The Classroom

The Treehorn Express

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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?




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? “



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.”



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.



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.


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


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