Breaking News

The Treehorn Express

Breaking News.

The White House had invited three representatives of the Save Our Schools March in Washington to confer today [Friday] on the eve of the march.


“March organisers say no thanks to White House invitation, won’t meet Obama education advisers before Saturday’s march. “

Message from SOSMarch reads : “We’d be pleased to host White House or DOE personnel on Ellipse on Sat to hear firsthand what real people say about public education.”

Ellipse is also known as President Park South, where the teachers and parents will foregather. Fifty-two [52] acres in size, it is just south of the White House fence.

Go Parents and Teachers ! Blanket testing Go!

Phil Cullen

41 Cominan Avenue

Banora Point

Australia 2486

07 5524 6443


Save Our Schools White House March

The Treehorn Express

Treehorn was a little primary school boy, who, like most primary school children these days, was troubled but nobody cared. Adults do that. His story is told by Florence Patty in The Shrinking of Treehorn.  He’ll be pleased to hear that some adults in the USA are going to try to help him this week-end with support from folk who care.

In Australia, however, our ‘educators’ are getting together to talk about ways of adjusting the effects of Naplan….as if health professionals get together to discuss better ways of injecting accident victims with influenza virus or chicken-pox or mumps so that their well-being and  recuperation can be slowed down. Naplan does that. It is evil.



White House Talks to Marchers

This week-end, thousands of teachers and parents march on the White House to persuade their politicians that they need:-

*Equitable funding for all public school communities;

*Cessation of high stakes testing of standards, teachers and schools;

*Curriculum development for and by local communities;

*Teacher and community leadership in forming public education policies.

{The third demand might make Australians wonder in view of the applause, mild though it be, for a national curriculum. Remember, we are only a little authority by comparison with Uncle Sam.]

At the eleventh hour,yesterday,  representatives of the organisers have been asked to talk with White House officials. Click here for yesterday’s article from The Washington Post:-

Alfie Kohn, widely respected author and educational commentator was asked why he is marching on Saturday. Part of his response is…

We are living through what future historians will surely describe as one of the darkest in American education [It’s darker down here, Alfie!] – a time when teachers, as well as the very idea of democratic public education, came under attack; when carrots and sticks tied to results on terrible tests were sold to the public as bold “reform”; when politicians who understand nothing about learning relied uncritically on corporate models and metaphors to set education policy; when the goal of schooling was as misconceived as the methods, framed not in terms of what children need but in terms of “global competitiveness” – so that US corporations can triumph.

There will come a time when people will look back on this era and ask “How the hell have they let this happen?” By participation in this march, by speaking out in any community, we’re saying that we need to act before we lose and extra generation to this insanity. The corporate-style school reformers don’t have the research on their side. All they have is the power to impose their ignorance with the force of law. We must make sure that the conversation about the how’s and why’s of education are driven by real educators.

In short, we [schoolies] have to take back our schools.

Media Coverage  

Did you notice how much attention our patron saint of schooling and testing received in the local press, last week?  Our founder, Joel Klein, despite his conspicuous presence in the Murdoch phone scandal,as it is called, just didn’t get a jersey. I wonder how or why that happened ???  I s’pose he and his adoring fan, Julia, will not be too disappointed.

One of the most important events for school children of this generation….the White House March…. will have trouble getting any press in Australia, I should think. The march in Washington is at 1.30 p.m. Saturday which is  3.30 a.m. Sunday in Sydney. Ah well, some keen school-oriented journo might care to check it out. Fingers crossed, Treehorn.

John Young, critical of the media’s emphasis on numbers and scores, says “Just the numbers, Ma’me. Rather than making their citizens fully informed about schools, a system relying on a single test score once each year unwittingly creates a model of accountability for a public that has neither the time nor the patience to really understand the inner workings of their neighbourhood school.” But, Angela Engel says, “We are not here to teach standards and raise test scores. We are her to teach children and raise the human race.”


Finally, Treehorn agrees with Chief Sonne Reyna “ “Children are enchanted [with learning]until disenchanted adults change them.”

Please help to get rid of Naplan. Send this to as many folk as possible, especially politicians and schoolies.  Help our children to come out of this ‘dark age’ and regain the freedom to learn.

Phil Cullen

41 Cominan Avenue

Banora Point

Australia 2486

07 5524 6443

Money Money Money

The Treehorn Express

If you have read Florence Patty’s The Shrinking of Treehorn you will know of Treehorn’s dilemma. As he shrunk, adults who cared for him, ignored his condition. Adult haughtiness and laissez faire attitude to their children’s welfare at school convinced our hero that they just don’t care. Sadly, this attitude is revealed in so many ways, notably in the way that fear-driven testing in schools threatens their children’s attitude to learning; and the development of each individual’s learning techniques.


Money, Money, Money

More and more evidence is emerging of ways in which greed for more money controls the operations of public schools. Yes. It revolves around Naplan, the implications of which so many good ordinary citizens ignore. If only they would tell their politicians that they don’t like what is going on; and if principals of schools would stick with their professional ethics, the teaching and learning in our schools would improve tremendously. Fear has its limitations and our school controllers rely on it too much.

Please stand back and think about it.

*Our PM, when she was Minister, wanted to gain votes from her education sector. It is always a soft target,especially when one mentions ‘basics’,  ‘failure’. ‘kids on the check-counter’, ‘can’t spell’, ‘bullying’. At the time,  she happened to speak to a New Yorker who ran a fear-driven school district that, he claimed was better-off because he was there; and he liked running tests and scaring the pants off teachers. Julia bought it. She became quite determined and introduced the Klein system of schooling to Australia without any meaningful consultation with Aussie Schoolies. Joel Klein knows best, she claimed! He now proudly boasts of having introduced a “…hard data system into Australia. Come and talk to me about it.”

* Who’s Joel Klein”? He’s a lawyer who likes money. He left the NY school district [in some chaos] and took a job with Rupert Murdoch. Worth $4.5m a year to Joel, his task is to run a recent acquisition of Rupert’s, the Wireless Generation.

* What’s Wireless Generation? This is a New York company that produces software that  “…tracks student test scores amongst other things.” The  ‘other things’ included digital instruction.  Rupert has said that he can see this investment as a move into “…a $500billion sector in the US alone. This is waiting desperately to be transformed by big breakthroughs.”

The British phone scandal has interfered a little for Joel is presently mending the fences for his boss. [He was sitting next to Rupert’s wife at the British Parliamentary inquiry.] To make things worse for both of them, powerful groups in New York are asking questions as to why Wireless Generation has received a $28m contract in New York schools without having to bid. They’ll be back. If you don’t care that such people are in control of our kid’s schooling, don’t take any notice. If you care, take you time to gather further details and  click on the sites below,

We could get rid of Naplan and its scandalous non-professional associations.  But….  Treehorn would say “Don’t rely on adults. They don’t care.”

Please do your bit. Send this to as many folk as possible, especially politicians and school people….and help our schools to regain the


Phil Cullen

41 Cominan Avenue

Banora Point

Australia 2486

07 5524 6443

America Marches on the White House for the Sake of Children at School

The Treehorn Express

Treehorn, the hero of Florence Patty’s The Shrinking of Treehorn, kept shrinking. Adults, as they do, ignored his torment. Australian adults, in particular, take no notice of the effects of Naplan testing on the lives of young children. They treat all Aussie children as little Treehorn was treated. They think that it doesn’t matter much what happens to little kids while they are at school.


However, things are changing up-over.

America Marches on the White House for the Sake of Children at School

Parents and Teachers  from all parts of the USA are heading for Washington for 4 days: 28-31 July this week. After speeches, movies and discussion,  thousands will march on the White House at 1.30 pm, where they will present their demands.

What are the demands?

*  Equitable funding for all public school communities;

*  Cessation of high stakes testing of students, teachers and schools;

*  Curriculum development for and by local communities;

*  Teacher and community leadership in forming public education policies.


“ This is a grassroots movement dedicated to restoring educator, parent, student, and community influence over education policy and practice. We are a varied group of people with different perspectives, experiences, and views on education. But we agree that those who know the most about education, our schools, and our communities – the educators, students, families and communities in and around them – should be the ones to have the most influence over education policy and practice. Our goal is to put public school stakeholders back at the center of all education policy conversation, and to refocus national, state and local efforts on providing the resources and support schools need in order to provide a high-quality education for each and every student.”

Who’s behind this?

“Short answer: a diverse and growing group of people and organisations who are committed to preserving and improving America’s public schools by putting educators, students, families, and communities at the center of the decision-making and policy-making process. This movement is the natural result of increasing dissatisfaction with failed and failing policies like No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top [=Australia’s Naplan], which have substituted high-states testing, rewards and punishments for genuine investment and support for public schools. “

Many notables will be present. Matt Doman, on location in Vancouver, will fly all the way over just for the march. Richard Dreyfuss, another actor, will be there. Diana Ravitch will be one of the early speakers. She says, “We’re as mad as hell and we are not going to take it any more….Teachers across the country are demoralized.”

Should be quite a day.

True-blue Aussie schoolies wish them well.


If you get to see the movie “Bad Teacher” you will not be impressed by the style of teaching nor her creative way of beating the state test and winning the money prize for ‘teaching’. Yuk. By the way: Have you ever seen a Hollywood movie that portrays a teaching style other than the 1850-1950 chalk-talk strategy…desks in serried rows facing a chalk-board where a yap-yap-yapper maintains a demilitarized zone between a desk and the pupils? Is this the public impression of what teaching and learning is about?

“To Sir With Love”; “Lean on Me” ; “Kotter”, “The Principal”, “Goodbye Mr. Chips”; “Dead Poets’ Society”; “Stand & Deliver”; “Teacher”; “Dangerous Minds”; “Mr Holland’s Opus” all portray this form of didactic pedantry, right? Good movies…but.

Please send this to as many folk as possible, especially politicians and schoolies ….and help our schools regain the FREEDOM TO LEARN for our pupils.

Phil Cullen

41 Cominan Avenue

Banora Point

Australia 2486

07 5524 6443

Breaking News Alert.

The  Treehorn  Express

The world is full of Treehorns….little kids whom adults ignore. Things are hurried today, because the article below is a Stop Press kind of article.


This appeared in the NY Times on Saturday. It is sent just to keep us up to the mark with news about the founder of our hard-data system, introduced into Australia after Ms.Gillard conversed with the redoubtable Joel Klein, whose system of schooling Australia copied.

Those who support Naplan can share their friend’s dilemma.

Thanks to Brian Gesling for forwarding it.  Although it is a lengthy article about our patron saint, it is worth reading. Click below.



Breaking News Alert

The New York Times

Saturday, July 23, 2011 — 5:24 PM EDT


Joel I. Klein, Former N.Y. Schools Chief, Emerges as Murdoch’s Unlikely Ally

Joel I. Klein, the former New York City schools chancellor, was in a tricky position. Three weeks ago, Rupert Murdoch asked Mr. Klein, now his trusted deputy, to oversee an investigation into the phone hacking scandal that has deeply wounded News Corporation and its chairman, something Mr. Klein was eager to avoid.

“I am trying to get as far away from this as I can,” he lamented to a friend.

He has not succeeded. Mr. Klein, who joined News Corporation as a senior vice president in January, is not only responsible for the investigation that could uncover what company managers knew about the hacking, but he has become one of Mr. Murdoch’s closest and most visible advisers throughout the crisis.

His seemingly contradictory roles — de facto chief of internal affairs officer and ascendant executive with Mr. Murdoch’s ear — are raising questions about how robust and objective the internal inquiry can be.

Read More:

Digital Giants about to Take Over Schools

  The  Treehorn  Express

Treehorn, the hero of Florence Patty’s The Shrinking of Treehorn kept shrinking. Adults ignored him as they do with any thing that is really worrying for pre-adolescent children. The annual blanket testing of Years 3,5,7,9 in Australian schools is a case in point. It is evil,  and most Australian adults just don’t care. They don’t talk about it much, even though its effects are more serious than Carbon Taxing and phone scanning and such . Many teachers and principals don’t open up about the effects on teaching and learning.. They are too frightened, or too unsure, or too compliant. Some might even argue that it doesn’t matter much. Treehorn knows.


Digital Giants about to Take Over Schools

Digital schooling is looming; and heading down under fast. Anxious schoolies hope that there has been extended discussion and politician- classroom teacher discussion about its impact. If there has been no such arrangements, we may have missed the boat again. Many remember the structured kit-learning of the past and have opinions about its influence on classroom practice

Now that blanket testing is firmly established in Australia as a teaching device, it will be quite easy to introduce other unethical procedures without any consultation with schoolies or their representative organisations. I refer to the two previous editions of The Treehorn Express.

On Line Opinion  I revised the article called “Do You Know Who Controls our Children’s Schooling?” and submitted it to On Line Opinion. Two comments on the article stood out…

“Education is, as Rupert Murdoch described it in a speech to the G8 in May 2011, ‘the last frontier’ – a vast market waiting to be invaded, conquered and financially exploited by News of the World and other companies. He cited approvingly of what he called Sweden’s ‘IKEA’ schools, the owner of which has said, ‘If we’re religious about anything, it’s standardisation. We tell our teachers it is more  important to do things the same way than to do them well.’

What attracted Murdoch, sniffing like a dog at its neighbour’s bum, was this: ‘Like IKEA, a giant Swedish furniture-maker, Kunskapsskolan gets its customers to do much of the work themselves. The vital tool, though,  is not an Allen-key but the Kunskapsskolen [“Knowledge Portal”], a website containing the entire syllabus.

Note, students are “customers’. The chain of schools to which Murdoch referred has 700 employees and teaches nearly 10,000 pupils, with an operating profit of SKr62 last year on a turnover  of SKr655m [A$1=SKr6.7].

Murdoch wants to take this approach internationally. “

Thanks to ‘mike-servethepeople’ for this comment.  Looks like the debate as to whether we call school children ‘pupils’ or ‘students’ is on hold for a decade or two. They are Murdoch ‘customers’.  [I’ll hang in there for ‘pupils’ just the same.] Australia’s present style of schooling founder, Klein, runs the business for Murdoch; and Bill Gates has set up a similar business. Duck!

For thoughtful readers a very useful comment came from ‘Ho Hum”  :-

“In her well-researched and much foot-noted book ‘This Little Kiddy Went to Market : The Corporate Capture of Childhood’ Sharon Beder tells us all we need to know about this topic.

She also names the usual right-wing corporate suspects, their inter-relations, and their front groups [which help to promulgate the ‘gospel’ according to corporations.”


 Allan Alach, Principal of Hokowhitu School, Palmerston North [ ] is an example of a wide reading, deep thinking, curriculum concerned, proud Primary Principal. He shares his readings and his wisdom widely. He is a fan of Treehorn Express and has included some on this website, devoted to the unfortunate Treehorns presently passing through their primary school years. Of course, I think that it is just great and thank Allan sincerely.


Thank you indeed for the response to the change of email address to My apologies for any inconvenience.


Stephen Krashen wrote to the Los Angeles Times on July 17, 2011.

J.K.Rowling’s Harry Potter has a great deal to say about current educational policy.In “Harry Potter:”The Order of the Phoenix (2007), villain Dolores Umbridge [“You know. I really hate children”] informs Hogwart’s students that their course on Defense Against the Dark Arts will be “carefully structured” and all theoretical, with no actual use of spells. When students complain, Umbridge says”…a theoretical knowledge will be sufficient to get you through your examinations,  which after all, is what school is all about.”  The next line says it all.

Harry Potter : And how is theory supposed to prepare us for what’s out there?

Dolores Ubridge : There is nothing out there, dear!


I  swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.

Silence encourages the tormentors, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere.    (Elie Wiesel, “Night”)

{Thanks to Mary E Mackay for these two extracts}

Phil Cullen

41 Cominan Avenue

Banora Point

Australia 2486J

Please keep talking about the issues, send this ‘Treehorn’ to as many folk as possible; and pray that our school children will regain their FREEDOM TO LEARN.

Treehorn Express July 19

The  Treehorn  Express

Treehorn was a normal every-day school boy just like any other. But then he started to shrink…so much so that he could walk upright under his bed. Nobody took any notice. Adults do that . When they send their children off to school, they prefer not to care much more about what happens there. You know it’s true because you haven’t taken much interest in the evil Naplan in Australia, nor done anything about it, have you? Treehorn learned the hard way that adults don’t care much about pre-adolescent kids. His parents, teachers and principal didn’t want to have anything to do with his condition, thinking that it would just go away. It didn’t go easily. He found his own remedy and then resolved not to tell any adults about a new condition that hit him. Florence Patty’s book The Shrinking of Treehorn reveals our haughtiness and neglect charmingly by telling Treehorn’s sad story.


What really controls our children’s schooling for C21 ?

Greed of course….more than anything else….and we fall for it’s tactics, so easily .When media moguls take control of politicians in their pursuit of the mighty dollar no country’s future is ensured. It’s children’s learning capacity is crippled, for sure.

Australian principals in particular need to reflect on contemporary influences more than they ever had. They know that our PM was sold a pup and that her political foes would have done the same thing if they had followed Brendan Nelson’s notions of schooling. You complied….and the voting public as usual treehorned. All pollies know that and make the most of it. Who cares much about schoolkids?

Ms Gillard’s 26 February 2008 address of welcome to Joel Klein [now the strategist for Rupert Murdoch’s UK problems] at the USB banquet arranged by Australia’s bankers, set her stamp of approval on the introduction of the hard-data test-based system of schooling that is now in place, without consultation with principals or any other professional schoolies. She fawned on her new-found idol Joel, and quoted from her hero, Rupert Murdoch who, on the previous week-end in his fourth Boyer Lecture, said, “ As a chief executive, I notice that many companies devote a large part of their giving to higher education. At the very critical levels of primary and secondary education, there is much less corporate participation. We tend to leave that to government.

…But Australian business has a role, too. Companies need to take a more active role in working with government to ensure that schools are giving people an education.”

We now know what he was up to, don’t we?

Both Rupert and Joel meant business. Klein joined the empire. According to Ian Quillan in ‘Education Online’ [18 July] “NewsCorp began its dive into education last fall by announcing the hiring of…Joel Klein, and shortly after, purchasing 90% of Wireless Generation, an educational software company for $360 million. “

“Klein has told the Financial Times that the company was poised to grow its division through acquisition. It is unclear whether the process will be slowed or halted because of the scandal. Wireless General had already secured a testing contract with New York state Department of Education for $27 million.”  [ ]

Little has been made in Australia of Joel Klein’s present roll. One can be quite sure that the Murdoch empire can easily shed some of its media interests since and concentrate on the real big ticket items….

school tests and digital delivery of curriculum. It will be enormous and the empire will rely on our treehorning. Why care? Leave it to somebody else. It will go away.

It is surely strange that the presence of Joel Klein in the phone scandal has received little if any mention in the Australian media. How did that happen? An oversight, of course. Dan Goldberg in his New York Magazine article says, “…what has received less ink, but may be more intriguing, is what the future holds for Klein – and what it means that Rupert Murdoch has decided to dive headlong into what his newest employee calls ‘the education market-place’ “

Murdoch’s hiring of Klein suggests that the mogul’s interest in education is no longer merely posing or purely philanthropic. And this has caused no small degree of both befuddleness and conspiracy-mongering.”

Murdoch’s education strategy is all but certain to revolve around one of the most fertile areas of innovation today – the application of digital technology to learning.”

Exactly how Klein’s burgeoning passion for the stuff will take place out of News Corp has yet to be hammered out.”

In addition to the pecuniary benefits of his shift from doing good to doing good by doing well, Klein will enjoy another perk in his new private-sector life : the absence of disgruntled parents and braying union bosses constantly pelting him with verbal tomatoes. “I wont miss being called a jerk, that’s for sure.” he says.

One of Klein’s greatest strengths was…a thick-skinnedness that sometimes came across as a masochistic streak, to the point where it makes you wonder if he might actually miss the abuse.

‘Well ‘ he says ‘if you need to editorialize it, you should feel free to do so.’”

The cartoon on this says it all.

Please send this to as many friends as possible and please help our school children and their schools to regain the freedom to learn. 

Phil Cullen

41 Cominan Avenue

Banora Point

Australia 2486

Treehorn Express July 16


Treehorn was a normal every-day primary school child who started to shrink…so much so that he could walk upright under his bed. Nobody took any notice….parents, teachers, principal. He came to grips with the sad reality:  that adults don’t take any notice of a child  of primary school age. You know its true. I know it’s true. We only have to think about the introduction of Naplan testing imported into Australia from New York that is having a frightening effect on schooling in this country. You also know that. You’d have to be blind and/or deaf not to. But….we don’t care enough to put it right. Our haughtiness and neglect are exposed in the small charming book by Florence Patty The Shrinking of Treehorn.


Do you know what controls our children’s schooling?

Greed. Greed for money.

Murdochgate [British style] has revealed an interesting scenario.

Joel Klein, the New York lawyer –  [who proudly gave our Prime Minister and all Australian schools the bum-steer of a  useful ‘hard-data system of schooling’ – Klein’s description –  based on fear of failure in the so-called ‘basics’] –   was assigned by the Murdoch team last week to provide “strategic guidance” in the telephone hacking scandal.

Rebekah Brooks, who ran the British section of the Murdoch publishing empire before her resignation on Friday [15 July], sent out a memo to her troops, two paragraphs of which say:-

“People have asked if it is right for me, as CEO of News International and as the Editor of News of the World until January 2003, to oversee our efforts to assess allegations, address serious issues and prevent them from happening again.  I’m determined that News International does this.”

“For the avoidance of any doubt, however, the News Corporation independent directors agree with James Murdoch’s recommendation that the Management and Standards Committee, comprised of Will Lewis, Simon Greenberg and Jeff Parker, report directly to Joel Klein in New York. Joel is leading and directing the Company’s overall handling of this matter.”

As the Canberra Times  said last week, “Be careful not to gloat over Murdoch’s discomfort.” Yep. We schoolies know that the Murdoch business in Britain is now in safe hands, if the making of a fortune  is the name of the game. Joel Klein is good at his job. If the future of newspapers and TV productions  becomes dicey, Rupert takes heart. The publishing of school tests and on-line learning can be much more profitable. That’s the way we are heading, kiddies. Britain is in the cross-hairs. It’s vulnerable. The world next. Did you think that the whole sorry saga of changing the New York and Australian schooling systems was about helping children learn? Come off it. It’s money, money, money.

Last year, Joel Klein left “the turmoil of NYC  schools”, as it is generally described,  to join Murdoch’s test publishing business in New York. His annual salary to do this was cited at $4.5 million. Blanket testing in schools is very, very big business, so this wage is peanuts. Test publishing for American schools is a most profitable part of some of the US’s major papers. If you want to know who is making the big bucks from test production and publishing in Australia right now…and someone is… your local state politician will find out for you.  ACER used to.

Maybe you still think that schools are for schooling!!

It has been suggested that Murdoch has a vision of schooling that involves heavy integration of on-line learning with system-wide testing. That’s where the real money is. Britain awaits. Think of the volume of commercial material and its value.  It involves the carving of all school subjects and other curriculum issues  into fine incremental activities, with self-testing and corrective devices and cheat-free national tests, as teacher-free students in the main  work their way through each web-site.  Its advocates see a huge potential for secondary school subjects of the measureable kind. Its application is limitless; and his writers will have full control of curriculum content, of course.  Bye bye, national curricula.

Before we see world schooling change from the present warm and caring, achievement oriented learning-support schools that we have, to real hard-data ones, each country’s  blanket testing schemes will have to cease now.

Before schooling becomes totally commercialised, the immoral, unnecessary, curriculum  shrinking, costly, soul destroying tests have to be judged. They need to be judged by practising teachers on ethical and professional grounds. National blanket tests are  corrosive. Don’t you think so ?  ….or don’t you care ?

Phil Cullen

41 Cominan Avenue

Banora Point


07 5524 6443

Please help our school children to regain the freedom to learn.

Things will get worse.

Treehorn Express July 14

The Treehorn Express

Treehorn was a normal, every-day primary school pupil who started to shrink.  During his ordeal he came to grips with a sad, prevailing condition that everybody knows about : that adults don’t take much notice of what happens to young school children. Treehorn learned this the hard way. .We adults really don’t care much about the school world that he and his age-peers live in, do we? Face up to it. If we did we would never had allowed the kind of testing programs that have altered school systems, teaching procedures, learning aspirations and our economic future. Florence Patty’s story The Shrinking of Treehorn exposes our haughtiness beautifully. When will we ever learn?


Set Yourselves Free

This was the title of a recent Primary Principals Federation conference in New Zealand [where “National Standards’ testing was introduced at about the same time as Naplan was introduced into Australia. Both were cunning political moves for sure and certain…nothing to do with improving learning.]  Below are some excerpts from the Conference and from the March and June editions of New Zealand Principal magazine.

The editor opens by saying that “National Standards [= Aussie Naplan] are flawed, fuzzy and inaccurate measures which will produce at best unreliable data and at worst, harm our children. They are unwelcome boiled tripe – soft, wobbly and gutless at the banquet of educational celebration.”  The editor continues” …there is hardly a single principal who thinks ‘national standards’ can assist children’s achievement and many consider they will harm them. They are being introduced for one reason –  political purposes.”  Apropos: Peter Simpson, President of the Principals Federation commented, “ What we don’t want is to allow uninformed politicians to rule and find ourselves implementing a ‘national standards’ [=Naplan] system which brings high risk of harming children.”

Other writers added…

Prof. Terry Crook :  ” I have sincere and grave doubts that they will make any significant contribution to the goals for which they have been introduced.”  He adds that “…teachers should instead be developing deep insight into the capabilities, interests and needs of each of their pupils”  Like Diane Ravitch he expresses the concern that educational changes need to be embraced by teachers; rather than have them imposed.

Cedric Croft:  ”A point of confusion with ‘Standards’ is that politicians and officials who promote them are not clear what they are talking about.” They rely on teachers and principals to make them appear to be working.

Prof. Lester Flockton :  “In England interpretations of the standards are the same as in the USA, Australia etc. ….places that have revealed their serious limitations, burdensome impositions, flawed procedures, misplaced faith in data and corrosive curriculum distortions.”  The policy rings nicely in the ears of a voting public. [The ones that ignore our Treehorns.]  He continued ,”…recuing that 20% of children are’ failing every day in our schools’ is the robotic and almost daily repeated reason for  National Standards [=Naplan] given by the Government and ignores the true reason why children struggle ….that the large percentage are seriously disadvantaged by their living circumstances. “It is silly to think that National Standards can get struggling children to succeed without addressing the underlying causation.”

Prof. Flockton has no time for a Minister for Education who ignores reasoned opposition ; who dismisses criticism as ‘politics’, ‘nonsense’, ‘rubbish’, ‘we’ve heard it all before’, ‘unions’, and such like.

Bruce Hammonds of ‘leading and learning’, from whose report this article is précised, says “ The report on the NZPPF Conference provided compelling arguments from the key-note speakers to unshackle the claustrophobia of a currently imprisoned assessment culture and rebuild confidence in teaching to a broad and innovative curriculum.” ….

Andy Hargreaves : “ Schools are not just about achievement in literacy and numeracy. [Note:-Aussie Naplan, the malady that drives our state systems, stands for National Assessment Program Literacy and Numeracy] They are also about identity, culture and language. The time is ripe to ask our educators , “What are your dreams?”

Prof. James Spillane [Chicago] said that the principals had to get beyond the mindset that is caught with standardising and homogenising. He warned of the culture of surveillance and distrust. He asked principals to understand their teachers’ beliefs and knowledge and to develop a ‘living culture’ based on ‘what teachers and others experience every day’.

Prof. Yong Zhao [China]  “While the USA was focusing on centralism, standardisation and accountability, China was reducing instructional hours for maths and increasing hours for electives  and P.E.” He said, “Singapore, a world high flyer, has developed a deliberate strategy to teach critical and creative thinking skills, reduce subject content and emphasise process over outcomes when appraising schools. [Fancy that! What an idea!] Singapore’s Ministry is calling for a more varied curriculum, a focus on learning rather than teaching; and more autonomy for schools and teachers. Similar developments are occurring in Korea.

“So what is the point in pursuing a culture of testing and data collecting ? Children are like popcorn. Some pop early and some pop late. We need to respect individual differences, understand multiple intelligences and cultural diversity; and possessing curiosity, passion and creativity…the employable skills for the future.  What children will be doing is inventing a job, not finding one; and to do that they will have something that others want. They will need to have confidence and passion to innovate.”

The President of the Primary Principals Federation reminded the conference of the theme Set Yourselves Free. Principals need to free themselves from the doubt that NZ is in crisis [as is Australia]. “We do not need National Standards [=Naplan] to identify our underachieving children. Principals need not fear the consequences of doing the right and ethical thing by the children in our schools. The assumptions underpinning the National Standards that all children progress at the same pace, and labelling children as failures is unethical and could cause life-long harm. “[Amen to that, Peter]

He continued,  “Principals must not sit back and quietly watch all that is good about our education system fall into decline because of flawed government policy.

He called on the audience to utterly reject the National Standards policy in which the teaching profession has no confidence….and he received a standing ovation.

Sincerely…..God Bless New Zealand Primary Principals.

May your ethics be infectious.

Phil Cullen

41 Cominan Avenue

Banora Point

Australia 2486

07 5524 6443


*Please Note : This is an important paper. It portrays the activities of a large professional organisation – probably the first national Principals  Association in the world to emphasise its professional ethics. Please send it or give it to as many teachers and principals as you can. [One reader already sends The Treehorn Express to 14 teachers.]

Treehorn Express July 7

The  Treehorn  Express

Treehorn was a young primary school pupil who kept shrinking. He couldn’t find any adults who would take notice. His parents, his teachers and his principal all gave him short shift. His condition didn’t seem important to them. So, as Florence Patty tells us in The Shrinking of Treehorn, he shrunk so much that he could walk under his bed upright….still no interest from any adults.  Then, he found his own remedy and resumed his normal height. However, after a little while he noticed that his skin was turning green, greener, greener still.

He knew what to do. Don’t mention it to any adult. They don’t care enough about little people of primary school age.



I am paranoiac about the use of the word ‘pupil’ when describing someone who is teaching something to someone else. I am especially paranoiac about the use of the word in the schooling context.  There is a fondness for the use of ‘student’ in north America to describe people at school; and this use of the term has spread across the Pacific to Australia and New Zealand. In the past, Australians tended to call a primary school attender , a ‘pupil’ ;and  a ‘student’’ in the secondary and tertiary teacher-learner exchanges. Europeans seem to understand dictionary meanings better. They describe everyone who goes to school to learn, a pupil.  It infers a serious learning contract between two people. Where’s the dictionary?

One thing is sure. Blanket testing of any kind has no place in any serious exchange between a teacher and a learner. It does too much damage to the dignity and humanity of the learner.  Pupilling is too serious for that.  NCLB, Naplan, national standards and testing  and other such fearsome intrusions can ruin the contract.

In a period when schooling and pupilling was better understood, I gave a ‘keynote’ at a principals’ conference containing views with which most school folk were in accord [I thought]. Not long after, the corporate giants of the world up-ended, down-sized, out-sourced and managerialised what happens in schools. They saw schools as businesses that could be run on corporate lines, with all the corporate-style checks and balances. No thought of re-structuring schools and departments by starting from the needs of pupils. Oh no. This  managerial-based ‘perform or else’ thinking still persists and is reflected in the support for the testing evils that we have today.

I attach the paper that I presented. In no section of it can I find any reason for re-thinking any part of the presentation.   The Naplan intrusions are grossly immoral, very costly, unnecessary if children are treated as pupils, unreliable even for managerial purposes; and scare the daylights out of young folk who have an aversion to fear.  There is no need for them; and no form of serious educational consensus can endorse them .

Please click on the attachment and spend some time reading it.


I reckon that the views have maintained currency for anyone who thinks about what happens in schools. Check it out and let me know if any part needs rethinking, will you? Thanks.

Phil Cullen

41 Cominan Avenue

Banora Point

Australia  2486

07 5524 6443

Please help to return humanity and the freedom to learn to school pupils

Also, please send this along to as many people as possible, won’t you?