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?


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