Parents Opt Out

  Until  Naplan is “dead, buried and cremated”…

The  Treehorn Express

Treehorn is a little primary school lad who kept shrinking. Nobody took any notice. Treehorn concluded that adults don’t take any notice of what happens to young children. They just don’t care. We can find endless examples to support Treehorn’s view. How  many adults, for instance, gave two hoots when [then] Minister Gillard changed, in 2009, from the well established, highly–regarded Australian system of schooling to Joel Klein’s NY system of fear-driven schooling. Nobody worried..It was a dramatic transformation….changes to a country’s schooling system by fiat. The effects on children’ s learning and classroom pupilling have been profound. [See Florence Patty Heidi: The Shrinking of Treehorn ]


Parents Opt  Out

As a former state primary school principal, I have been concerned for many years how children’s learning is handled in Australia. Briefly, I had imagined that, by the year 2000, children would be taught to be so keen on learning and achievement and accepting learning challenges of all kinds, that they would be bursting a boiler to get to school each day, because of the learning opportunities there. They would want to share their learning efforts with parents, friends and teachers constantly because learning how to learn is important too them. Even though there are some great schools, it didn’t happen generally; and things are certainly moving away from my sort of dream. Kleinism crushed it.

I had, quite sincerely, thought that Principals would hold on to their professional and ethical dignity when Kleinism moved to Australia from New York and tell our political leaders, who introduced it, where to go. They, I thought, were our major pupil/parent- protectors. I have to say that, despite my high regard for the work of school principals, that I am bitterly disappointed.

I shouldn’t lose heart. There is a large number of parents in the USA who are distressed because of what NCLB and Race to the Top [Naplan clones] is doing to their children. 8000 of them marched on the White House recently; and their friends included notables who know what they are talking about. They have been there, done that, and can articulate their feelings.

Allan Alach, a New Zealand primary school principal, told me of a wonderful organisation that is determined to do something to help their own and other children. Treehorn will be amazed and thrilled. It is called UNITED OPT OUT which is encouraging every parent to just write a letter to their school’s principal withdrawing their children from any state-wide testing program. It doesn’t take much. UNITED OPT OUT is located in all 50 states, and their extended outreach is about to extend down under. Here’s Allan’s description of the establishment of a South Pacific link. I hope that you will be enthusiastic as I am and will make sure that you participate to the full….until fear driven national testing disappears from the face of the earth.


Recently, as part of my prowling around the internet looking for ammunition to support our battle against the national standards nonsense in New Zealand, I came across a USA website called :

“United Opt Out National: The movement to end punitive public school testing.”

A quick skim revealed that this was a new site and that it was set up, and administered, by some ‘heavy hitters’ on the US education scene. Some more quick research found that this group also ran a Facebook page:

OPT OUT OF THE STATE TEST: The National Movement .

Two things developed rapidly from this point. I sent an email to Phil, drawing his attention to the United Opt Out website, while at the same time I asked to join the Facebook group.  The response was quick and I then posted a message:

“Hello from New Zealand. This is an excellent resource, to accompany your website. We’ve got a similar battle on our hands, trying to stop the government’s agenda to impose national standards on our schools, with the accompanying ideology that is clearly being imported from USA. At the moment, we are dodging a nationwide testing regime but I think that’s only a couple of years down the track. An equivalent Facebook page to this has now been set up to give parents and teachers a voice to counteract the misinformation coming from the government which is propagated by compliant media.”

This also included a link to two New Zealand Facebook pages, that have recently been set up to facilitate our own battle against standards:

National Standards Must Go

Protect (Parents’ Rights On Their Educational Choices Today)

This approach was very warmly received by many people on the Opt Out Facebook page, and led to other similar USA Facebook pages:

Uniting for Kids

Parents & Kids Against Standardized Testing

I posted the same message here, and the response was equally warm, with the same astonishment about the situation here in New Zealand. The rapid connecting of educators with similar concerns led me to the realisation that using Facebook, and other social media, could be a very powerful tool to build a world wide group of educators and parents engaged in the battle to protect public schooling. The image  that came to mind was that of a snowball growing in size as it rolls, not that I’ve ever seen this. Already I have made many new Facebook friends from the USA and we are sharing resources and supporting each other. McLuhan’s global village concept is being used to grow the battle to prevent corporatisation of public schooling wherever it rears its head! How wonderful.

At the same time, Phil had left contact details on the website, and the response was equally swift. Both our approaches were received very warmly, albeit with a considerable degree of shock that both Australia and New  Zealand, long viewed as setting the exemplar for progressive primary school education, were now going down the very limited, restricted assessment/standards based road that this group were fighting.  This was accompanied by an equal shock that the USA was exporting the testing/standards mania to other parts of the world. This concept, it seems, had not entered their awareness.

Phil raised the possibility of a specific section set up to connect to the South Pacific. This was rapidly approved and set up, so that there is now a tab on the United Opt Out website called “Global Outreach” and through that there is a subsection: South Pacific Outreach: Australia and New Zealand. This is still in development, with the aim being to provide a forum for two way sharing of related issues and concerns.

Things have moved very fast over the last week, to the point where Australia and New Zealand’s move to standardised, assessment focussed education featured as a key part of an eastern USA radio show. Listen to this, because there is gold in here.

Such is the power of the interconnected nature of our world, that our Australasian battle is being publicised in the USA, which can’t be bad, and hopefully our support from down under will help our American colleagues in their similar battle.

So much has happened, so quickly, that the potential of this is very clear. I encourage everyone to visit all these Facebook pages and either ‘Like” or ‘Join” as appropriate. Let’s build a huge world wide movement. We don’t yet have links to similar Facebook pages from Australia, Canada, and England, as well as other countries with similar issues, so links to these would be a great boost to growing this ‘snowball’. Together we have great strength.


Thank you Allan. Please don’t miss any of the references. There is some super material.

Thanks to the wonderful staff at for allowing those of us in New Zealand and Australia to join you

Phil Cullen

41 Cominan Avenue

Banora Point

Australia  2486

07 5524 6443





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