The Methodology of Mediocrity

 The Treehorn Express

Opinion soaked in knowledge & experience.

Treehorn is the hero of an easy-to-read, sad children’s book, “The Shrinking of Treehorn” by Florence Heidi Parry. She cleverly exposes adults’ couldn’t-care-less attitude towards the needs of children, even when the circumstances of mal-treatment of children  are patently obvious…vomiting, sleeplessness, crying etc.   Treehorn found that parents, teachers and principals only pretend to care.  What do you think? Were his experiences typical of our attitude to children?


NASA called a meeting at Cape Canaveral of plumbers, footballers, band leaders and lawyers, as you do when you want advice on the best way to send a rocket to Mars. At the same time, a meeting of measurers, IT experts, testucators and politicians met in Canberra on the best way to get better scores on NAPLAN tests.


The Methodology of Mediocrity

In the sequacious pursuit of fear-based kleinism and zombic functionalism, there is a quixotic determination amongst Australian politicians, measurers and testucators to establish and maintain a test-based school culture at any cost.  It’s so true. These discrete, identifiable groups seem to believe  that the more you test children and frighten them with the consequences of failure, the more that school children will want to learn …. better and harder. These control freaks spend millions to make sure that the stakeholders in learning – teachers, pupils and parents in particular – will do as they are told. They take advantage of the present era of a fading democracy, of the support and controlled silence of the brotherhood of media interests and of the ease with which good people can be ‘milgramed’ to perform deeds that are quite contrary to their basic beliefs and ethics. At this point in time, these ‘buz baz’ showmen are confident that they have manufactured sufficient consent for their mission to succeed, so they are prepared to spend an enormous amount of tax-payers’ dollars to stream-line the process on-line.

The ultimate mission is to make sure that measurers, on behalf of the test publishing industry, eventually flood schools with test-coping equipment, ipads and high-tech test-preparation programs as well as test-oriented curriculum programs. There is no sincere learning base to the mission. There is no compassion for the feelings of children nor any effort to encourage and extend the basic love of learning.

These Australian schadenfreudes  gathered in early December, 2012 to ignore serious research, to flee from the  advice from international authorities where achievement is enjoyed, celebrated and applauded, as they continue their cruel assault on the enjoyment of learning. They support the maintenance of mediocrity because they don’t know any better; and they prefer not to deal with issues of LEARNING. Measurement pundits’ backgrounds are so limited that they advocate that fundamentals of literacy and numeracy have to be parroted and practised  before  any form of learnacy can be undertaken.

They know, all too well, that most school children suffer from some forms of High-stakes Naplan Testing Disorder [HSNTD]. Manifest in every home of a Year 3,5,7,9 pupil and in every school during the April-May period each year, the condition is widely known and is deliberately Treehorned by these test-freaks. They just don’t care. One has to wonder about them.

Let’s take a few examples of how public ignorance is maintained and how they control proffered cognitive, expert teacher advice in their pursuit of mediocrity’s one-size-fits-all credo…..

1. The impact of NAPLAN on the well-being of students and their families was researched by the University of Melbourne and published by the Whitlam Institute at the University of Western Sydney in November, 2012.

8353 teacher stake-holders who operate at the sharp end of the testing program reveal that NAPLAN testing has resulted in [1] a narrowing of teaching strategies; [2] a narrowing of the curriculum; [3] damage to children’s health and well-being; [4] negative impact on staff morale and school reputations.  In an open democracy, that’s sufficient evidence for a halt to be called. But…

On 30-11-12, a debate was conducted on Melbourne Radio about the limits of NAPLAN testing, during which the CEO of ACARA [Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority], expert measurer, Robert Randall was asked: “This study finds that children are sick, stressed and sleepless because of the tests. How concerned are you by that finding.”

Mr. Randall responded : “One answer I’m going to say, you know, we’re concerned about it. We welcome this report and others for us to have a look at, to get information so we take that information on in order to improve our program.

But equally we will challenge, if you like, the methodology and some of  the information. [We know more than  they do] ….it’s some students and in some circumstances and we need to work those things through, but we need to be careful that this is not a claim about the whole populous, the participation.”

MoM:- The floggings will continue until teacher morale improves. We testucators don’t like the way that teachers volunteer their observations.

2. Following an intensive survey of international research into high-stakes testing, Greg Thompson of Murdoch University obtained responses from 961 teachers from WA and SA. about their expert opinion of the effects of NAPLAN. It was published in October, 2012. . The findings were “consistent with international research about the effects of high-stakes testing.”

The overwhelming concerns were obvious: [1] “High-stakes testing creates incentives for teachers to narrow the curriculum, adopt teacher-centred pedagogies and teach to the test. These strategies are detrimental to literacy and numeracy learning.” [2] “The majority of teachers do not see NAPLAN as improving literacy and numeracy.” [3] “Stress makes learning more difficuIt, not more likely. Trying to improve education outcomes through NAPLAN at the same time as it increases the  stress of those involved, would appear to be a self-defeating strategy.” [4] “Only a minority of teachers perceive NAPLAN has had some positives.”

MoM:-  Make sure that the word does not get out.  Constituents might become alarmed about the effects. Make sure the press does not mention it. It didn’t say a word. The tactic worked.

3. There has been a “Big Increase in Students Withdrawn from NAPLAN Tests” according to Trevor Cobbold.  His Research Paper of November, 2012 demonstrates that “there has been a four-to-five-fold increase across Australia since 2008 in the  percentage of children withdrawn from the numeracy tests.”  “Certainly more and more parents are becoming aware that NAPLAN is not compulsory despite the efforts of education authorities to suggest they are mandatory.” and  “…the rapid growth poses a threat to the reliability of NAPLAN results for inter-school comparisons, inter-jurisdictional comparison and trends of student achievement.”

MoM:– Again: “not a word to Bessie”. The press managed to protect its readership from information of this kind as it has done on other important issues during the year.


Remember? of 3 Nov. lists in “The Zone of Silence”  other instances such as the comments of especially important educator visitors to Australia like Jounni Vakijarvi and Pasi Sahlberg of Finland education; Professor Robin Alexander, chairman of most comprehensive report on primary education [6 years of collective integrated study] ever compiled – The Cambridge Report;  Yong Zhao ex-China now U. of Oregon; Andy Hargreaves of Boston; Kishore  Mahbubani of Singapore . None rated a mention.  Not a single solitary word in the more prestigious media outlets.

Nor did the deliberations of the APPA-NZPF Conference on ‘Leading Learning’ get a mention. Nor did the announcement on 11 September that there would be a Senate Inquiry. Nor did….who knows?

The maintenance of high-stakes testing is deceitful. Until our undemocratic, testucating leaders concentrate on child learning – the loving [YES – LOVING] development of each child and its learning talents, no matter what they are –  we are stuck forever on mediocrity. Present processes guarantee it.

There is little doubt that NAPLANISM just gets stupider and stupider. ACARA measurers, their political buddies and all those testucators, who are victims of the Milgram hypothesis, just have to ‘think children’, admit to a billion dollar mistake, and find ways to lead learning the proper way. ‘THINKING CHILDREN’ [not testing] is critical.


“It is now to the point where I think the EQ ship is way off course and too close to the rocks.  It’s full of people who don’t know that they don’t know, and there are too many in leadership roles that simply don’t want to know. Sadly their eyes seem to be fixed on the next rung of the ladder.The premature roll-out of the Australian Curriculum which saw pedagogically questionable materials full of grammar and spelling errors unleashed on an unsuspecting student population,has been a debacle and totally compromising for any of us who were  directed to implement it. No wonder our kids are falling behind.We are SO MUCH BETTER than this. Teachers are a fine bunch and it takes a lot for them to stay the course. We just need good and smart leaders – scholars not managers. And it would be heartening if our school leaders had at least a Master of Education degree. Like Finland??”  On my frequent trips to international educational conferences in Asia, the stiff competition we face in this region is evident. But without pedagogy drawn from evidence-based research and without strong leadership to see it through, I fear we’re sunk. Perhaps our mantra should be UP WITH WHICH WE WILL NOT PUT! Time to get EQ and the Australian education system ship=shape again.”



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