Kelvin Smythe & National Standards

The Treehorn Express

Treehorn story?  

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The Treehorn Express is dedicated to the cessation of Kleinist NAPLAN testing in Australia.  Kleinism is a New York version of fear-driven schooling which uses the blanket-testing ‘wmd’ called NAPLAN [its only learning-motivational weapon] to destroy the  reputation of teachers and schools. This weapon was forced on schools in Australia in 2009. It separates ‘haves’ from ‘have nots’ and opens the door for mega-bank-rolling by known curriculum vandals for control of school-based learning. It disrespects school pupils, devalues teachers’ professionalism, threatens Australia’s developmental future and is just no good.  Politely described, it stinks.

Although some ‘education’ groups support it, ideologically, NAPLAN is immoral, unprofessional, politically driven, unrequested by the profession, curriculum destructive, extremely costly, wasteful and divisive. It has a background of malicious intent. 


For further information, click on the official description

Get it?


Kelvin Smythe & National ‘Standards’

‘National Standards’ is the New Zealand term for the politically controlled, fear-driven schooling that [see above] disrespects school pupils, threatens the country’s developmental future, and has no good reason for existence. Its counterparts are NAPLAN [Australia], NCLB and RTTT [USA], National Testing [UK]


Kelvin Smythe  is a former primary school teacher, principal, university lecturer and senior school inspector.

Without a doubt, he is the most respected school educator in New Zealand. Unimpressed, ‘…and frustrated by the paucity of attention given by teaching groups to the ideological underpinnings of educational issues’, he has recently detailed scholarly objections to political interference with child development in NZ.

Government manoeuvring forecasts official monthly intrusions into each school’s evaluation and parent-sharing processes using technological devices controlled by a private firm [ORBIT] and using what is euphemistically called e-asTTle [Assessment Tool for Teaching and Learning].

It is supposed to help teachers design their own monthly 40-minute paper and pencil tests and report back to Big Brother. [“We are here to help!”]

Rupert Murdoch will be so pleased, once it is in place, ready for his take-over. Kelvin Smythe won’t be. He exposes it and the intrigue used to introduce it. He tells it as it is. Read: 

Here are some extracts [in italics]…quotable quotes, many of them. Apply them to NAPLAN. They fit.

“Any politically attuned teacher knows how deeply into Orwellian times we are.”

Once the monthly testing is in place, NZ will later be accompanied by expansion into other curriculum areas. [Australia? ]

“What can one say? The barbarians are within the walls and wrecking havoc.” says Kelvin Smythe. Yep. No resistance, Aussie schoolies?  Are we all down-under pussy cats together?

“Any schools that consistently vary from ORBIT will be shown up and brought back into line. [Fancy that.] (Even if ORBIT was set the work to levels, the process has the effect of re-levelling the curriculum, which makes the levels grades.  This in turn, has the effect of handing over the curriculum to a non-educationist in a private firm and an ideologically focussed academic.)  Yep, Kelvin. Know what you mean. Really sad.

“ORBIT is national testing, but national testing done monthly.  Just where are those teaching groups who don’t bother to question these things?  “

Be on this !

“The cover story that the Ministry [ACARA here] will use to gull the media and public …says.”The general aim was to explore how schools could make better use of assessment data to contribute to the learning process.’” I guess that they have never heard of shared on-the-spot evaluation, Kelvin.

When the Ministry says. “More specifically we aimed to combine a Levels approach with the need for transparency by focusing on the individual student’s progress.”, Kelvin asks, “What on earth could the word ‘transparency’ be referring to?”

Some [apparently non-schooled or sciolist] academics help ORBIT to develop the packages. Kelvin Smythe asks, “How on earth can we have an honest debate when academics are so sneaky. Why can’t they be straightforward, I know they are trying to put something past teachers, but don’t they realise they are pummelling children?

The burden [of moderation] would be passed to children with their monthly tests, and to teachers and children in the way that unrelenting testing will disrupt their relationship.

Much is made of the sharing of information with parents and setting goals for children. This is fantasy land. Anyone who truly understands the dynamics of classrooms wouldn’t allow themselves to wallow in such absurdity. I keep challenging these people to take me to a school that claims to do this and let me see it in action. I have been going into classrooms in an official capacity for 44 years, and still am, and never seen anything like this. Nor is it even desirable.

These academics would know that there are many studies which conclude that concentration on criteria from rubrics and the structure of learning leads to more superficial thinking, less interest in whatever one is doing, less perseverance in the face of failure, and the tendency to attribute outcome to innate ability and other factors thought to be beyond one’s control.

Children become in such circumstances more focussed on being correct than on thinking deeply and honestly. But then again, these academics rarely go outside they own hermetic wonderland.”

Ministry papers allege that having monthly assessment will result in a focus on individual progress and low-stakes assessment.

“Having monthly tests, it seems, becomes so routine, so natural, so smooth (yes, they use that expression] the children hardly know they are doing them. In that case, it would seem likely that, when all the curriculum areas are brought under the aegis of ORBIT, the children will be entirely unconscious of testing at all, walking on air. They will be asking us to believe in Santa Claus next.

Apologies for the interruption. [This is Phil.] I can’t help thinking of Rupert’s preparation for Digigogy [see earlier Treehorn]. If he plans to spend or make $500 billion in the USA alone, he’d be able to purchase ORBIT from the petty cash, if he doesn’t already control it. Well????   Goodbye Learnacy. Really, really sad.

“The issue of the imposition of national standards [and NAPLAN] is a philosophical question much wider than education. Public service is anathema to many in today’s society. It challenges the prevailing idea of human motivation being driven by self interest and material gains. As a result, teachers’ opposition to national standards is portrayed as self-serving; as designed to avoid accountability; as needing to be imposed because teachers can’t be trusted to do the right thing….

What a spot we are in. Social democracy is a more fragile thing than we might suppose. The Orwellian characteristics of the current control over schools are ominous. There is the rushed legislation, the lying, the scapegoating, the puppet advisory groups, the bent reporting of the review office, the bullying over charters and statutory interventions, the bent behaviour of the ministry, the stifling of universities, the lack of variety in the professional development, the industrialisation and narrowing of the curriculum, and to finish it off, a compliant, facile media.”

“Would someone remind me what the initial education problem was?”


Thank you, Kelvin Smythe. You are, truly, an inspiration.  Please read the whole article. 

It’s election time in New Zealand, isn’t it? Will any opposition party carry on like this if one of them takes over!?  [We’ll be asking this same question in Australia in a little while.]


   Other Treehorns ? :   Check Recent Posts and Archives in the sidebar.

Phil Cullen

41 Cominan Avenue

Banora Point

Australia 2486

07 5524 6443


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