The Illusion of Schooling

The Treehorn Express

Treehorn story? http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/print.asp?article=11697

The Treehorn Express Theme song: ‘Care for Kids’

 The Illusion of Schooling 

If one wanted to start an education system for a one-language, socially and financially stable, smallish country [Say 23 million inhabitants – about the same size as some world cities] what do you think should be the shape of its schooling system?  Before active learning centres called classrooms can be established, there is a number of organisational requirements to ensure that these classrooms operate with as little turbulence as possible….      right?  And…children need to develop their learning habits from birth as seamlessly as possible. Right? The natural  inquisitive joy of learning that very young children show, needs to be nurtured, fostered, expanded and developed for their entire school life and beyond. Right?

What happens in class each day is so crucial. Who, then,  would be better to arrange a  design for an efficient and effective schooling system  than ordinary, everyday classroom teachers?  Okay? Why not?

A wise government asks itself: Who are the most capable, most experienced, most needs-sensitive to design a world-class system of schooling?  Ordinary, practicing classroom teachers?  Practicing academics ? A group of any Ph.Ds who are smart? A group of elected and politically chosen Ministers of Education?  Officials with a background in public service and, maybe a bit of school experience? A group of politicians…Senators perhaps? Rich corporate business men [e.g. Rupert Murdoch, Bill Gates, Koch Brothers]? Lawyers [e.g. Joel Klein, Julia Gillard, Kevin Rudd]? Bankers?

To date, countries, seemingly keen on impregnating classroom practices with mediocrity leading to backwardness, have tried all of the above groups….. except the first group… those in charge of our children’s future every day of every school year.  Their turn?  Not their unions; just worthwhile representatives. They’ll tell it as it is; and make sensible suggestions.

Starting Age The age to start ‘formal’ [as it is called] schooling needs to be consistent for every child. Of course. How to start the school-learning life of each individual is so important. Each child is different, but a common starting age makes administrative sense, and to have a small population start from a variety of ages is plain crazy. That’s if the rituals of ‘formal’ schooling have any meaning. Right?  Extremely silly. So some high-octane thinking about starting age is needed before any thing else gets off the ground. It would be pretty silly, wouldn’t it, to have a common curriculum with prescriptive overtones for schools before you knew their exact shape?

Contemporary and earlier research as well as school experience shows that the best age for a child to begin experiences that classrooms provide is at about age 7.  All educationally advanced countries start at this age. Starting earlier than this curbs childhood curiosity, problem-solving capacity, ability to play [non-work] and starting too early can have a life-time effect on confidence, curiosity, attitude to occupational interests,  social/ cultural competencies, general expectations and other serious developmental attitudes.

Many busy Mums don’t like the idea of helping, guiding, tolerating kids at home for a few more years, however.

Developmental psychologist Gordon Neufeld suggests that four, five, six year olds are not ready to learn [as schools expect them to do] because the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that control feelings, is still under construction. ’It only gets wired at between five and seven years of age.”  http://susanohanian.org/show_atrocities.php?id=9814  He reckons that monkeys and elephants can be taught to perform if that’s what you think your child should do. Is that the reason for starting school earlier than necessary? It seems so.

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School-based child development, as an responsibility of the state, can [and should] be divided into three phases 1. Early Childhood [Ages 0-7]. 2. Middle Childhood [Ages 8-14]. 3. Late Childhood [Ages 14+]. Of course, the middle and late childhood ages are usually called Primary and Secondary schooling.  It’s the pupils of these legislated levels of schooling for which governments take most responsibility through law. Only a government that sponsors fairness, likes children, has faith in their potential and wants them to develop their learning potential, considers what it does with its children very, very seriously [e.g. Finland]. Other governments tinker. Australia has a variety of starting ages, most of them around the 4-5 years with different names for the first year…Prep., Kindergarten, Reception, Transition. Pure gimmickry. Surely. Can’t  the first year of ‘formal’ schooling be called Year 1 with a non-prescriptive curriculum to match?

The pre-school early ages [aka Early Childhood] in an advanced society concentrate on happiness, get-along-ability, developing curiosity and inquisitiveness, enjoying childhood for seven years under the control of parents. The first of these, happiness, deserves more consideration than it is given.   See http://www.ted.com/talks/shawn_achor_the_happy_secret_to_better_work.html  Pre-school  agencies that offer help to Mums and Grand-mums would be as diverse as possible. Parents make the choices and decide the pattern of learning to best suit their little ones. Children can then move to ‘formal’ public schooling with confidence and a true sense of inquiry. A progressive country then ensures that a network of well supervised, experience-based public schools set a standard for all other kinds of schooling.

It’s at the real school level that parents learn to challenge their own beliefs. Do they continue to believe in schooling as a developmental agency where each child’s potential is warmly challenged to its highest degree, or a place for  each child is force-fed material and is regarded as a passive, obedient receptacle of information that someone else has decided each should know? Many governments and their agencies are incapable of lateral thinking, so they adhere to anachronistic forms of schooling that actually demonise the learning process from Year 1.

Wide scale blanket testing is a typical example. Parents and some teachers, even, believe that if one knows their tables and spelling and grammar then they are set for life; and that a school is a good school if its children do well collectively on certain performance categories. This New York based genius is now embedded in Australian political savvy and in some ‘educators’ belief systems. This act of worship has its genesis in a firm belief that we each have a fixed measure of intelligence. Americans have loved this notion since 1916 because they can number it, score it and grade it. Fixing firm scores is embedded in American thinking. Australia follows American ideas as faithfully as possible, and is now moving back with it to the original idea that the wheat should be sorted from the chaff and schooling arrangement be made to suit.

The father of IQ branding, Lewis Termin wrote the guidelines for how poor performers should be handled: “Children of this group should be segregated in special classes and be given instruction which is concrete and practical. They cannot master abstractions, but they can often be made efficient workers, able to look after themselves. There is no possibility of convincing society that they should not be allowed to reproduce, although from a eugenic point of view they constitute a grave problem because of their prolific breeding.” [“The Measurement of Intelligence” pp91-92, 1916 – cited in ‘Eugenic Legacies Still Influence Education” [David B. Cohen]: http://accomplishedcaliforniateachers.wordpress.com/2011/10/09/eugenic-legacy/

It’s a dangerous legacy. It ignores the conscious integrity of learning in the teaching/learning [aka Learnacy] context of a school. It infers that testing can sponsor improvement in attitudes towards learning. Dangerous. It instinctively implies that a New York lawyer knows more about how to rear and encourage our children than we do. It implies that spending more school and private time on test preparation is preferable and more effective for child development than spending time on exploring the beauty of mathematics, the intrigue of our fascinating English language, the wonders of science.

Parents and teachers bow low to the near-sighted, narrow-minded, illogicality of totalitarian control. They tend to laud or approve by their silence,  the efforts of those governments which just throw money thoughtlessly at ‘education’; and make whimsical alterations to system structures without finding out what happens in the classroom and what the ones within the classroom feel about any change. Is a tight and demanding prescriptive curriculum with common core objectives in a strict age-grade, subject-centred organisational mode, the only way to school our children and does it help them with their general education? Should children at school be treated as students or as pupils?

There are so many important questions to be asked. Until we do, our learning-destructive Klein system remains; and our children pay the penalty.

Despite the irrefutable evidence that children progress faster and achieve higher when they are loved and unthreatened; and when teachers are highly regarded for what they do and respected for their opinions, we continue to approve of our Orwellian forms of control by our silence. Our culture of silence says that we salute authoritarianism at the expense of enlightenment. To our eternal shame, we allow demonising national blanket testing to exist.

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Read what Valerie Strauss, education journalist for The Washington Post has to say. Her column, by the way, always features a quote from Albert Einstein : “It’s a miracle that curiosity survives formal education.”

Valerie points out Seven Misconceptions about How Students Learn , suggesting that ‘many people – educators included – still cling to some of these misconceptions about learning because they think on their own  experiences in school, ignoring what 21st century science and experience are revealing.’

http://schoolleadership20.com/profiles/blogs/seven-misconceptions-about-how-students-learn-by-valerie-strauss

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If you have 4 minutes 17 seconds to spare from your busy schedule, click on the theme song “Care for Kids” above, relax and ‘take in’ the words. Meditate on the plight of today’s generation of Aussie kids.

OtherTreehorns ? :   Check Recent Posts and Archives in the sidebar.

Maintained by outstanding NZ educator, Allan Alach

Phil Cullen

41 Cominan Avenue

Banora Point

Australia 2486

07 5524 6443

cphilcullen@bigpond.com

http://primaryschooling.net

The Classroom

The Treehorn Express

Treehorn story? http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/print.asp?article=11697

The Treehorn Express Theme song: ‘Care for Kids’

 The Classroom

It’s where all the action takes place.  It’s where our country’s future resides. It’s the living learning laboratory where a child’s life will be shaped to a major degree. It’s where those who entered for the first time this month will emerge from in 2025 with growing talents to take on and shape the world. Each classroom is an amazing place where the kinds of interchanges, important for national survival and development, are so critical.

What do they look like? How many has the general public seen? Does a normal classroom really look like the ones portrayed in films and documentaries?  Kotter ?  Mr. Chips? Mark Thackery [‘To Sir With Love’]? John Keating [‘Dead Poets’ Society’]?Alex Jurel [‘Teachers’]?  They all ran classrooms, where their voices dominated their chosen activity. Very good role models, poor teachers. Very, very adult controlled. Have you ever seen a popular movie located in a classroom that did not show a teacher trying to direct activity from his place near a chalk-board? Didactic, ‘jug to mug’, chalk-talk techniques such as these seem to dominate film producers’ views of schooling; and the public often assumes that it is how classrooms are run.  A recent ABC ‘Four Corners’ program, indeed, portrayed a keen teacher trying to improve one of her adult-controlled teaching techniques by heeding advice from one who was experienced in this particular mode. Such portrayals of teacher-dominated didactic techniques are rampant. As a teaching technique, it is one of the hundreds of strategies learned [it is hoped] during teacher preparation or upgrade.

Didactic modes are useful for large group instruction and for force-feeding material. Every Sunday at Church my minister tries to instruct me in something that he has decided I ought to learn about. I can’t remember much from a lifetime of such instruction, although I know that I have sometimes listened to one who was a visitor or when my usual minister has tried something different. I pretend to be interested usually, but my thoughts are my own. That’s not much different from what happens in a classroom where such techniques prevail. They don’t have much going for them. Such techniques are thought to be useful for exam preparation and they certainly apply when a lot of writing has to be done. They are useful in such cases; and fear helps to maintain attention. There is not a great deal of the sort of individual personal interactions, that group and maieutic techniques promote.  Pupils, unfortunately,  are treated as students.

Now that NAPLAN controls Australian schooling, such impersonal techniques are becoming more common.

Encouragement of confining, didactic classroom cultures is official, indeed. An authority or school endorses them when it undertakes wide scale cheating by encouraging the use of practice tests, or allows classroom time for the kind of teaching that influences the  ‘foreign’ test results. They don’t seem to appreciate that they are crippling natural life-long learning that children deserve, even crave.

Classrooms need to sparkle with the joy of learning, with a zest for learning for its own sake, with a big yen for maximum achievement, with a yearning for thoughtful challenges and sheer happiness to be in such a classroom.  Do they… under test conditions?

It is foreseen that strict didactic modes of instruction will predominate more and more classrooms, the longer national blanket testing exists. It’s a simple technique and can be easily used to conduct the practice sessions required. One does not need to have a teaching degree to organise such classrooms. Remember the escapee from the mental institution in ‘Teachers’ and his history lessons?

Australia’s economic and social development is in jeopardy. There is little doubt.  If the U.S.A. provides us with any model [Yes. The power elite copied its NY version] it is one that, after ten years of a screwy belief in the power of blanket testing and a belief that schools should be testing factories, is heading downhill fast, on all counts. Just check the literature yourself.

When will ‘they’ ever learn?

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QUICK READS….

STANDARDIZED TESTING : THE MONSTER THAT ATE  AMERICAN EDUCATION

 http://bigthink.com/ideas/42087

From Allan Alach

Author Megan Erickson says, “In practice, test scores are not being used for diagnostic purposes but as a clumsy and myopic way to evaluate [and penalize] American schools, teachers and students.”

“The legislation was designed to address the growing achievement gap between rich and poor students in American schools. ‘The problem, ‘ as Diane Ravitch writes in The Life and Death of the Great American School System ‘was the misuse of testing for high-stakes purposes —and the idea that changes would inevitably produce better education.’”

“’If we think about what our needs are for the twenty-first century, and not just how do we compete in the world but how do we live in the world, how do we survive in the world, we need a generation of people who will succeed us who are thoughtful, who can reflect, who can think,’ says Ravitch. The question is, does testing really provide us with a measure of how well students utilize higher-order thinking skills? “

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ROTTEN TO THE (COMMON) CORE

http://dailycensored.com/2012/02/13/rotten-to-the-common-core

From Allan Alach.

Author Paul Thomas [13-02-2012] writes, “If insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results, then South Carolina is about to join much of the nation in education policy that can only be called insanity.”   It “jumped on the standard/testing bandwagon and has produced multiple versions of standards test to add to a yet-to-be-named increased form of testing associated with a Common Core.”

“ Plans for implementing Common Core standards include increased testing and implementing those tests by computers, insuring that this newest incarnation of the same solutions will be an even greater failure than the past three decades. Implementing new tests always produces lower scores in the first years of use, but more troubling is that high-poverty students tend to score even lower on computer-based testing than on the same paper tests….and….Teachers must be trained directly and spend time learning the standards while a tremendous amount of instructional time will be replaced by more teaching to the test and, with the new regime of testing, more testing days throughout the entire school year.”

“Weighing a pig doesn’t make it fatter. Neither does building a new scale every few years. Any farmer who weighed and kept weighing his livestock and failed to consider what he was feeding them, and then built a new scale to address the problem would be considered insane.”

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HOW A CRACKPOT THEORY OF EDUCATION REFORM BECAME NATIONAL POLICY

http://hnn.us/articles/how-crackpot-theory-education-reform-becamme-national-policy

This article by Mark Naison, History Professor at Fordham Uni, was referred by Ken & Suesie Woolford , former principal and  teacher, now Toowoomba home schoolers: Prof. Naison says that They “ …looked at the growing chasm between the rich  and poor, the huge size of the nation’s prison population, and the growing racial and socioeconomic gulf in education, and decided something had to be done to remedy these problems.”

“Corporate leaders, heads of major foundations, civil rights leaders, and politicians in both major parties have brought this explanation hook line and sinker, and so thus we have one of the strangest social movements in modern American history – the demonization of American teachers and the development of strategies to radically transform education by taking power away from them.”

“Through policies developed at the federal level, but implemented at state level so that they affect every school in the nation, scrutinizing teacher effectiveness has become a national mission with as much fanfare as was America’s efforts to put a rocket into space in the 1950s and 60s.”

“What you have, in short, is a prescription for making the nation’s schools places of fear and dread, ruled by a test protocol that deadens minds and stifles creative thinking. Make no mistake, there are people who stand to benefit handsomely from this insanity- especially the companies who make the tests and the consultants who administer them – but anyone who thinks this level of testing will make America’s schools more effective or reduce social inequality has a capacity for self-delusion that staggers the imagination. Only people with no options would chose to send their kids to schools run that way.””

“There are few examples in America where such a crackpot theory guided social policy this way. The most recent that springs to mind is Prohibition, which was based on the conviction that banning booze would somehow create social stability and save America from corruption.

Someday, test-based education reform will go the way of Prohibition, but not before incalculable damage is done to the nation’s children.

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SUMMARY 

The insanity of weighing achievements year by year at the sacrifice of higher-order thinking skills was a crack-pot idea in the first place. It is akin to creating a social policy based on Prohibition.

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If you have 4 minutes 17 seconds to spare from your busy schedule, click on the theme song “Care for Kids” above, relax and ‘take in’ the words. Meditate on the plight of today’s Aussie kids.

OtherTreehorns ? :   Check Recent Posts and Archives in the sidebar.

Maintained by outstanding NZ educator, Allan Alach

Phil Cullen

41 Cominan Avenue

Banora Point

Australia 2486

07 5524 6443

cphilcullen@bigpond.com

http://primaryschooling.net

NAPLAN or NAPALM?

The Treehorn Express

Treehorn story? http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/print.asp?article=11697

The Treehorn Express Theme song: ‘Care for Kids’

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NAPLAN – SOME COMMENTS

It’s NAPALM, says Ken

For almost every Treehorn Express that I send,  I receive at least one comment or question, like : “When are they going to wake up to the damage that they are doing?”  ‘They’, of course, refers to the power elite [to use Kelvin Smythe’s term] consisting of  ‘politicians, bureaucrats, quantitative academics, newspaper editors’ and pro-NAPLANNERS ,who have ‘hermetically sealed’ the Australian schooling system; and taken little notice, deliberately, of the toxic problems that they have created and/or supported.

As Kelvin Smythe said in his honest-to-goodness treatise: “…while non-solutions to complex social issues are being slowly pursued to political advantage, actual solutions are being ignored, leading to the complex issues becoming more intractable and the ostensible beneficiaries of the non-solutions even more disadvantaged.”

That’s a powerful statement. So true….it’s the nature of western cultures, as demonstrated in schools since the arrival of managerialism’s carcinomatous testing pandemic.

Sadly, contemporary schooling is now being bullied by those, devoid of useful schooling experiences, who will not learn themselves and even seem proud of their destructive efforts – the ‘undead’, as Bruce H. calls them, deaden. One Treehorn reader, a former principal, spoke of a member of our Australian power-elite: “What he knows about schools can be written on the back of a used postage stamp in large font.”  That applies to all of them, I suspect, John.  It’s a truly sad state of affairs.

Another, Fred, a practising teacher, read of the plan to clear the deck of inept teachers.  “There goes the hierarchy and the test-focussed.” he said.

In another return comment, Ken, home-schooling parent, said, “ I note NAPALM has grammar etc. on it, when research [including York Uni.,2005] shows  no correlation between grammar knowledge and writing skills. NAPALM has no consideration for the humans burnt along with the buildings. I muse that if teachers had to take the equivalent of a Hippocratic oath, then most would now be forced to leave their jobs….The kids will survive NAPALM. Even at Auschwitz, as they were waiting to be gassed, children were observed playing in the dirt. I feel sorry for the adults [teachers and parents] whom I know are feeling more and more depowered. They are not asked their opinion. They are told what it will be. If ever the tale of the Emperor’s new clothes was appropriate.”  Yes, Ken. As resilient and play-some children are, the effects of our NAPLAN, our present-day mental gassing, will affect them for quite a while longer, of course.

Former principal Bruce said, “It  was on a visit to Virginia that I saw the destructive forces of computer generated testing take place. A dedicated computer lab room received a classroom of pupils every 45 minutes who filed in, logged on with their personal password and hammered like mad for thirty minutes. As they filed out the teacher pressed the print button and left with the full class results to improve upon till the next session. I think that’s when I saw no place for me in education. I’m glad we got through when we did, as the present rot has certainly caught up and kids will be the long term sufferers but they won’t know what they have missed and why.”

Avid reader Allan, school principal, provided the following articles, worthy of your reading time.

http://www.listener.co.nz/current-affairs/the-researched-child-in-early-education/

Author, Helen May, former dean of the University of Otago College of Education, worried about the passing of the era of progressive solutions, concludes the article : ‘If we can produce children who have a disposition to be learners, to take an interest, to become engaged, to take responsibility, to become good communicators, to become explorers – then we are setting a great foundation. It’s going to take a brave teacher to really challenge National Standards [aka NAPLAN in Australia], but if there is sufficient freedom and innovation, skilful teachers will make it happen. They always have.”

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http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/maths-reform/9060005/Teenagers-failing-to-study-maths-to-a-good-standard.html#disqus_tnread

Professor Sparks, chairman of the British Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education [ACME] is concerned about the growing disinterest in school Mathematics because “…few pupils take maths beyond the age of 16. They are being ‘put-off’ by test-driven lessons in primary and secondary school. Classes often focus on the dry ‘procedures’ behind sums to make sure children pass exams instead of passing on a well-rounded understanding of the subject. Currently, only one-in-eight teenagers study maths to a good standard in the sixth form – leaving Britain behind many other developed nations. It’s a problem of attitude – being no good at Maths is a badge of honour.”

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http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/education-departments-obsession-with-test-scores-deepens/2012/02/06/gIQAP7yuyQ_blog.html

Valerie Strauss, Washington Post journalist and editor of The Answer Sheet writes of the U.S. Federal “Education Department’s Obsession with test scores deepens”.  She writes of the screwball Departmental belief that the scores “…tell us something important about how well a teacher does his or her job. They don’t, assessment experts say [over and over], but why let facts get in the way?” She concludes her article : “ Here’s my comment.  Please stop wasting our time and money on nonsense.”

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To summarise :  If you  want our Aussie children to become keen learners  with a firm foundation of schooling, with love for the beauty and challenge of Mathematics; and you want our government to “stop wasting our time and money”, you will insist that the nonsensical, damaging blanket testing called NAPLAN ceases NOW.

If  you want the opposite, don’t take any notice.

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If you have 4 minutes 17 seconds to spare from your busy schedule, click on the theme song “Care for Kids” above, relax and ‘take in’ the words. Meditate on the plight of today’s Aussie kids.

OtherTreehorns ? :   Check Recent Posts and Archives in the sidebar.

[ Sincerest thanks to the outstanding NZ educator, Allan Alach, for maintaining this widely-read site.]

Phil Cullen

41 Cominan Avenue

Banora Point

Australia 2486

07 5524 6443

cphilcullen@bigpond.com

http://primaryschooling.net

A must-read posting – Kelvin Smythe

The Treehorn Express

 Treehorn story? http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/print.asp?article=11697

The Treehorn Express Theme song: ‘Care for Kids’

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A MUST-READ POSTING

Kelvin Smythe, highly respected former Chief Inspector of Schools, New Zealand, has a blog site call networkonnet on which he posts comments about conditions affecting New Zealand schools. His latest statement is one that all should read.

http://www.networkonnet.co.nz/index.php?section=latest&id=381

 I have taken the liberty of extracting sections from this robust paper and tagged some pieces – albeit unsatisfactorily, because it is such an impressive treatise. It needs to be read in full and given serious consideration.  It confirms the attitudes of those who care for kids at school, I’m sure. [Phil Cullen]

The article is called:

 Bitter and Cynical Strategy on Poverty.

Kelvin Smythe  opens this posting with a comment on the Deputy-PM Bill English’s statement that poverty is not a big issue. Kelvin Smythe then moves to the principles underlying the PM’s notions as they apply to schooling problems, by saying…..

“When the power elite refers to ‘real results’ it is referring to immediate measureable results which, in relation to social issues, is a way of distorting and avoiding the inherent nature of such issues. Such issues are always complex, fundamental, and chronic – therefore not amenable to short term measures or measurement. [Consider, for instance, the  way national standards [Australians substitute NAPLAN for ‘national standards’] and league tables are proposed as a solution to education problems.]”

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“Contemporary Western society – driven as it is by individualism, managerialism, privatisation, accountability, and a deep distaste of the idea of public service – is running perilously short of trust, that vital ingredient for a truly healthy social democracy.

All the time , of course, while non-solutions to complex social issues are slowly being pursued to political advantage, actual solutions are being ignored, leading to the complex issues becoming more intractable and the ostensible beneficiaries of the non-solutions even more disadvantaged.

This posting’s main argument is that in the current political climate, any changes to education or other social policy, whether intended to help the poor or not, will result in making things worse. The power elite knows this, or goes out of its  way not to know it, which is the justification for calling the government’s policy on poverty, bitter and cynical.

Using the powerful tools of propaganda and persuasion at their disposal, the power elite, by playing on fear and insecurity, has been able to convince large sections of society to work against their own interests .”

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The Cultural Capital of Families.

Kelvin Smythe discusses the degrees of cultural capital within families. A NZ HERALD (Wed. Jan.2. 2012) refers to a study that showed that “…competent, bright families transmit their skills to their children….being bred in a high income family provides children with role models and resources for both educational achievement and career success.”

But then, Smythe suggests that such reports don’t  “…really capture the half of it.”  “It is so easy to sit in an academic office or a political office and see things generally, acknowledging the problems, as this report does but, in my view, failing to grasp anywhere satisfactorily the disorderliness and fantastical limitations, the mind-numbing and overwhelming triviality of many children’s experiences, the violent haphazardness of events.

Compare the richness of conversational exchanges between adults and children in some houses and the shouted, impatient, at-wits-end verbal scatterings in others; compare the insubstantial, unhealthy food-preparation-on-the-run in these houses; the never being on you own and the constant clamour and disorder; the catch-as-can family sleeping arrangements; the broken nights from people returning from pubs, parties, and night shifts; the ugliness of backyards; the grinding effects of poverty; and the hopelessness of ever finding a way out.”

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Teacher Support

“The teachers know, of course, what some of these children from poorer families are going through. You see them comforting these children – violence at home, a father in jail, a family separation, all sorts of things…comforting at crisis moments…hugging them…reassuring them….providing a sense of stability….preparing special programs….giving special help….setting an appropriate pace for learning….providing sublime patience while they artfully build up children’s confidence, experiences, conceptual understandings, and learning skills.”

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But look where education is being pushed : a desiccated wasteland of learning. Teaching is becoming formalistic when it needs to be flexible and imaginative; narrow when it needs to be wide; standardised when it needs to be diverse; a soulless learning cram when it needs to be based on understanding; and leached of real world realities when it needs to be cognitively and affectively rich.

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Political Capital

Political parties of all persuasions have “used the concept of provider capture to work cruelly against improving the lot of children. What its use has done is to to move teacher knowledge from policy making, leaving the field open to politicians, bureaucrats, quantitative academics, newspaper editors, and that entity known as the public [whose voice is interpreted by these groups] – it also removes from a position of influence, the voice of parents with children at school. In this way, schooling becomes something of a generational thing, with the older generations holding almost complete sway over educational policy, free to vent their generational prejudices on today’s children and teachers.”

“Then there is the issue of accountability. In the last thirty years in Western countries, accountability has been largely used against schools for their ‘failure’ to achieve the utopian impossibility of having children from straitened circumstances achieve as well as children from privileged ones. The fantastical pressing for ever rising accountability is used to justify ever greater political and bureaucratic intervention, a breakdown in the trust in public schools, and the disparaging of public service as as a prime motivator for the actions of teachers.”

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Curriculum

“Beyond the school gate, is the twisting and turning of the power elite to avoid doing anything genuine about the growing gap beyond rich and poor. The return to the narrow version of the 3Rs should be seen as a cynical strategy put forward as an all-purpose cover for doing nothing of significance…..the power elite has successfully pulled the stunt of a narrow view of literacy and numeracy becoming a proxy for the curriculum…the idea that the 3Rs is somehow separated from the whole curriculum is a damaging fallacy…..The idea, openly acknowledged in present policies, and implicit in the idea of league tables, is that first get the 3Rs in place, and then attend to the wider curriculum.

No, no, no, no!

This idea of the 3Rs first…suggests a failure of imagination throughout the system.”

Audits?

“A great irony of national standards [aka NAPLAN] purported to keep parents and the government better informed, is that the reverse will occur. More information will be provided but, because of high stakes surrounding the production, it will become highly inaccurate – all the supervision, moderation, and computerisation won’t make a jot of difference.”

Government Control

“Also, any drop in learning and accomplishment, where and when it occurs, will be managed by the government – is being managed by the government – through its considerably increased command of the education system : the government already has almost complete control of university quantitative research through its contractual agreements; and control of qualitative reporting through its ideologically charged organisation of the bureaucracies – meaning the education system is already close to being hermetically sealed.

When test results become politically sensitive as they increasingly are through the extreme politicisation of education, the government is easily able to change the nature of the tests, the test processes, the marking procedures to improve or worsen the results as politically suits, and the interpretation and reporting of results.”

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AND

  “Now is the time to have more faith in government requiring, though, better government to have more faith in.  Now is the time for trust and cohesiveness to assume priority in our policy making.

In respect to education, the first step is to implement policies with the potential to improve the education at all levels of society….To hang equity on a hook of school education, even if the specific school education policies are fair and sound, is to leave equity dangling.  Surely it must be obvious that, for whatever reasons, present policies in education are not working in the interests of equity : Western governments have been making much of managerialist education over the past two decades, yet, in that time, inequality has greatly increased. In the USA, national standards, league tables, formalistic teaching, business control of schools, increase in private schools, have been functioning for decades, yet, in that time, economic growth has plummeted.

If  business in New Zealand [and Australia] was achieving to the level of its schools, we would be in clover; and if government was, in turn, achieving to the level of its schools, then we would have ample employment, decent wages, strong social services, and a steep reduction in poverty- allowing schools to flourish even more.”

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 Please share this with as many folk as you can. I reckon that the full paper should be read by every single teacher and parent in New Zealand and Australia. In particular it needs to be read by those politicians who like children and have the gumption to raise these serious issues at their party meetings – loud and clear.

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If you have 4 minutes 17 seconds to spare from your busy schedule, click on the theme song “Care for Kids” above, relax and ‘take in’ the words. Meditate on the plight of today’s Aussie kids.

OtherTreehorns ? :   Check Recent Posts and Archives in the sidebar.

Phil Cullen

41 Cominan Avenue

Banora Point

Australia 2486

07 5524 6443

cphilcullen@bigpond.com

http://primaryschooling.net

Important Readings

 The Treehorn Express 

Treehorn story?  http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/print.asp?article=11697

The Treehorn Express Theme song: ‘Care for Kids’

The Treehorn Express is dedicated to the cessation of Kleinist NAPLAN blanket testing in Australia.  Our recently introduced Australian schooling system is based on one introduced to a New York school district by a lawyer, Joel Klein. in 2002 and copied by Australia’s Ms. Gillard in 2009, without consultation or examination. Now, the key-stone for Australian schooling is the administration of blanket testing of some measureable items for each child every second year, in May. Upon the results, teacher, principals and schools are judged and rated.

Mr Klein, the founder, now heads the Murdoch test-publishing company worth billions!  Australian test-freaks are amongst his disciples.

Why have it? Kleinism is a New York version of fear-driven schooling which separates ‘haves’ from ‘have nots’ and opens the door for mega-bank-rolling by known curriculum vandals for control of school-based learning.

That’s why it exists. It disrespects school pupils, devalues teachers’ professionalism, forces States to prescribe school texts and teaching strategies, threatens Australia’s future and rivals the Perth Mint as a money source for the top end of town.  Why does Australia support it? Why? Money.

You have seen the current advertisements on TV – buy test-practice books – approved cheating – making a mockery of what Australia could be : – a really advanced, educated society – where love of learning and achievement is happily pursued.

__Little Treehorn and his cobbers reckon that “Adults just don’t care about school kids.”  You don’t?__

SOME READINGS…..

NOTE VERY CAREFULLY THIS RECENT RELEASE:-

The Impacts of High Stakes Testing on School Students and their Families

http://www.whitlam.org/the_program/high_stakes_testing

The Whitlam Institute,along with its project partners, the Melbourne Graduate School of Education and the Foundation of Young Australians, is embarking on a significant,  long-term research project which examines the impacts of high stakes testing on school students and their families.

“Although much of the literature is focussed on the USA and the UK, the consistency of these finding raises legitimate questions and deep concern regarding the Australian experience.”

This review by Professor John Polesel, Ms Nicky Dulfer and Dr Malcolm Turnbull is compelling. Click above.

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Education Deform as Farce

http://theassailedteacher.com/2012/01/19/education-deform-as-farce/

introduction to this article features an illustration of the hand of Uncle Sam over a John Doe’s mouth with large-type demands : QUIET!    KNOW YOUR PLACE.    SHUT YOUR FACE!

But; “Defenders of public education cannot be compromisers.” says the author.

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Why the United States is Destroying Its Education System

http://www.truthdig.com/report/print/why_the_united_states_is_destroying_her_education_system_20110410/

This paper by Chris Hodges, posted on April 11, 2011, was hailed for its frankness; e.g. “I cannot say for certain –not with the certainty of a Bill Gates or a Mike Bloomberg who pontificate with utter certainty over a field in which they know absolutely nothing – but more and more I suspect that a major goal of the reform campaign is to make the work of a teacher so degrading and insulting that the dignified and the truly educated teachers will simply leave while they still retain a modicum of self respect. In less than a decade we have been stripped of autonomy and increasingly micromanaged.”

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You know you have the time to absorb these three articles. Never, ever trust a professional person who says that they ‘don’t have the time’ to read their profession’s literature as much as they can. They can’t organise their time. They are useless….probably spending their time trying to a arrange a queue of two people. You know that it is only busy people who find time to do more. Share important time with other professionals.

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Come on folks. Get off the fence. Say something to somebody who might be able to help our kids.

Parents can stop the malignant practice by telling their school that they don’t want their children to contest NAPLAN.

Politicians can stop it if a few fair-dinkum Aussie ones stand up for Aussie kids in their Parliamentary Party Room.

Principals can stop it by refusing to have their professional ethics battered any more.

Teachers can stop it by saying ‘enough is enough’. We like our kids.

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 If you have 4 minutes 17 seconds to spare from your busy schedule, click on the theme song “Care for Kids” above, relax and ‘take in’ the words. Meditate. Calm your anger. Enjoy. For their sake, just say NO to NAPLAN.

OtherTreehorns ? :   Check Recent Posts and Archives in the sidebar.

Phil Cullen

41 Cominan Avenue

Banora Point

Australia 2486

07 5524 6443

cphilcullen@bigpond.com

http://primaryschooling.net