All Work and No Play

 The Treehorn Express

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All Work and No Play

Derek Hedgcock

2 March 2012

“We ought not as much, be judged by our success but rather by the way we cope with our failure. Have teachers failed? Or have they simply allowed power-hungry, non-teachers to convince communities that they have? Is it simply, that teachers have failed to defend their professionalism rather than underperform in practice? Is it that much of what is happening in our schools’ classrooms is being foisted upon teachers without due consideration for that which learning actually comprises?

When did educators hand over the reins to those who lack professional expertise, those rich in political ideology and guile: power hungry and devoid of social equity?”


Derek Hedgcock’s learned paper, attached, examines the issue of learning, what it is and its connection to curriculum, especially a national one. Learning, as a bio-psychological function in the use of curriculum prescriptions, is discussed; and his observations should alert practitioners to what they are required, for political reasons,  to undertake.

Some of the pithy observations made in the early part of his paper include…..

Learning is the most fundamental of all human behaviours and therefore needs to be the absolute foundation of curriculum.

…..curriculum needs to be re-defined purely as “Learning based”.

Why is it that so many sound learning paradigms have been recently abandoned? Why have practising educators failed so spectacularly to keep hold of their professional destinies and apply the arts of their trade?

Why is it that, whenever a novel technological wizardry presents itself, that tried and proven old devices are totally abandoned? Why is it in such circumstances. that programmes are re-formed so that the new fad dominates the curriculum? Computers and their associated technologies are a case in point. Although they are certainly a relevant and most useful tool, they hardly qualify as the base for an “Education Revolution” to shape a nation’s future. Such a ludicrous proposition deserves its inevitable short-comings.

The data boffins serving those who fester/foster the political agenda that is currently overtaking our schools, claim to have evidence in spades, that schools are failing.

It’s hard to imagine a time when statisticians’ analyses of school data might prevail over teacher/classroom, direct observation of learners and their performance as learners. It seems that such times are with us! Learning is being measured and then designed to fit linear, numerical sets of artificially derived data, as if it was an inanimate object.

Learning is a bio-psychological function. It is a life pattern with physical form and metaphysical function.

Derek Hedgcock explains three basic learning tenets.

Tenet #1 Emotion determines what we learn and what we forget! NO emotional salience = NO memory: not even a fleeting one.

Tenet #2 Repetition that is regular, frequent and sequential, whilst sustaining emotional salience for all learners, is essential to “firing ‘n wiring” memory.

Tenet #3 Return immediately to tenet #1. By affording choice to those who know best the learner and the learning context.

He concludes……

The concept of a National Curriculum is indeed most worthy and sensible. Of itself, the concept should connect emotionally with all who desire a worthy education outcome for all Aussie kids.

However, to measure its effectiveness by means of a distanced-from-the-learner assessment technologies, on a one-size-fits-all basis, in a uni-modal format, does not satisfy any of the tenets proposed above.

To have a National Curriculum that is now seemingly being re-written/interpreted by at least one of the  States and possible all seven of the remaining jurisdictions and in their own idiosyncratic way, hardly remains as a National Curriculum.

And furthermore, to prescribe units of “work” into tight timeless, lesson by lesson, regardless of each learning setting’s characteristics, hardly satisfies any of the three tenets

Both the message and the challenge are simple. The reader can work at playing with the 3 tenets of learning to assess the merits or otherwise of NAPLAN and the national Curriculum’s various progeny.

Ask yourself the following questions and if the answer to any is negative…..what’s to be done?

Do NAPLAN and the various iterations of the National Curriculum withstand scrutiny under a lens of modern learning theory?

Do they withstand the test of salience and emotional connection?

Do they respect much that has been known about learning for a long, long time?  [David Suziki is credited with saying something akin to….”Those who invented the silicon chip spent their childhood exploring ponds and streams, using jam jars and hand-held lenses”]

Do they afford opportunity for learner exposure to the essential memes of shared, cross-culturally diverse narratives?

And perhaps, most importantly, do they provide a rich capacity to understand the modern knowledge economy, to know how the most useful and innovative discoveries are emerging from the cracks between ‘subjects’ and traditional knowledge demarcations, by people who can emotionally connect cross-disciplinary expertise?

Are our schools tumbling into an inescapable morass of confusion which is either too workish or too playful?

The divisions, as a matter of urgency, ought to be abandoned.

The first step is to rid ourselves of all the confusing potentials for conflict;  and design our schools’ curriculum as the brain has been doing for a long-long time.

Always, for all its time, the human brain has been and will, forever more, learn by salient experiences and will remember by practiced repetition.


IMPORTANT NEWS Treehorn has his own facebook page. I’m unsure, at present of how to operate it. It is attached to a different email address, namely

If you wish to make a comment, try!  Good luck!  I’m sure that Derek would welcome comments on his article.

My apologies for any confusion. My IT skills would not get me a job with Bill Gates or Joel Klein…that’s for sure.

Thanks for your patience.  Phil C


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Maintained by outstanding NZ educator, Allan Alach

Phil Cullen

41 Cominan Avenue

Banora Point

Australia 2486

07 5524 6443


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