People are Funny Cattle

Aussies Friends of Treehorn

People are Funny Cattle

No harm
We sure gave him a bad time, didn’t we? Corporal punishment which has not been dispensed in any Australian school for many decades hit the headlines when it was mentioned in passing by a famous Australian ‘educator’ who has the ear of the Minister, the print-press and television shows. This expert is so well known, that you know who he is without his name being mentioned, don’t you?

His opinion is more highly regarded by political power-brokers than anyone else in Australia at the present time, it would seem. He has been featured in newspapers, TV shows, magazines and been the subject of endless letters to the editor, because our sanctimonious commentators don’t like to think of our school children being hurt….physically, that is.

People are funny cattle. They can lambast an inexperienced, but noteworthy school critic, yet tolerate the insane cruelty perpetrated on a million school children every year, the kind of cruelty that damages a child for the rest of its life; remaining constantly silent about this annual child-bashing catastrophe! Australia has developed a mind-set that treats its children in an extremely casual way. Just as one cow said to the other “Mooooo.”, the other replied, “I was just about to say the same thing”, they’ll scream blue murder about a bruise on the bum, because it’s easy to talk about and has a compliant audience; but ignore the emotional assault on our children’s psyche because those elected to power tell them that it is okay to ignore this sort of thing.

confusedMass emotional assault on school children is now a fact of life in this place. It is government sponsored, and operates deliberately under an avalanche of gimmicks that just don’t work. Each is a cover-up, a diversion from the reality of achievement-based, purposeful schooling. Each tries to disguise the Naplan damage. If the Klein-based schooling system, started in 2008, is not now bordering on chaos, it is certainly confusing. Leunig, once again, illustrates the confusion.
While a smack on the bum draws more attention than more serious damage……

I’m the one in the middle…..

Not understood! The secret springs of action
Which lie beneath the surface and the show
Are disregarded; with self-satisfaction
We judge our neighbours, and they often go
Not understood.
[Thomas Bracken]
Phil Cullen [……quoting

Not understood, we move along asunder;
Our paths grow wider as the seasons creep
Along the years; we marvel and we wonder
Why life is life, and then we fall asleep
Not understood.

Not understood, we gather false impressions
And hug them closer as the years go by;
Till virtues often seem to us transgressions;
And thus men rise and fall, and live and die
Not understood.

Not understood! Poor souls with stunted vision
Oft measure giants with their narrow gauge;
The poisoned shafts of falsehood and derision
Are oft impelled ‘gainst those who mould the age,
Not understood.

Not understood! The secret springs of action
Which lie beneath the surface and the show,
Are disregarded; with self-satisfaction
We judge our neighbours, and they often go
Not understood.

Not understood! How trifles often change us!
The thoughtless sentence and the fancied slight
Destroy long years of friendship, and estrange us,
And on our souls there falls a freezing blight;
Not understood.

Not understood! How many breasts are aching
For lack of sympathy! Ah! day by day
How many cheerless, lonely hearts are breaking!
How many noble spirits pass away,
Not understood.

O God! that men would see a little clearer,
Or judge less harshly where they cannot see!
O God! that men would draw a little nearer
To one another, — they’d be nearer Thee,
And understood.

Thomas Bracken

Peter Green; “Dancing into the Apocalypse’.

The Treehorn Express

Peter Greene is a classroom teacher who resides at Curmudgucation  []. It’s a first rate site conducted by a classroom teacher. in the U.S. who has given me permission to change any American references to Australian.

Australia blindly follows whatever the US wants us to do, so Peter’s comments apply directly to Aussie teachers. The reformist scato-meme [that Pasi Sahlberg calls GERM] now infests most of the English-speaking world because Messrs Murdoch, Klein, Pearson and their money-hungry ilk, speak English.  It’s the same dog….a mongrel bitch…. different leg-action.

Peter describes himself as “ A grumpy old teacher trying to keep up the good classroom fight in the new age of reformy stuff.”
You might like to check out the original article in Allan Alach’s latest ‘Treehorn Readings’ or on Curmudgucation or on Bruce Hammond’s blog. You will be interested in the interesting side-band articles in each one.
Thank you, Peter Greene. May lots and lots of Aussie teachers join you in this crusade….or start their own.

Dancing into the Apocalypse

Peter Greene

I’m writing this now so that I can read it to myself when the first day of school rolls around. Sometimes you have to be your own motivational speaker at the start of the new year.


Why the World of Public Education Has Never Been Worse, and Why I’m Excited To Be a Teacher Anyway

How Bad Is It? 

It is almost breathtaking to step back and try to take in the wide array of forces lined up against the great traditions of Australian public education.

State parliaments are re-writing the rules of employment to end the idea of lifetime teachers, and an entire organization has been set up to replace them with an endless cycle of barely-trained temps.

Data miners are rewriting the entire structure and purpose of schools to focus on gathering data from students rather than actually educating them, treating them as simply future marketing targets.

A far-reaching network of rich and powerful men is working to take the public education system as we know it and simply make it go away, to be replaced by a system that is focused on generating profit rather than educating children.

Teachers have been vilified and attacked. Our professional skills have been questioned, our dedication has been questioned, and we have been accused of dereliction and failure so often that now even our friends take it as a given that “Australian schools are failing.”

One of the richest, most powerful men on the planet has focused his fortune and his clout on recreating the education system to suit his own personal ideas about how it should work and what it should do. He’s been joined in this by other wealthy, powerful men who see the democratic process as an obstruction to be swept away.

We have been strong-armed into adopting new standards and the programs that come with them. These are one-size-fits-all standards that nobody really understands, that nobody can justify, and that are now the shoddy shaky foundation of the new status quo.

And in many regions, our “educational leaders” are also part of the reformster movement. The very people on the state and local level who are charged with preserving and supporting public education are, themselves, fighting against it.

All education is now slave to standardized testing. We live in a bizarro world where we pretend that test results tell us everything from whether a seven year old is college material to whether teachers (and the colleges at which they studied) are any good. The future of teachers, schools, and students themselves, ride on these tests that, when all is said and done, measure nothing except the students’ ability to take these tests.

Tony%20Moanie%202[2]The Prime Minister agrees with most of the forces lined up against public education. At his best, he has simply stood by while public education has come under attack; at his worst, he and his administration have actively implemented policies to break down our public education traditions.

It is true, as some folks like to say, that public education has been tossed about by the winds of one edu-fad or another. Anyone who has worked for more than ten years can rattle off a list of Next Big Things that have come and gone while teachers closed their doors and kept working.

But this is different. This is worse. This wind comes with more political power, more widespread support, and more power to do real damage than anything before. If these people achieve all their goals, what’s left will be a system that looks nothing like the American public education system, and teaching as a career will be done.

So Why Am I Not Bailing Out?

First of all, none of what I’m saying here is meant as criticism of people who have left the profession. You can’t do what you can’t do, and when you reach your limit, you have to make the choice you have to make. Not all of us have the same kind of strength, and we do not all face the same level of challenge. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I can say why I still think it’s worth the fight.

There has never been a tougher time for public education, and that means there has never been a time when teachers have been needed more.

Education can’t run on autopilot any more. I don’t mean it shouldn’t (though that has always been true), but that anything resembling an autopilot or inertia or just a gravitation in the right direction has been busted, shattered. Public education will take its direction from the people who fight to get their hands on the steering wheel. Teachers need to be in that fight.

Someone has to look out for the students. Someone has to put the students’ interests first, and despite the number of people who want to make that claim, only teachers are actually doing it. The number of ridiculous,  time-wasting, pointless, damaging, destructive policies that are actually making it down to the pupils themselves is greater than ever before. Somebody has to be there to help them deal with it, help them stand up to it, and most of all, help them get actual educations in spite of it.

I don’t want to over-dramatize our role as teachers, but this is what professionals do. Police, lawyers, doctors, fire fighters– they all go toward people in trouble. They run toward people who need help. That’s what teachers do– and teachers go toward the people who are too young and powerless to stand up for themselves. And for professionals, the greater the trouble, the greater the need.

The fact that public education is under attack just means that our pupils, our communities, need us more than ever.

Is There Hope?

Yes. Yes, there is.

The new high stakes test-driven corporate status quo runs on money, and money is not infinite. Particularly when resistance picks up and the ROI isn’t looking so great. The big bold reformster programs all have one thing in common– they have not produced any sort of success. Well, two things– they also all required a big boost of money and “advocacy groups” to even happen in the first place.

The naplanners of Australia are not going to win and neither are we going to simply set the clock back to twenty years ago. Our education system, our schools are going to be different, changed. And we will deal with that, too.

The naplanners are tourists, folks just passing through for a trip that will last no longer than their interest. They’ll cash in their chips and move on to the next game. But we’ll still be here, still meeting the challenges that students bring us. They’ve committed to education for as long as it holds their attention and rewards them; we’ve committed for as long as we can still do the work. They think they can sprint ahead to easy victory; we understand that this is a marathon.

I don’t care if this is a passing storm or the apocalypse. I choose not to meet it huddled and hoping that I’ll somehow be spared. And while we keep defaulting to battle metaphors, I’d rather not get into the habit of viewing every other human as an enemy that I have to combat with force of arms. I learned years ago that you don’t wait for everything to be okay to do your dance and sing your song; you keep dancing and singing, and that’s how everything gets closer to okay.

We can do this. We will do this. And our pupils will be better for it.

The poetic pic of our leader was supplied by an Aussie teacher
Phil Cullen  [..... relying on teachers to getup&getatem] 41 Cominan Avenue Banora Point  Australia  2486    07 55246443
Aussie Schoolies Only
CryingWhat kind of child abuse produces this reaction?
Corporal punishment ?   [Refer : Kevin Donnelly]
  Emotional distress?      [Refer: Christopher Pyne]

Education Readings July 18

By Allan Alach

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at

This week’s homework!

Creativity is rejected: teachers and bosses don’t value out-of-the-box thinking.

“Unfortunately, the place where our first creative ideas go to die is the place that should be most open to them—school. Studies show that teachers overwhelmingly discriminate against creative students, favoring their satisfier classmates who more readily follow directions and do what they’re told.”

“It’s ironic that even as children are taught the accomplishments of the world’s most innovative minds, their own creativity is being squelched.”

Poverty and the Moral Imperative of Education

An important article by Peter Greene, dismantling the neoliberal claim that education is the cure to poverty.

“This is the “education fixes poverty” mantra. If we get everybody through high school prepared for a good job (defined in many PD sessions as “a job with an above-the-poverty-line” wage) then nobody will be poor and everybody will be healthy and happy and successful. There are two huge problems with this argument.”

“Failing school does not cause poverty. And it’s not even right to say poverty causes failing school. The high level of failure among students living in poverty is a sign that our schools are not meeting the needs of those students.”

Sweden’s School Choice Disaster

Neolibs – take careful note…

“Advocates for choice-based solutions should take a look at what’s happened to schools in Sweden, where parents and educators would be thrilled to trade their country’s steep drop in PISA scores over the past 10 years for America’s middling but consistent results. What’s caused the recent crisis in Swedish education? Researchers and policy analysts are increasingly pointing the finger at many of the choice-oriented reforms that are being championed as the way forward for American schools. While this doesn’t necessarily mean that adding more accountability and discipline to American schools would be a bad thing, it does hint at the many headaches that can come from trying to do so by aggressively introducing marketlike competition to education.”

Great technology requires an understanding of the humans who use it.

“MIT BLOSSOMS, one of the most exciting and effective uses of educational technology to help high school students learn math and science, doesn’t boast the latest in artificial intelligence or adaptive algorithms. Its secret weapon is, rather, a canny understanding of human psychology—both students’ and teachers’. Technologically speaking, its basic model could be executed with an old television and VCR.”

How can schools feed student appetites for sourcing sustainable produce?

“Thankfully the workshop leaders were undaunted by the challenge of slowly unpicking the jargon to help students understand why it’s important to think about how their meals got to their plates. From food miles and Fairtrade to the environmental and health benefits of becoming a vegetarian, no aspect of the journey from soil to supermarket shelf was unexplored. At the end of the class, the penny finally dropped. Asked what they can do to source more sustainably, the response from pupils was emphatic: “Grow my own vegetables,” shouted one girl. “Buy foods locally,” offered another.”

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

Transforming School Culture Through Mutual Respect

Bruce: “Importance of valuing mutual respect.”

“A pivotal aspect of fostering mutual respect among teachers, students and staff is adhering to the following eight expectations, which I’ve witnessed fundamentally change the way schools function.”

Study: Too Many Structured Activities May Hinder Children’s Executive Functioning

Bruce: “Over structuring results in students missing out on social skills – is this happening in NZ classrooms?”

“When children spend more time in structured activities, they get worse at working toward goals, making decisions, and regulating their behavior, according to a new study.

Instead, kids might learn more when they have the responsibility to decide for themselves what they’re going to do with their time. Psychologists at the University of Colorado and the University of Denver studied the schedules of 70 six-year olds, and they found that the kids who spent more time in less-structured activities had more highly-developed self-directed executive function.”

From Bruce’s oldies but goodies file:

The transformative Power of Interest : Annie Murphy Paul – Dan Pink and Carol Dweck

Bruce’s comment: “I really like the message of this blog. There has been a recent Education Review Office Report on Secondary school achievement saying the most impressive school was one where the school tailored the curriculum to students’ interests e.g. linking maths to information technology. Seems obvious to me. Personalised learning is the pedagogy of relationships.  We need to focus on what students are thinking – they are too often a neglected resource ignored by teachers to busy teaching to listen to student ‘voice’..The blog below is about the transformative power of interest.  The future is about learning not education. Education is what someone gives to you – learning is what you do yourself. We need to focus on ‘teaching’ students ‘how to learn’ – to ‘seek, use and create their own knowledge’ as it says in the 2007 New Zealand Curriculum.

Children as scientists

Bruce: “An oldie – something written in 1947 which is reflected in 2007 New Zealand Curriculum”

“I recently came across an extract from an article called ‘Children are Scientists’ written in 1947 by Herbert Zim. That we haven’t yet created schools based on assisting students research their own questions and concerns just goes to show how much ‘our’ curriculums, what ‘we’ think is important for them to learn, has ignored the source of real motivation for students to learn.”

More ‘Magic’ of Teaching

Bruce: “Evolution of computer use in classrooms by a creative South Island principal”

“It would seem to me that if we want to develop a creative education system, able to develop the talents of all students, then we need to listen more to those teachers who have gifts they could share with others. All too often ‘we’ think that all good ideas come from ‘on high’ but hopefully this myth is losing its power as current curriculums are being found wanting – ironically by the very people who introduced them.”

The killing of creativity by the technocrats.

In this posting Bruce references an article by Kelvin Smythe about “St” John Hattie.  This is a must read, as Hattie and others of his ilk threaten true holistic child centred education.

“As I visit classrooms I have become increasingly concerned about the use of a number of strategies as defined by John Hattie and promulgated by the contracted advisers spreading the word about his ‘best practices’. Somehow, just because Hattie has amalgamated every piece of ‘school effectiveness’ research available ( mainly it seems from the USA) his findings, it seems, ought to be taken for read. The opposite ought to be the case – we need to be very wary of such so called ‘meta research.’. More worrying however is that the approaches he is peddling is pushing into the background the home grown innovative creative learning centred philosophy that was once an important element in many classrooms. Overseas experts aways seem to know best – or those that return with their carpet bag full of snake oil.”

This week’s contributions from Phil Cullen

Want to improve teaching? Ask a teacher

“The media has been full of complaints about poor-quality teachers. But does the answer really lie in choosing teachers with better academic marks? Teacher Chris Fotinopoulos is not convinced.”

There are many ways of being smart… Headteacher writes to pupils saying not to worry about exams.

“You might hope that every school would want pupils to work their very hardest – and pass any exams with flying colours.

But one primary head has decided there is more to life than educational achievements, and has written to her final-year pupils to tell them not to worry about their results.

Headmistress Rachel Tomlinson and her head of year six, Amy Birkett, told children that there are ‘many ways of being smart’ in the message, which was included with their Key Stage Two results.

They asked the 11-year-old pupils to remember that the scores ‘will tell you something, but they will not tell you everything’.”

Ground-breaking News

Treehorn Express


First Country to Care about Curriculum

Scrap National Testing


New Zealand Cares for Kids


New Zealand is having its election on Saturday, 20 September. The two major parties are the National Party and the Labour Party. The National Party is currently in power.

The Labour Party has released its educational policy.Click link:

 NZ Labour Party Policy

The National Party had introduced National Standards, a series of tests that have the same deleterious effect on the school curriculum as does NCLB in the U.S., Standards in the U.K., and NAPLAN in Australia. The crippling effects on each country’s curriculum direction have been profound; and has allowed various kinds of gimmickry, such as Charter Schools, to develop. Serious Kiwi educationists, proud of NZ’s great heritage in the conduct of schooling, have had enough.

The policy states that Labour will:

  • scrap National Standards and return schools’ focus back to teaching the full breadth of New Zealand’s internationally acclaimed curriculum.
  • simplify ERO reports so that parents have access to quality, reliable information on their school’s performance.
  • repeal legislation allowing for the establishment of charter schools that don’t have to employ qualified, registered teachers.

This is the first major political party in the world to express its concern about curriculum devastation caused by Standardised Blanket Testing. Wonderful news.

If your politics is non-aligned; if you care about kids at school; if you care about the mental health of children generally; you will wish the NZ Labour Party all the very best. God bless its efforts.

World educators wishes them well. There will be millions watching with fingers crossed.

Phil Cullen [.....praying for NZLP] 41 Cominan Avenue Banora Point Australia 2486 07 5524 6443

Education Readings July 12

By Allan Alach

Here’s this week’s mixture of articles. Expect the next issue when it arrives, as I’m off to France at the end of the week.

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at

This week’s homework!

A Close Look At Close Reading

“David Coleman and other proponents of close reading clearly don’t have respect for students or the learning process. Common Core’s emphasis on deep analysis of text and close reading is an inappropriate and misguided approach to reading instruction that will discourage and dispirit many students.”

Why the World of Public Education Has Never Been Worse, and Why I’m Excited To Be a Teacher Anyway

Another Peter Greene blog, written about the USA but with obvious relevance all over.

‘A far-reaching network of rich and powerful men is working to take the public education system as we know it and simply make it go away, to be replaced by a system that is focused on generating profit rather than educating children. Teachers have been vilified and attacked. Our professional skills have been questioned, our dedication has been questioned, and we have been accused of dereliction and failure so often that now even our friends take it as a given that “American schools are failing.”’

The Brave New World of Twenty-First Century Learning (A Retort)

“A central tenet of twenty-first century education is the child-centred approach – which boils down to placing the needs, interests and personal background of our students above the syllabus. The problem with trying to ‘measure’ memorization skills (by looking at test results, for example) is that it seeks to measure an outcome that is not the top priority in 21st century teaching (marks / grades / results), using a methodology that is outdated (tests / exams / memorization tasks). It’s a bit like estimating the age of the earth: now that we have better methods, we can use better means of measurement in order to gain better evidence and arrive at better results.”

The Struggles and Realities of Student-Driven Learning and BYOD

New Zealand Labour Party – take note.

“The reality is that while some teachers have found powerful ways to use mobile devices — both those owned by students and those purchased by the school — teachers at schools in very low-income areas are often battling a persistent student culture of disengagement. Many students have learning gaps that make it hard for them to stay interested in grade level materials and little desire to be in school at all.”

To Close the Achievement Gap, We Need to Close the Teaching Gap

US educator Linda Darling-Hammond – another one to add to your follow list.

“Countries where teachers believe their profession is valued show higher levels of student achievement. Nations that value teaching invest more in high-quality professional learning — paying the full freight for initial preparation and ongoing professional development, so that teachers can continually become more capable. To recruit and retain top talent and enable teachers to help all children learn, we must make teaching an attractive profession that advances in knowledge and skill, like medicine and engineering.”

Why so many kids can’t sit still in school today

“Angela Hanscom, a pediatric occupational therapist and the founder of TimberNook, a nature-based development program designed to foster creativity and independent play outdoors in New England, suggests yet another reason more children are being diagnosed with ADHD, whether or not they really have it: the amount of time kids are forced to sit while they are in school.”

“In order for children to learn, they need to be able to pay attention. In order to pay attention, we need to let them move.”

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

This week’s collection from Bruce all come from his oldies but goodies file. Bruce has been writing on New Zealand educational issues for many years and was one of my main inspirations in my school principal days.

On Knowing – Jerome Bruner

He comments “Love Jerome Bruner – best quote ‘teaching is the canny art of intellectual temptation.’

“Schools are special communities where students are challenged ‘leap into new and unimagined realms of experience’ so as to ‘open new perspectives’.

Einstein, Darwin, da Vinci & Mozart et all – lessons from the Masters. Based on the book ‘Mastery’ by Robert Greene.

“As teachers we need to focus on what it is that individual students are interested in. It was an interest in nature that drove Darwin, an obsession with observing that drove Leonardo da Vinci and an interest in magnetic force as a five year old that drove Einstein – Darwin , Einstein and da Vinci became obsessed with the search and the process of creating.”

The End of Education: Russell Hvolbek — February 06, 2012

“I argue that as we absorb the socio-economic values of our age, an age ruled by business, we have drifted away from what we in the educational community should be doing: teaching students to think, to see, to read, and to write. Education as a dwelling in the human experience of reality is ending. As with the Roman Empire, it is ending with a whimper, not a bang. The root of the problem is that we have absorbed the socio-economic and intellectual values of our age, an age ruled by business and science.”

L.I.S.P. New Zealand’s lost research!

This innovation in Science teaching was superb and it was a real tragedy that it was lost in the rush to standards based instruction.

“Learners must actively construct, or generate, meaning for themselves from their own experiences. No one can do it for them. Knowledge is constructed from within. Learners must take a major responsibility for his/her own learning behaviour. Without some appreciation of the learners existing framework of ideas successful teaching becomes difficult.”

Sharing the wisdom of creative teachers – the agenda for the future.

Very relevant, given current New Zealand government education policies, that mirror GERM policies from the USA and UK.

“Learning from other teachers, both within and between schools, is the most powerful form of professional development. Every teacher respects and appreciates the reality that any such advice is based in contrast to many current advisers who , more often than not ,  give advice about things they have never put into practice. That school leadership has not taken advantage of expertise between schools has meant that wisdom and an opportunity for teacher leadership has been lost.”

Derek Hedgcock : Dangerous Ideas

The Treehorn Express

Derek Hedgcock, a primary school principal with a penchant for expressing what schooling and teaching and their many layers are all about, deals here with the most important aspect of classroom behaviour that there is : the stability of emotions in the teaching/learning process. It forms a trilogy with the two previous Treehorn Express articles. In the first, I tried to point out that the deliberate political damaging of children’s emotions, part of the forlorn attempt by compromised testucators to gain better scores on blanket tests, is cruel and nasty…a product of the shared neoliberal ideologies of our Liberal and Labor controllers . Kelvin Smythe then pointed out the dreadful evils that have been perpetrated by these tormentors in the name of ‘school reform’, and especially by their defilement of the curriculum. Derek here explains that there is no excuse for this politically based defilement, nor for the hard-hearted, ignorant dismissal of the supremely important connection between learning, its durability and childhood emotions.
“Learning is a form of memorised behaviour that is shaped by experience and is entirely determined, in its durability, by emotional connectivity to its stimuli.”

Dangerous Ideas

Derek Hedgcock

I vividly recall from my school principal days, the need to counsel a pupil about the dangers of leaving his classroom to seek refuge in a large urban park, adjacent to the school. The park was a notorious “stranger danger”, no-go area of which the local children were well aware. The school community was constantly vigilant and therefore it was unusual for a pupil to venture into the park at all. However, as this child was relatively young and new to the school, I spent some time detailing the relevant safety issues, with particular emphasis upon the “stranger danger” risks that existed, along with the hazards associated with taking a dip in the lily ponds.

Despite the thoroughness of my counsel, it was obvious that I was not making the required impression that might convince the boy to cease his escapades. His repeated response in broken English was something like…. “That place not dangerous!”

Perhaps now, I should reveal that the eight-year-old lad in question was Sudanese, had spent almost two years in a refugee camp in Egypt, prior to his family’s sponsorship to Australia. In his previous life, he had witnessed an older sibling hacked to death with machetes and no doubt had drunk water far more foul than the turtle infested lily ponds in which he was delighted to “swim”…. He couldn’t swim a stroke. Danger is, I then realised, a concept of variable relativity.

It also reaffirmed to me, that there are certainly dichotomous viewpoints of the very same thing. It got me thinking. At the time, I was applying scientific principles of the physiology and psychology of human emotions in lieu of the traditional “behaviour management” approach, common place in our schools. It was necessary, even more so in this case, to abandon rational argument, and apply an emotion based trigger to alter this boy’s extremely powerful emotions-charged view of the world. In short, unless there is some form of emotional connection that overcomes the emotional connections of prior learning, little if no behaviour change occurs.

Emotions determine what we learn and what we forget. It makes sense that there has to be some mechanism of mind and body that sorts the trivial from the salient, the ho-hum from the bass drum, the urgent from the later-will-do….

That mechanism is emotion of which there are basically seven; universal across all the human species…. anger, fear, surprise, happiness, contempt, disgust and sadness. These are considered to be the background or landscape, against and through which our lives constantly exist.

Unless an event or part of an event elicits an emotional response that is more significant than those prior, during or after, memory of that event or its components will not endure. In fact, awareness itself will fail to arise unless emotional salience exists in relation to the incident.



There is little excuse for educators not to consider the significance of emotions to learning, now that the science is out and unequivocal in its explication of this essential principle of learning.

For that’s what learning is…. a form of memorised behaviour that is shaped by experience and entirely determined in its durability by emotional connectivity to its stimuli?

So… learning has a duality. There is both a physical- metaphysical interdependency that comprises emotional connection AND salience, before an enduring lesson will be formed and manifest itself as behaviour.

Memory is a manifestation of learning. Behaviour is the only tangible evidence of learning. Emotion determines it all.

Gardner described intelligence as a bio-psychological potential, a view very close to my own and perhaps the most concise and accurate definition I have encountered. However, intelligence does not qualify learning in any formal school sense. On most if not all systemic, school-based tests of learning, the Sudanese lad would have failed. His NAPLAN scores were low indeed. Did he have the capacity to learn? Certainly! It was amazing how quickly he learned to speak English. He had certainly learned what danger truly can be and accordingly, in the nicest possible way, put me in my place in that regard…. “There no man with machete, no crocodile in water…. That park not dangerous!”

This to me was a salutary lesson and accordingly an emotional experience.

The most significant of all learning qualifiers is emotion. To have this young man change his behaviour, it was necessary to resolve the emotional trigger, the button that was firing the flight response causing him to seek refuge in the out-of-bounds park. After all, he had sought refuge before and in far more dire circumstances. He could fight; proven the day he sorted out a racist, a year seven bully with great physical skill and panache! What was it that stirred his emotions and why was he running away, seeking solace in a lush, verdant parkland the local kids thought to be so dangerous, they did not go there? Let’s think about it.

3 Ss

There are three genetic imperatives we all possess….. Succour, Success, Survival…. the 3 S’s.

We all crave acceptance in the company of others. We all aspire to succeed at least some of the time. We all need basic comforts and sustenance. Whenever one or a combination of these imperatives is compromised – real or perceived – a flight or fight response arises according to the emotional state associated with that compromise. The states prevail within the scope of the seven human emotions…. fear, surprise, happiness… etc, singly or in combination. The behaviour defaults arise from those states. For example, racism is most probably a combination of fear and contempt, which when exercised might bring happiness to some!

I have already illustrated the significance of prior experience and the relative assessments we each make with respect to any given context. Sheltered,middle-class, middle-aged Aussie male conception of danger varies widely in comparison to that of an eight-year-old, Somalia refugee male. My three genetic imperatives had never been as severely compromised in my life, as had his. Both beauty and ugliness are in the eye of the beholder…. a fundamental by which all educators might do well to hold dearly when they apply policy and practice!

Further to these salient three, there are I believe, three dimensions across which we all traverse with mixed degree of attachment, from context to context and from role to role in our daily lives.

These dimensions, I propose as …. Social. Novelty, Convention.


…… Imagine this….

Way back on an ancient, prehistoric African savannah, a family group meted out their existence, in competition not only with neighbouring family groups, but also against large predator cats, vagaries of the weather…. Within the group an individual had a strong disposition to keep the group together, socially convivial, insightful, cohesive…… Another individual was disposed to trying new ideas, always tinkering with rocks and sticks to invent more efficient weapons, hunting tools, cooking methods…. Another individual was disposed towards remembering the weather patterns, the habits of plants and animals, the pathways to favourable locations at key times in the annual climate cycle…

Would the group’s survival be compromised if any one of these dispositions weren’t preserved genetically? Which of these dimensions of emotional connection could be lost to the human species by way of natural selection? …. I like to socialise and maintain family cohesion…. I enjoy experimentation and challenging the status quo…. I love to keep to the rules and help others to do so as well…..

Alternatively, is it fortunate that natural selection has preserved these dimensions of emotional connection to the extent they are recognisable traits among us all to this day?

Some classroom teachers never bother to open windows each morning because they are required to close them again before afternoon departure. If you’ve ever entered such a classroom in North Queensland, on a summer’s day, after lunch when thirty or so kiddies have returned after madly running about and their tummies have begun processing the sardine sandwich that made up lunch…. you will accept that any class group is indeed a heady mix… a primordial broth?

Beneath that obvious layer of complexity lies a simple dynamic. There is a variance of dispositional mixes across the three dimensions of emotional connection.

Some children most obviously consider school a social experience. They are there to be with their friends and, at the extreme boundaries of this dimension, are those who know the most detailed trivia about the other kids in the class and those across the school population.

Some children find it surprisingly difficult to conform to “the rules”. They display an amazing propensity for innovation and variation from routine, not simply because they have had poor training at home, but more so, because they are innately possessed of a dispositional character for looking at the world outside the box. They are usually the first to notice an unexpected visitor to arrive at the classroom door, gaze constantly outside with fixed attention upon any novelty that presents itself….. the busiest bees in a bottle they are.

Some children will respond with…. “Why are we doing reading now Miss? It’s not afternoon yet!” They know where everything is kept and most willing help tidy up. They do not cope well with alterations to routine.

Each post schooling vocation has an inbuilt requirement for a bias towards one of these dimensions of emotional connection…. however…for example…. not a good idea when approaching to land in a large passenger aircraft to have the captain announce…. “We are approaching to land. We will be on the ground in about five ot ten minutes and I am going to try a new way of landing… something never attempted in this particular aircraft ever before…..”


  • When pupils are confronted by a learning expectation, imposed by the school at some systemic level or another…. how much of the emotional aspects that underpin learning are considered?
  • Does the current, so-called developed, world trend in education adequately consider the ancient roots of our species as emotion-dependent-for-learning individuals?
  • Do schools and their shakers and movers ever give due consideration to the significance of emotions to learning as a fundamental, human behaviour?
  • Do school curriculum designers and enforcers give due regard for the emerging scientific knowledge and understanding of how our species’ mind and body functions undertake learning – the most fundamental of all human behaviours?

Or conversely, do they adhere to anachronistic fundamental, security-blanket, power conserving, freedom constraining, self aggrandising, miserly-wealth accumulation indulgences that are not at all about education in its purest opportunities and liberating forms?

Should the powerful, who currently hijack education for their own self-serving interests, ever, ever consider that, among the teaching profession, there is a significant proportion of individuals possessing a dispositional preference for the Novelty dimension of their emotional connection. Furthermore, should the imposers of fear based compliance, recognise that the Novelty dimension is the one most liable to spawn creative innovation… the very essence of an ever expanding diverse knowledge based economy…. the very thing that may best guarantee their hegemony in a rapidly changing, global economy?

Should not our political “masters” ensure the Novelty dimension is nurtured as least as equitably as the other two, if for no other reason than to ensure our national 3S’s remain robust?

Would the designers and enforcers of NAPLAN and/or correspondingly restrictive, scripted curriculum impositions, not be better agents of education efficacy and fairness, were they to consider the emotional aspects of learner behaviour and the emotional aspects of teacher behaviour? Shouldn’t they resile from such Kleinsian platitudes as…. “Failure is something with which we all need to cope…. Failure is part of life’s journey” etc, etc”?

Just as I considered the park a dangerous place whilst failing to consider another’s perception of danger, is it not reasonable to assert that NAPLANers hold scant respect for the perspective of others who are less empowered to compensate their fears or relegate them to a form of relative triviality within the ordinal scope of their, as yet unknown and un-encountered, vicissitudes of future lived experiences?

Should they understand that because learner variation exists across emotionally connective dimensions as a compelling, ineluctable, genetically inherited disposition, only modified and ameliorated by nurture as opposed to coercion, that one-size-fits-all assessment and instruction strategies are morally reprehensible in an age when scientific discovery reveals more just and diversely accommodating alternatives for education to explore, apply and refine?

Should the powers that always want to be, and the bureaucratic wannabes, understand that both the Social dimensions and the Novelty dimensions of emotional disposition to learning and connection to any learner’s world, are equally as salient as the Convention dimension? In fact: without an equal measure of all three, the human world as we know it, will descend into chaos?

Do they comprehend as convention- compliance mongers, that they in fact rely upon the influence that the other two dimensional dispositions bring to the world?

Same emotional landscape, same buttons, same dimensions of connection apply to us all.

They are not only the architects of the demise of others who have a right to a fair and proper EDUCATION, but also inadvertently, the makers of their own downfall. Perhaps they may, one day, come to realise that the very button that drives their own power mongering and greed (greed; borne of fear) … the Success imperative, with extremely limited disposition to connect to others who function outside the Convention dimension….. They may realise, then, their own self imposed peril?

Somehow, I doubt it! They keep the pressure on the wrong button.

Because their Convention disposition has served their Success perception well: because their narrow, self-obsessed view of what comprises fear has seldom strayed into the perceptual realm of those less fortunate or privileged : because their knowledge of learning as a behaviour remains in an age of uninformed and cloistered hegemony of but one dimension, as opposed to a balanced dichotomy of the physical and the metaphysical (Gardner’s bio-psychological)…. NAPLAN and its ilk are the only idea they have.

That’s why it is so dangerous!

By the way…. the Sudanese boy ceased his flight induced escapades once his default, fear button was identified within the Success imperative. Another boy in his class teased him repeatedly about his language inadequacies, especially when came reading time. The teaser displayed perceived compromise regarding his soccer prowess which by comparison with that of the Sudanese boy, was obviously inferior. Same button, similar fear based, fight/flight response pattern, variable perceptual context.

When the whole class was made more aware of the Sudanese boy’s life experiences, empathy and sympathy prevailed as is almost always the case among young children who remain largely untainted by the bigotry and racial biases of adulthood. When the boys were encouraged to help each other by imparting their skills by mutual exchange, the Success button was restored and escapades to the park ceased. Yet another layer of peace descended upon the school community.

Education is the way to social harmony. Emotional connectivity is an essential element of learning stimuli. Emotional wellbeing is the essence of beneficial learning.

In this day and age, there is no excusing, whatsoever, the emotions based ills that NAPLAN and its brethren perpetrate upon modern education!

Phil Cullen [....for kids. They have feelings too.] 41 Cominan Avenue Banora point 2486 Australia 07 5524 6443

Education Readings July 4th

By Allan Alach

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at

This week’s homework!

School starting age: the evidence

Hey school deformers, here’s some more evidence for you to ignore …

“This is a brief review of the relevant research evidence which overwhelmingly supports a later start to formal education. This evidence relates to the contribution of playful experiences to children’s development as learners, and the consequences of starting formal learning at the age of four to five years of age

There are several strands of evidence which all point towards the importance of play in young children’s development, and the value of an extended period of playful learning before the start of formal schooling. These arise from anthropological, psychological, neuroscientific and educational studies.”

Happy Teaching, Happy Learning: 13 Secrets to Finland’s Success

I haven’t posted anything about Finland for some time – nothing new here, but its important that the message isn’t overlooked.

“The teachers and students that I observed were happy. Students seemed to actually be enjoying their learning experiences, and teachers appeared satisfied and valued.

It made me wonder: “What makes school in Finland such an enjoyable experience for students and teachers?” Here are 13 factors that I identified.”

A School Built Entirely Around the Love of Math

I wonder how this will turn out?

“In fall 2015, a small, independent school that’s exclusively tailored for math whizzes will open in downtown San Francisco. Designers of the new, non-profit Proof School intend to provide mathematically gifted youth an intensive and complete education in grades 6-12 that typical schools can’t muster. The pupils will learn advanced areas of math, such as number theory topics that a university math major or graduate student might tackle. They’ll work on math research projects, and engage in community service through math tutoring.”

What Young Children Can Get Out Of Technology—And What They Can’t

“Advocates for technological tools tout their capacity to teach young children about letters, numbers, and every informational topic under the sun. These kids are growing up in a digital world, the e-enthusiasts point out, so why wait to expose them to the electronic riches the rest of us enjoy? Others, however, urge caution. Research on the effects of digital media use is still spotty, they note, especially where very young children are concerned.”

College Ready vs. Out-of-Basement Ready: Shifting the Education Paradigm

Yong Zhao – is any other comment necessary?

“… education has been preparing our students for an economy that no longer exists. Technology and globalization have transformed our society. Machines and off-shoring have led to the disappearance of traditional middle class jobs—jobs our education have been making our children ready for.”

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

Teachers have been led down the wrong path these past decades – time to control their own journey.

From Bruce’s oldies but goodies file.

“The imposed accountability model being imposed on schools have their roots in the discipline of economics rather than education. Education has been reduced to metrics, standardised teaching through ‘best practices’, endless testing and aggregated data to assess ‘added value’. Unfortunately this approach fails to capture the complex factors that go into teaching and learning and misses encouraging creativity, innovation and the tapping of the diverse talents of students.”

Students Learn by Making ‘Stuff’

Bruce’s comment: Importance of making stuff – authentic learning.

“When I look at this stuff made by children, I see something that matters not just to the students who created them, but to their families, communities, educators, and the general public. Although they are just eleven or twelve years old, McMains’ students learned how to work in teams, get feedback from experts, peers, and teachers; and research and revise like real authors, artists, and designers. They grappled with and overcame the challenge of making something that makes a difference by educating and inspiring real people.”

5 Powerful Questions Teachers Can Ask Students

Some very useful questions to develop student’s thinking.

“Many would agree that for inquiry to be alive and well in a classroom that, amongst other things, the teacher needs to be expert at asking strategic questions not only asking well-designed ones, but ones that will also lead students to questions of their own.”

The 100 Best Video Sites For Educators

“Bringing multimedia into the classroom is a great way to engage students in learning. Supplementing lessons, opening up new interests, and offering inspiration, online videos make for an incredible teaching tool. In 2010, we covered our favorite 100 video sites for educators, and we’ve now updated our list for 2012 with more than 100 resources and more than 25 brand new entries. Read on, and you’ll be able to check out the very best sources for educational videos on the web.”

Worse than Michelle Rhee: Teachers and public schools have a shocking new enemy

Would you believe unions are worse than terrorists?

“How did teachers and their unions – those bastions of labor rights, loyal supporters of Democratic candidates, and frontline troops educating the nation’s children – become equal to zealots who turned the mass slaughter of school children and teachers – yes, teachers were killed that day – in Newtown, Connecticut, into a rationale to advocate for more guns and fewer restrictions on firearms?”

Everyone – an education they are best fitted for so as to develop the fullest extent of their powers.

Going back to principles that underpinned the First Labour Government

Bruce’s latest blog article, that refers back to this quote that still cannot be surpassed.

‘…that every person whatever his level of academic ability, whether rich or poor, whether he lives in the town or the country, has a right as a citizen to a free education of the kind best fitted and to the fullest extent of his power……(and that this ) will involve the reorientation of the education system.’