A Spreading Educational Malignancy

 The Treehorn Express

Let’s not forget Treehorn : http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/print.asp?article=11697

The Treehorn Express is emailed to a niche audience of about 150 people.  Some of them are politicians, but I suspect that ‘Treehorn’ does not get past their secretaries. It also goes to a few organisations and, once again, probably does not get past the front desk, and heads for a disinterested filing cabinet or wpb .

Let’s face it ; there are many pretend-schoolies, docile-groups and slow-pollies  out there who just don’t give a hoot in hell about school children. It is noticeable that few issues that relate to fair dinkum schooling ever make the agenda of annual general meetings or become topics for conferences and seminars for groups, associations or councils.  Treehorn’s condition and that of his fellow pupils hold little attention for groups that think they are above the mainstream.

I certainly do not understand why so many ‘education’  groups, parents’ groups and school-people care so little about schooling as a topic of discussion.

The groups are well controlled, of course; but is it gross apathy that disposes them to succumb so easily?  Really?  It’s weird. Those groups that talk about school issues and are learning to‘care for kids’ will break free one of these days and tell the world why they have.

It’s just so difficult to discover  why such little notice was taken, to this point in time, of the dramatic 2009 alteration to Australia’s schooling. Those who are supposed to care for school children surrendered so meekly. Kids were stranded.

“None of the adults are much help.” said Treehorn while he, too, was shrinking..

Thanks to those faithfuls who send The Treehorn Express on to other friends of school children.  True-blue Aussies, for sure.  One day.  We are all thinking of you, Treehorn. Constant dripping….   “Light up the darkness, keep the faith. and give the bastards the business.” [John Gatto] ___________________________________________________________________________________________ In 1980, I was asked by The Canberra Times to write an article about the Minimal Competency Testing in the United States. I had just returned from a study trip of the effects of MCT, as it was called, on American schools.

I found this 31 year-old article recently. I reckon that it could be re-published now and applied to the use of NAPLAN without changing a single word. What do you think? I’m pleased that I’ve ‘kept the faith as far as condemnation of ‘blanket testing’ is concerned. You’ll note that today’s Klein-inspired Naplan is a replay of political discontents’ control of schooling in the 1970s.

When NAPLAN dies as it should ….the sooner the better….one can expect another replay round-about 2040.  The big-end of town gets its knickers in a knot in that sort of time-frame. Thank God I won’t be around for the next one. Two in one lifetime is enough ….too sad and painful to see what happens to our beautiful children.

A Spreading Educational Malignancy in the United States

[Canberra Times 1980]

“I don’t like the Minimal Competency Movement. It’s bad psychology; it’s bad thinking. It’s rooted in the fiction that we know what skills in school ensure success in life.”

These are the words of Professor Gene Glass, meta-analyst, who is well known for his research into class size. He is one of many who are reacting to the spreading educational malignancy in the United States. The movement was spawned by the ‘decline theorists’ of the 1970s who were enormously successful in perpetuating their myths of a decline of standards in most Western countries. Their call were based on a simple nostalgia for an unknown golden age, when each student was supposed to have been as competent at schooling as Greg Chappel is with his cricket. Their credo was taken up by legislators who called for proper surveillance of school systems.

Laws have been introduced in many states that have called for the testing of schools, especially those graduating from high schools. In most states, if the student does not pass the test, a graduation certificate is not issued.

What have been the consequences?

  • Where the minimal competencies are listed as basic survival skills [e.g. changing a tyre, knowledge of first aid] the curriculum becomes a farce and students are not extended.
  • Where the list includes higher-order skills [e.g. a good knowledge of calculus] teachers concentrate on the most difficult aspects, and the important aspects of the curriculum are neglected.
  • Test-publishing firms are having a field day. A contract for a state or school district represents big business and lobbying is intense.
  • Whether a contract is won or lost, publishers move in on schools hawking audio-tape presentations that promote ‘beating the tests’. Current prices are around the $200 mark.
  • When a state or district issues its list of competencies, it makes promises. These can be tested in court and the American notion of democracy encourages such litigation. Civil-rights lawyers are having a field day “ for the same reason that Willie Sutton robbed banks. That’s where the money is.” Professor Glass says.
  • Within the courts, judges make decisions about the activities of schools. They tend to direct school districts as to what they must do.
  • Educationists, many retired from schools. establish private firms selling seminars, workshops, lecture tours and pack-deal kits on how to cope with the achievement of basic competencies.

A mess

All in all, it means that the test publishers, the legislators, the judiciary and a host of middlemen take control of the school curriculum. Parents and teachers are left out in the cold.

It’s a mess.

Patriotic Americans are most concerned, for the future of their country is seen to be at risk. It is seen to be an innovation that is based on tests. Children are seen as basically lazy; and a loose confederation of “back-to-basics” pressure groups are jealous of the freedom that society in the 60s and 70s gave to its young.

Children need to be smartened up, threatened with failure and reminded of their incompetence. It is a repetition of history where an era of abstinence follows an era of indulgence.

As a form of medication, blood has to be let. One needs a strong will to suggest that schools and children are growing worse. Some groups and individuals have that will, and they seek to ensure that public school systems must be broken down and given to free enterprise.

Those beyond the school system know best, they say, and the curriculum must be centrally controlled by those who assume the divine right to know.

Blanket testing of competencies doesn’t solve anything. Testing, when necessary needs to have a human, encouraging tone that disposes children to upgrade their learning styles with confidence. The children of the United States are compelled by law to endure great stress for some years, as this innovation works itself to death.

Currently, the love for learning is being converted to the drudgery of work and punished for failure. Since the future of a country depends on the attention that it gives to its greatest natural resource, spare some tears for 21-st-century USA. Its destiny is clear and the news is not good.

For Australian children’s sake now and for our country’s sake, pray that the malady does not spread across the Pacific. _____________________________________________________________________________________

Okay! It took 30 years, but what a tsunami! __________________________________________________________________________________________

Did you find five minutes to check http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=13064  ?  Some ‘different’ comments. Proves Treehorn’s point?

Phil Cullen

41 Cominan Avenue

Banora Point  2486

07 5524 6443




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