The Treehorn Express

Treehorn was an ordinary school child who had an extra-ordinary experience; he kept shrinking until he was so small that he could walk upright under his bed. He kept doing the ordinary every-day things, while trying to get important adults to notice his problem. Nobody did. Adults just don’t care much about ordinary children of primary school age. Florence Parry Heide, in The Shrinking of Treehorn, supported by bizarre illustrations by Edward Gorey, brings this clearly to our attention.  It means that, when children, like Treehorn and his friends, are institutionalised, other adults [politicians, measurers etc.] can do what they wish with them.

Treehorn wishes, this week, that he was a boat-boy or a baby whale. Someone would notice him.



SO…The things that ordinary adults endorse, by their disinterest and silence as well as their compliant quiescence, can be demonising for the future of the present-day generation of school children. Believe it. This applies especially to adults in those western countries where governments have introduced forms of blanket testing to schools that clearly destroy important aspects of learning. These western countries pretending to know better than others, become ‘hoist with their own petard’ and allow blanket testing to control their systems system.

Blanket testing curbs and destroys the democratic function of a useful curriculum [aka ‘a guide to the learning of items of interest’] whether such testing is used at class-room level or at national year level. Every trained, professional, child-oriented teacher knows that.

Once upon a time, we believed in schooling as a useful way of helping children to learn as much as they could, because they wanted to do so. Children like learning. Since children value what they do, teachers once included evaluation as part of the learning experience. We believed, then, that the interaction between a teacher and a pupil was an important contract that should not be contaminated by nasty interferences. We’d been there, done that cruel testing business earlier in our history; and had learned our lesson. We had learned that self-generated personal testing is integral to the learning processes and deserved to be expanded.

We used to talk about it. Not enough, of course.  Attached to this Express is a paper that was sent to every teacher in Queensland at a time when Evaluation, Assessment, Appraisal etc. were topics of conversation and became important Conference titles for learned societies and professional groups. In the hope that teachers would talk to each other about the evaluation of pupil effort, Jim Gray and David Ham as co- authors of what was called Primary Viewpoint, sent the attached article to every primary teacher in the state. This particular topic was so popular that it was repeated on request. See the heading and note the year. Only the first two pages are attached. The remaining two will be sent next time. Sorry.

[Page 1   Page 2   I hope that you can expand the printing to a readable size.  Just  twirl the twirler on the mouse.]


Allan Alach Primary School Principal Says

Allan of Hokowhitu School, New Zealand speaks of the situation in New Zealand in Bruce Hammonds Leading & Learning. Please don’t lose heart, Allan. The world’s children need Principals like you. In an article called ‘On the Shoulders of Giants”, he worries that things might be in limbo. I’d recommend his article and the references that one can click.

Try http://leading-learning.blogspot.com


What children are saying to us – which we adults more-often-than-not ignore.

* I am different. I am different from every one else in the whole wide world.

* From time to time, I need something special from those around me. My needs differ.

* My interests change, although sometimes they match those of my friends.

* When I do something I notice that I am sometimes better at the task than others; sometimes not as good.

* On many occasions I have a different attitude to things than do others.

* Some fellow pupils concentrate on tasks for longer than I do. Some cannot concentrate as long as I can.

* My upbringing has been different from others. It might seem similar to you, but all sorts of things have happened to me up until now.

Please don’t try to clone my learning instincts or brand me with scores and numbers. I’m an individual. I’ll go with the flow; but….fair go!

What motivates me ?

* I am always curious. I like to explore and think and talk about things, if I am not threatened.

* If something attracts my attention. I will explore it without any assistance from anyone else; but I often need a lot of help.

* If you want to attract my attention you’ll need to persuade me that  I should take an interest. There is no way in the world that I will learn from anyone if I don’t want to learn.

Got it?  I can’t be forced to learn. I’ll pass your silly tests for you, but I’ll learn what, where and when I learn… at my pace.

What more can I tell you about learning ?

* The more confidence that I have in my ability, the more that I will want to learn.

* I like to manipulate material when I am learning, if it is possible. Reality stuff.

* I love to play. I really love it when my teacher uses play as part of a learning endeavour..

* I can be persuaded to learn almost anything if it is hands-on fun. However, I decide what I will learn. I chose. Teacher, you set it up.

* I appreciate the opinion of my teacher, mum, dad, friend to see what they think of my progress. If I have to go to the trouble of doing something important, I want it evaluated seriously by one or all of them; but it’s nobody else’s business….ever…..nobody.

* I don’t like being told what I must learn. I have to be interested in the first place and, in a way, give my approval.

* I don’t mind doing drill stuff if there is some fun attached to it. I can even dance to the three-times-table.

* I hate sitting in the same place for too long, unless what I am doing interests me.

* I can only listen to a speaker for a short time [5 minutes max], unless what is said interests me. A few minutes, without being involved, is more than enough. That chalk-talk stuff can be a real bore.

 Gosh. You know this. How come, Mum and Dad and Teacher, you allowed them spoil it all with those sit-down,shut-up, do-as-your-told silly tests? 

What do I do at school to help me learn ?

Well, amongst other things I do most of the following during the day to help me develop my learning techniques.

                         brainstorming                      grouping                        rationalising

choosing                              inferring                         reflecting

classifying                           inventing                        recalling

comparing                           investigating                  repeating

constructing                        listening                         representing

contrasting                          manipulating                 seriating

copying                                matching                       smelling

counting                              mimicking                      taking roles

creating                               ordering                         talking

deducing                             planning                         tasting

evaluation                           practising                       testing

experimenting                    predicting                       touching

exploring                            pretending                      verifying

generalising                       questioning                     watching

[Ed.Note: Unsure of origin of this list]

I’m busy. Why worry me more with that blanket-testing, time-wasting junk?


 A Thought :  ‘There was something masochistic about the way that national blanket-testing was introduced ….the totalitarian “You will do as I tell you to do. Amen” technique. This forceful handling of the introduction of factory-style learning befitted the role of Dolores Umbridge in ‘The Order of The Phoenix” 2007, who said. “You know. I really hate children.

Phil Cullen

41 Cominan Avenue

Banora Point

Australia 2486



Please share this message with as many people as possible. Give Treehorn and other kids a break.

Give them the freedom to learn.


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