Spreading progress or regress by memery. Pt. 3

Treehorn Express

Maintained by NZ Educator, Allan Alach]


Spreading School Progress/Regress Part 3.

Control of scato-memes.

The scato-meme: “fear-based teaching encourages learning” is now endemic to the politically controlled, publisher-supported G.E.R.M. [Global Education Reform Movement http://www.pasisahlberg.co/blog/?p=234 ] in a few unfortunate countries. Called NAPLAN in Australia, it is known to be cruel, immoral, unnecessary, expensive, curriculum destructive, development inhibitive. It is a notion that is so destructive of the teaching/learning process, that it requires strict political cum totalitarian control for it to be maintained in school systems that do not really believe in it, did not ask for it, are now finding it crippling; and pray for the day when it will disappear.

The world knows that the use of the meme is the brain-child of Joel Klein, a sad peg in a round hole, who found himself in charge of a New York school district where he tried it out. Fear is a motivator. It’s sadistic. We all know that. He says that his fear-based ideas work. They don’t and never have. Alas. His future employer saw pay dirt. Although it was proving to be a curriculum ruinator, publishing titan Rupert Murdoch promptly hired Klein at an exorbitant salary. The warehousing of standardised tests and computer programs produces more money faster than mints can, once the politicians are on side to establish control and maintain the helotry. Rupert knows this from previous experiences. So….the scato-meme spread, applauded by incompetent politicians of all persuasions, even though this meme has no home in any known educational endeavour connected with learning.


It spread to Australia because clear and recognisable totalitarian methods were employed to introduce it. The Minister at the time having met the sweet-talking Klein and intoxicated by her own new-found power, arranged for like-minded humanity-free Australian bankers to bring him down under to tell them how wise their new Minister was; and that they should support her when the school-inclined academics, caring teachers, thinking principals and concerned parents objected. It worked pretty well. Soft targets.

The appointment of a well-regarded academic to run the show was a good move. He was short on school knowledge, but understood the art of measurement backwards. Surrounded by fellow measurers, the gullible public thought that the basic meme must be pure and they respected the way in which pronouncements were made….. without appreciating its bovine characteristics.

Principals groups, teachers’ unions and educational fraternities all fell for it and co-operated. The forces were too great for them to display any collective voice and, in any case, their collectivities were corralled with the gate locked. Professional ethics that applied to caring for kids were put to one side and left there, by fiat. That “Care for Kids” theme is not tolerated under present circumstances. It interferes with corporate greed, the aim of NAPLAN.

Managerialism. The 1990 scourge of experienced practitioners is recognised as the history-making finish of child-based schooling and learning progress in Australia. The managerial knowledge of the big controllers at the time [e.g. K. Rudd, adviser to Q’ld premier] were limited to very basic organisational themes. They knew little of the effects of their crude beliefs on administrative outcomes. For instance, the devaluing of experience is probably the greatest error any organisation can make. Its value is a basic administrative tenet. Now, Australia’s crude use of managerialism per se is overdue for devaluation.

All organizations want to get things done in the best possible way. The term ‘managerialism’ is a naive term that believes that any person can manage anything, once organisational charts have been drawn and people are told what to do. Amen. That is what governments believed in the 1990s and they ignored the esprit of the public services that they are supposed to provide….the cultures and sub-cultures that keep the show on the road and engender the notion of pride, progress and improvement….and service to the public. They overlooked a simple dictum that true administration starts when people start to inhabit the positions on the charts. Schools are the most people-oriented places on earth and those who over-see school activities for them, have to know what such people-based administration in them requires….at ground level….in the classroom….in the school office……for an extended period. As well, ordinary organisational Management from its 1990 induction is ‘FORMAL’ and ‘Personal’, whereas true Administration is ‘PERSONAL’ and ‘Formal’.  Leadership in both fields is ’PERSONAL’ and ‘SITUATIONAL’. A leader has to know what is going on. Experience.

Applied to the Australian government’s view of personnel management, it has made a big mistake. It was recently examined. [ http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/breakfast/poor-managers/4128262 ] School ‘productivity’ cannot be described by measureable test scores. Schooling is a totally human operation…children and teachers interacting…nothing more, nothing less.


Control-central at the national level, just hasn’t done its managerial homework. By following Machiavelian principles to create Orwellian conditions it treats its schools’ workforce as dumbclucks. Its managerial manipulations fracture so many basic rules of productive leadership, its determined pursuit of the ridiculous is plain crazy and dangerous. Let’s look at some concepts that never lose their currency.

  • French & Raven’s “Bases of Power” with ‘Expertise’ born of experience at the top rung and ‘Coercion’ at the bottom of the ladder- table of motivations, surely indicates that the government’s inversion of these dimensions is not healthy.
  • “The Self-fulfilling Prophecy” should have told the government’s managers that teachers do not appreciate being insulted, shamed, punished, blamed and threatened by them and Joel Klein and Rupert Murdoch and Bill Gates and the media and corporations; and can lose their zest. Everybody responds to positive stimuli.
  • McGregor’s Theory Y applies to teachers rather than Theory X. Given sincere beliefs in what teachers can do and giving them the freedom to ‘have a go’, the results in terms of pupil achievement will have no limits.
  • Richard Carlson’s distinction between managing a “firm” in a ‘wild society’ and one in a ‘domesticated society’ can help operators to understand where they are in the scheme of things.
  • The Hawthorne Effect would have told them that the social situation and its social interactions are of greater consequence than governments believe. A superordinate’s sincere interest in what is going one, motivates.


Our government presently ignores such indicators. It has no respect for people as people; for children as children.. Alas, it prefers to follow totalitarian conditions of control revealed by…..

  • The Milgram Experiment. This ensures that the teachers groups and principals do as they are told. Comparatively easy to Eichmannise, they tend to obey authority figures without too much questioning.
  • The Stockholm Syndrome. Once made captive and held for long enough, they convert to the will of the oppressor. Watch out kids.
  • Stalinism. Repressive action begets repressive action. Governments repress principals. Principals repress teachers. Teachers repress children.


There is hope, however. Campbell’s Law. “The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort the social pressures it is intended to monitor.” Campbell adds “…when test scores become the goal of the teaching process, they both lose their value as indicators of educational status and distort the educational process in undesirable ways.”

It’s happening.

Hang in there, teachers and kids. Let’s pray that we will get back to proper teaching and learning earlier than we think, when enough people of good-will, experience and knowledge have their say.



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