‘Fireside Chat': President, Apple Chief Talk Schools

By Peter West — February 01, 1989 3 min read

Washington--The head of the nation’s foremost manufacturer of computers for education has offered President Bush suggestions about how to enhance the federal role in education.

Mr. Bush heard ideas advanced by the National Center for Education and the Economy, a research and public-policy advisory group, from John Sculley, chief executive officer of Apple Computer Inc.

Mr. Sculley attended the half-hour, closed-door session at the White House on Jan. 12 in his capacity as chairman of the board of the n.c.e.e., which is preparing a report on the federal role in education.

“It was a private meeting so that John could give George Bush some ideas about how he could really be the ‘education President’,” said David J. Barram, Apple’s vice president for corporate affairs.

Mr. Bush has pledged, both during his campaign and since his inauguration, to make education a top priority of his Administration.

‘Fireside Chat’

The meeting with Mr. Sculley was one of a series of education-related gatherings and public forums that Mr. Bush has included in his schedule in recent weeks. He spoke Jan. 9 at an unusual White House forum on parental choice convened by the Reagan Administration, and appeared at several inaugural events designed to focus attention on the education sector.

Mr. Barram, who sat in on the meeting between the two men, characterized the session as an “intimate fireside chat.”

“It had to help to reinforce in Mr. Bush’s own mind the importance that industrial leaders like Mr. Sculley place on [education],” Mr. Barram said.

Among the suggestions Mr. Sculley made to the President, according to Mr. Barram, was a request that he “be a leader in education from a federal pulpit, while understanding that our school systems are basically local” entities.”

He also mentioned, Mr. Barram said, “that it is important to honor teachers’ accomplishments, that it is important to elevate teachers to a position of esteem.”

Report Being Readied

Marc S. Tucker, president of the Rochester, N.Y.-based n.c.e.e., said the proposals contained in the center’s draft report were sent to Mr. Bush in the form of a letter in late December. He added that a discussion of the ideas with John H. Sununu, Mr. Bush’s chief of staff, preceded the meeting between Mr. Sculley and the President.

The final report is expected to be issued within a month, according to an ncee spokesman.

Mr. Barram said that the ncee had asked James A.R. Johnson, Apple’s director of government affairs, to help arrange the meeting with Mr. Bush. Mr. Johnson also attended the session.

Although those visiting Mr. Bush were all top Apple executives, Mr. Barram said, “that’s not particularly significant. I work with Mr. Sculley on the n.c.e.e. project.”

He added that Mr. Sculley “is the ceo of a company that has a special style toward working and learning and that employs people for whom learning is a very important part of everyday life. It seemed like a natural to have him meet with Mr. Bush.”

Apple, based in Cupertino, Calif., is the nation’s leading producer of computers for K-12 classrooms.

Though estimates vary, independent surveys agree that Apple controls at least 60 percent of the K-12 market for computer hardware, far in excess of the share enjoyed by such rivals as the International Business Machines Corporation and the Tandy Corporation.

Nonetheless, the role of technology in education was not the focus of Mr. Sculley’s presentation, according to Mr. Barram.

“But John did suggest to the President that it was important that we really become innovative with new learning methods,” he said. “We haven’t really put the same energy into technology in learning methods that we have in industry.”

A version of this article appeared in the February 01, 1989 edition of Education Week as ‘Fireside Chat': President, Apple Chief Talk Schools