Mugwumps & Other Dangerous Animals

“until the evil blanket testing is “dead, buried and cremated”.

The  Treehorn  Express

Our little hero, Treehorn, the victim of being ignored by adults, is gradually being noticed….sometimes for the wrong reasons. Rupert and Joel can see the little kids, Treehorn’s age-peers, as the source of millions and millions of dollars. They have already turned them into numbers and test scores, easy prey now for  cyber- learning, computer monitoring,and low level teaching-learning strategies. Barack, Julia, John [Key] and David [Cameron], of course, see these children as footballs to be kicked as often as possible and to be used, used, used.  Their blatantly political task is to set things up for the mega-powerful.  As politicians, they certainly show little regard for child justice or even long-view national welfare.

However, the number of those who care deeply about children and who examine all the consequences of these corporate and political assaults seems to be growing. Concerned about the threatened dismantling of public schooling, basic learnacy. curriculum offerings and high-level achievement, they read a lot and have much to offer. They share across national boundaries. They have to deal with the surplus of mugwumps as we do. There is light.


Social Justice for School Children

Today [25 September] is Social Justice Sunday. The term, ‘Social Justice’, says social worker J.Lee, may never be fully defined, but he offers the following : – “Social Justice generally refers to the idea of creating society based on the principles of equality and solidarity, that understands and values human rights, and that recognizes the dignity of every human being”…..except school children.   I added  that extra bit, because their humanity continues to be devalued. In the countries mentioned above, they remain as numbers to be measured and scored and exploited.


Are You a Mugwump?

The term ‘mugwump’ used to be a respectable term in the 19th century. Google it. Then, it then came to mean ‘turncoat’; and finally, a jocular term that means “…a person who sits on the fence with his mug on one side and his wump on the other”.  In the field of education there are millions of them….a few million in Australia alone. Treehorn knows.

If you click you will find an extract from a first-rate web-site  run by Dr. Bob Valiant

In the article, he asks politely if you have considered whether you are a mugwump or not. He refers to…

* The estimates of costs of testing in the US to be in excess of hundreds of billions of dollars [and billions in Australia], with no improvement in blanket testing scores. He asks, “Where do you stand on the continued mandating of standardized test? Are you a Mugwump, or are you supporting your position?

*Federal political parties and their departments follow each other in requiring states to conduct tests with stricter accountability rules for teachers and usurping of state control of education. States do the police work for the federal officers. He asks, “Where do you stand on the Federal takeover the local schools? Are you a mugwump, or are you actively supporting your position?”

*To obtain money, states have to agree to increase base teacher and principal accountability on the standardized test scores of the students [ so-called value-added analysis], participate in the implementation of national core standards, and use assessments based on the national standards. “There is no evidence that state or national standards increase achievement level of students or close the achievement gap between high and low SES students despite more than ten years of trying. The same is true of the use of standardized tests as either a carrot or a stick.”  He asks, “Where do you stand on using federal dollars [your tax money] to fund so-called innovative programs in a vain attempt to reach set requirements? Are you a mugwump, or are you actively supporting your positions?”

* “National, state and even local requirements are resulting in a narrowed curriculum, lower graduation rates, increased student stress and lower teacher morale. The federal emphasis on reading, writing, and math has resulted in the loss of opportunity in science, social studies, art, music, and vocational courses as students are trained to pass the 3-Rs bubble tests….Many  members of the American Pediatrics Association have spoken out against [blanket testing] because of the physical and emotional toll it seems to be taking on many of our children. Study after study conclude that pressures coming from [blanket testing] result in significantly lower teacher morale. Where do you stand on the continued application of [blanket testing]? Are you a Mugwump, or are you actively supporting your position?”

“Are YOU a mugwump?

Why are you sitting there?

Write a letter to the editor, contact your local member and a senator, copy this article and send it to friends and colleagues.


Get you mug and your wump on the same side of the fence.”

[Adjusted for Australian conditions. See original.]


Slower mugwumps who want an excuse for inaction can take their pick…..”I don’t have time to read. I’m too busy.”   “It’s all Yankee stuff.”  “Everybody is happy at my school. I don’t need to do anything more than I do. Parents don’t care.”  “People don’t believe how much management/non-education stuff I have to deal with each day.”  “I like a competitive spirit. It didn’t do me any harm.”  “Things have changed since the old days.”  “My superiors would not like it.”   “I have no choice as a teacher or as a principal.The Department supplied us with a Code of Ethics for us. I have to follow it.”   “Don’t you know that professional timidity and cowardice are pandemic diseases.?”   “South Pacific Kleinism is special. They say it’s working.”  “It’s all so self-defeating. I don’t care.” “I don’t have long to go.”  “I’m thinking of getting a job as a truck-driver in the coal fields. Enormous pay packet.”


What Does Rupert Murdoch Want With [American] Schools?

Quite amazingly there are folk who believe that what happens ‘up-over’ does not always repeat itself ‘down-under’; and that, if it happens, it is not deliberate.  Australian historian Robert Manne suggests in the Quarterly Essay that News Ltd. representatives down under are playing “…the role of a ‘national enforcer’ of values that lie at the heart of the Murdoch empire: ‘market fundamentalism and the beneficence of American global hegemony’.”

There are also those, in the education industry, who just do not care if Rupert and his ilk want Australian state and private schools to be run the way that he wants. Not many adults have the ability nor experience to think of what happens to the child in the classroom when high-tech consumes pupil-oriented classrooms; and few adults can think the way that Treehorn thinks; nor dare to. All programs will be heavily computerised, with in-built pupil tracking and heaps of testing, disguised as continuous assessment.

Click on’s_schools The article is sub-titled: Murdoch has made it very clear that he views America’s public schools as a potential gold mine.   For our South Pacific mugwumps, who find reading articles difficult, here is the short article, supplied by Mary E. of Amsterdam, dated 23 September.

Rupert Murdoch’s reputation precedes him – but one thing he’s not well known for is his education reform advocacy. But that could soon change. Next month, Murdoch will make an unusual public appearance in San Francisco, delivering the keynote address at an education summit hosted by former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who has lately been crisscrossing the country promoting his own version of education reform.

The high-profile speech to a collection of conservatives ed reformers, state legislators and educators is just the latest step in Murdoch’s quiet march into the business of education which has been somewhat eclipsed by the phone-hacking scandal besieging his media empire. (On Tuesday, word of Murdoch’s appearance at Bush’s conference came just hours after reports that News Corp had agreed to pay more than $4million to the family of a 13-year-old British murder victim) But Murdoch has made it clear that he views America’s public schools as a potential gold mine.

“In every part of life, someone who woke up after a 50-year nap would not recognise the world around him….but not in education,” he remarked in May at the “e-G8 forum: that preceded the G8 summit in France. “Our schools remain the last holdout from the digital  revolution”

Last November, News Corp, spent $360million to buy Wireless Generation, a Brooklyn-based education technology company that provides software, assessment tools and data services. “When it comes to K-12 education, we see a $500billion sector in the US alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed by big breakthroughs that extend the reach of good teaching.” Murdoch said at the time.

A few weeks before the deal, News Corp. had enticed Joel Klein  away from his job as New York City schools chancellor. As it happens, Klein was already familiar with Wireless Generation, which began working with the NY City schools system during his tenure.

While Murdoch’s arrival in the education business is being cheered by Jeb Bush and other conservatives, the idea of the parent company of News of the World getting into the school biz hasn’t gone over well with the education establishment. Murdoch’s new venture has stirred controversy in New York where this summer the state sought to enter into a $27million contract with Wireless Generation to track student performance. Given Kleim’s hiring, the deal prompted an outcry by those who saw the public school system becoming just another example of revolving-door politics and crony capitalism. (“They chose us because we’re good.” said Wireless Generation’s Joan Lebow.)

In early August New York teachers’ unions demanded that the state rescind its plans to contract with Wireless generation. “It is especially troubling that Wireless Generation will be tasked with creating a centralized database for personal student information even as its parent company, News Corporation, stands accused of gathering illegal news-gathering tactics,” representatives from the state and New York City teachers’ unions wrote.

Wireless Generation had caused controversy even before Murdoch purchased the company. Last year, when New Jersey lost out on millions of federal education funding due to a screw-up on its grant application, the company became the centre of attention. The state, after all, had reportedly paid the firm $500,000 to ensure the accuracy of its application, amongst other things.

Clearly, this sort of activity will spread to Australia and new Zealand. Make no mistake; even with a change of government in either or both places. Rupert rules. He is speaking.

ATTENTION :All Kleinists and Mugwumps and Eichmanns.  Will you feel proud of yourselves, if you allow blanket testing to remain in place? It is plainly cancerous and your actions or lack of,  have supported the ‘re-form’ and opened the door for Rupert and other test publishers [see above for their unproductive intentions]!

I ask you, with all sincerity : Don’t think that such child exploitation is disgusting?

Phil Cullen

41 Cominan Avenue

Banora Point

Australia  2486

07 5524 6443

I have yet to arrange the many articles that have been referred to me by those who care for kids. Some time soon. Hang in there for the sake of Treehorn and his cobbers.


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