NAPLAN – Australia’s National Laxative.

The Treehorn Express

 Proudly prepared and presented by Phil Cullen anti-NAPLAN geriactivist thinking of kids.

Treehorn story?

The Treehorn Express Theme song: ‘Care for Kids’

April 10



NAPLAN – Australia’s  National  Laxative

A cousin of mine used to tell me of her adventures at a Brisbane Catholic Girls Boarding School relocated to Southport during WW2. Each Saturday they would line up on the verandah for a tablespoon of Castor Oil….for health reasons. Some girls positioned themselves near some large pot plants, which received liberal doses of vomit and an occasional unwanted tablespoonful. They died…the pot plants.

It’s a bit like NAPLAN testing. It is a deadly laxative if not used for the right purpose….but what is its purpose?

What does NAPLAN do that is of any use for children’s desires to learn and for their basic need to achieve?  Will some authority figure engineering the tests, please explain …. in term of learning theory and/or teaching theory…anything to show me that you are doing the right thing by my grandchildren; and that you are spending a big chunk of the nation’s coffers wisely. How will our nation prosper if we spend millions to drive the love for learning from our next generation? It just doesn’t figure. You devotees of GERM, sure as shootin’, are making a mess.

Some say that regular blanket testing improves the attention given to the scores on the bi-annual tests of literacy and numeracy….like Dirty Harry holding a gun at one’s head. Maybe it does. Must do if one practices enough, I guess. Is this the only way to improve the scores…at the risk of destroying children’s natural love for learning and of quelling their particular interest in selected parts of numeracy and literacy? Big, big risk. AND I’m told that the promoters of NAPLAN’s cruel magic are willing to spend billions of dollars of tax-payers’ money and remain silent about the waste just to improve the scores, with no relevance to the teach/learning act. Messy.


I have a special Year 7 friend who is distraught. After two full practice sessions with NAPLAN tests before the Easter break, she thinks it stinks. Yes. She loves mathematics and does very well [according to her report card], and cannot see any reason for this waste of wonder-filled school time. She LOVES school. Her mother would willingly ask the principal to leave her out of the test; but she would feel conspicuous amongst her peers. It needs a few down-to-earth, concerned parents in every school to get together. In most cases the school personnel would agree with such thoughtful ‘dissidents’ as Kimberley College, a private school in Queensland, and a few public schools in Victoria whose pupils will enjoy school during the month of May. As schools’ parents start to consider matters collectively, more will join the Care for Kids movement, the we-love-learning movement and opt-out this year.

 The real damage to schooling per se is performed by honest folk who remain silent; for whom, said Dante, the hottest places in Hell are reserved…and deserved. “Those who don’t want their little lives disturbed by anything bigger than themselves. Those with no ideas and no causes. Those who won’t take measure by anything bigger than themselves. Those with no sides and no causes. Those who won’t take measure of their own weaknesses. Those who don’t want to make waves – or enemies. Those for whom freedom, honour, truth and principles are only literature.” according to Clive  James in ‘Cultural Amnesia’.

and, more directly….

  • Those principals, so immersed in compliance,  they will not tell the parents of their pupils that they need not ‘take’ the test.
  • Those journalist who believe that school bullying is related to all sorts of causes, and don’t dare to look at the boredom of NAPLAN-type classrooms. Kids can kick cats too, oh great writers of wisdom.
  • Those teachers who just shrug their shoulders.
  • Those professional organisations who have lost the meaning of professional ethics.
  • Those once strong unions who now exert the full force of a feather.

Orwell, you’ll remember, reckons that honest, decent, hardworking people don’t like to think that they are caught up in something immoral. Immoral organisations, such as those that promote NAPLAN, NCLB and the like, rely on such silence to exercise their immorality.  Passive school staffs, committed to healthy learning enterprises, are unable or unwilling to speak out, and this encourages more haughty toxic control.  Witness the development of VAM [Value Added Measurement] in the U.S., soon to be considered for our teachers now that the work-force is well controlled.

Remember the direct questions to principals that Kelvin Smythe asked last year [Treehorn 25 June, 2011] ?  Principals, after all, are the heavyweights of the system. If they spoke out collectively about the damage NAPLAN has done to their professional ethics, NAPLAN would cease tomorrow.  Reshaped for Australian conditions, here are the questions…

  1. Did you know that your complicity with Gillard’s Klein system of schooling was a moral issue; if you didn’t , should you really  be around children?
  2. Did you consider that the introduction of NAPLAN was just a first step towards much more radical teacher change?
  3. Do you have some answers to the multiplicity of confusions and distortions that are occurring?
  4. Can’t you and those of you who visit schools for audit purposes see the Orwellian nature of your roles?
  5. Do you ever consider that the money that is paid to you for coercive roles might come from child-learning programs?
  6. Since you are so obedient to bureaucracies and governments, do you believe that bureaucrats and politicians know best?
  7. Does your commitment to teaching and learning ever clash with the political effort to squeeze the wonder and curiosity of children’s desire to be pupils?
  8. Are you familiar with the overall curriculum design of ACARA  for variety-based schooling that includes life subjects like health, physical education, drama, dance, sport, music, visual arts, science, social studies, values?
  9. Can you provide your parents with an overview of what the new curriculum will look like, and the place of NAPLAN within it?
  10. Can you explain the background behind GERM, NAPLAN, NCLB, RTTT and VAM movements and why you subscribe to them?  Do you really like VAM?  You won’t be able to stop it, the more compliant you become.
  11. Would you stand with your fellow principals if there was a movement towards the cancellation of national blanket testing?

Linda Darling-Hammond [Treehorn 23 June 2011] suggests that there will be a rise of professional teachers, presently under siege from managerialism.  They, possessing  a strong body of professional knowledge will exert their strong ethic of care; and transmit their knowledge and commitment to others. They will stand should to shoulder when the time comes to take a position. In the meantime, there are obstacles…

Cowardice asks, “Is it safe?”

Expediency asks,” Is it politic?”

Vanity asks, “Is it popular?”

But CONSCIENCE asks, “Is it right? …and that’s the time when one must take a position.

How long do we have to wait?

The compliant goody-goody NAPLAN and GERM supporters will be lined up on the verandah to distribute the laxatives, when Australian schools return from the Easter break. The Year 3,5,7,9 victims have to be given their medicine. They’ll do as they are told as distasteful as it is. It’s a good time to think about what is happening to our children, our pupils and our grandchildren; to stand clear of the pot plants and tell the Kleinists that we don’t want to distribute any more castor oil.


Phil Cullen

41 Cominan Avenue

Banora Point

Australia 2486

07 5524 6443

[Maintained by outstanding NZ educator Allan Alach]


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