of children in my own family. My son loved to study by having 10 friends over, putting on the music, blasting the radio, dancing. My daughter went into her room, shut the door, read the book, underlined. When you watched my son, if you didn't understand style, you would think 'He's just horsing around, he's just playing around.' But if you listened, he and his friends had changed the words to the popular songs to physics terms and so they were dancing to physics terms. And we know that when you have a motor movement, you establish an oral connection; when you remember that motor movement, that oral connection comes back. So when they would take the test, they just had to visualise themselves dancing to pull back the learning. If I had made my daughter study that way, she would have failed.

JANE FIGGIS: Is there any tendency for people, when they hear you talk, to misinterpret some of this, or to mis-apply it, so that they end up thinking that this is some sort of genetic determination, that you've got kids locked in a way that isn't useful, rather than a way that is useful?

ELIZABETH MURPHY: I think there's always the potential for people to misuse information that's provided. The nice part about children and people though, is we resist that. When people say, 'You're this way, you need to do this' - 'No, I don't, I have free will.' And it isn't about behaviour, it's about energy. I can behave any way you want, it's what exhausts me.

For instance, I present to people quite regularly. As an introvert, presenting to large audiences, it's going to drain much more of my energy and, at the end of the day, I go home, and I'm back in the hotel and I have a nice nap and I'm fine. Whereas extroverted presenters might say, 'I am so wound up from presenting all day, I'm ready to go out'. Now, we didn't talk about who presented well. Both of us could have presented brilliantly or terribly, but it was about energy. So when we're talking about do we box kids in, the only thing we can box them into is asking them to use energy that's not natural to them. But behaviourally, we can allow people to be any way.

JANE FIGGIS: Elizabeth Murphy. One of her books is the Developing Child: Using Jungian Type to Understand Children. It's from Consulting Psychologist Press in the United States - although, actually, the Australian Council for Educational Research, the ACER in Melbourne, has a whole range of books on the subject.

Next week in the Education Report, the universities, Australian universities, coming to grips with the budget. Their initial response was guarded and low-key. No longer. It's looking more and more like a major problem for them. That's us next week.