Power of Free Will

Treehorn Express:

Shared opinions soaked in knowledge & experience – all well tested.


The Power of Free Will

The Bartleby Project

But whoever causes one of these little ones to stumble,

it would be better for him if a millstone were hung

around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea.

Mark 9:42

John Taylor Gatto opens his proposal for the Bartleby Project with this biblical extract as he invites us all to join in an Open Conspiracy to rid schools of the “glorified jig-saw puzzles” that generate unreliable, misleading data for a gullible public. Australians call it NAPLAN. It’s generally known as Standardised Blanket Testing.

In his compelling article http://bartlebyproject.com/gatto.html Gatto suggests that those who do well in the tests are more likely to become circus dogs than leaders of the future. “Nothing inside the little red schoolhouse does more damage than the numbers and rank order these tests hang around the necks of the young.” He has, in my opinion, a most worthy, simple proposal to get rid of Standardised Blanket Testing that now wags the tail of the entire system of institutional schooling in GERM countries. His proposal is one that suits individuals to live with their conscience, to be as compliant to stern managerialism demands as one wishes to be; and unobtrusively help to get rid of the cancerous ethic that now pervades our schooling …… without bruising professional colleagueships.

It is, simply, to follow the lead of Bartleby the Scrivener, and write “I prefer not to do this” on anything that effects one’s professional ethics or interferes with basic learning principles.

So, a high school student can write “I prefer not to do this” on a NAPLAN test paper or practice paper. It’s not disobedience nor would be it treated as such. It’s an expression of democratic anti-evil free-will. A classroom teacher can write it on the instructions and hand them back to the principal or just remain compliant and write it on any material anyhow. It’s an expression of professional ethics. A principal can do the same to the dominators that issue the instructions. It’s a gentle way of saying, without fuss, “This standardised blanket testing is unethical and a waste. I want you to know that this is how I feel, but I don’t want to argue about it.”

This exercise of Free-will needs determination and resolve, a sincere love for children-at-school and a genuine concern for what is happening to them. It can be an awesome instrument for good. If it is exercised, as Gatto suggests, without emotion or enlargement or dramatics or demonstration or adversarial politics, it has enormous potential for good. It is simply a matter of writing this short sentence or saying it at a staff meeting, seminar, subject association, union meeting or professional group as often and as politely as possible.

Imagine that you are a Year 9 teacher who has collected a NAPLAN test paper from a student with such a comment on it. Imagine you are a coordinator for the testing program, a principal, a district officer who has received such a comment from a teacher with no additions. There’s nothing you can do, is there? That’s the end of it. Gatto’s notion has to be a winner.

“The simple exercise of free-will throws consternation into social order – it contradicts the management principle. Refusing to allow yourself to be used as a mechanical piece of machinery, is more revolutionary than any revolution on record.”

‘Civil disobedience’ and ‘passive resistance’ [Ghandi-style] that is quiet, unobtrusive, courteous, pleasant and personal even private….self-generated, flying solo without a collectivity; unorganized, just happening as an opportunity presents itself, will create an irresistible tide in classrooms across the country. As J. Gatto suggests, any opposition or firm stand by diehard testucators will be a house of cards, any retribution against pleasant refuseniks an illusion. Even the attempts to marginalise and denigrate experienced educators, who publically oppose fear-based national-testing, will bounce back. The cause is decent and honourable.

The furphy that private schools will not admit pupils with no NAPLAN results has no currency. Private secondary schooling is big business. It craves customers.

Saying “NO to NAPLAN’’ in a quiet dignified manner, has great potential.

The Bartleby Project expects to enlist “… 60,000,000 American high school students [Yes. 60 million], one by one, to refuse peacefully to take standardized tests or to participate in any preparation for these tests; it asks them to act because adults, chained institutions and corporations, are usually passive; because these tests pervert education, are disgracefully inaccurate. impose brutal stress without reason, and actively encourage a class system which will poison the future of the nation.”

Growing Numbers of Bartleby-type Parents in Australia

During the past five years, Australian parents have been deliberately deceived into believing that all school pupils MUST contest all of the NAPLAN tests. There has been no departmental nor prominent media statement that draws attention to the optional nature of the tests. It is seldom mentioned on school web-sites or newsletters. Most learning-oriented principals are not game to express any views that might draw attention to ethical teaching principles. At the same time there has been a deceitful claque of departmental officers and testucating principals in all states, who have force-fed the mandatory nature of the tests to parents who want to do the right thing by their children. This is nasty and cruel. There is absolutely no requirement whatsoever. All that a parent needs to do is to drop a note to the school indicating that you do not want your child to undertake the tests nor the special test-preparation classes … “I prefer…….” One short sentence. No more. No further comment. No discussion.That’s all a parent needs to do.

[In a true democracy, parents shouldn’t have to do this, but…. When the ‘Captain picks’ the system that our schools must follow, this sort of dictatorial management comes with it.]

AND TAKE NOTE: Most parents do not like being treated as dumb-clucks and there has been a large and rapid increase in the numbers of Austraian parents withdrawing their children . Check http://saveourschools.com.au of 23 and 27 November where researcher Trevor Cobbald has details. He concludes “….to summarize, data on participation rates clearly shows that parents are increasingly exercising their right to withdraw children …and the numbers continue to move up as more and more parents become aware of their rights.”

Well done, Aussie parents. Bartleby and your children will be proud. By saying “NO to NAPLAN”, you are helping to prevent the further use of a dangerous, oppressive instrument.


Parent & Teacher Friends Up-Over: http://morethanascorechicago.org/ & www.unitedoptout.com


THE FUNNY PAGES : http://www.nap.edu.au/information/faqs/naplan–participation.html


“If we pull this off, a great many will bless us, and few in the school industry will curse us. This is about a project to destroy the standardized testing industry, one in which you, personally, will be an independent unit commander. Keep in mind as your read about it, this has nothing to do with test reform. It’s about test destruction”

An old man’s prayers will be with you. J.T.Gatto: Afterword: The Bartleby Project

Aussies : Let’s make NAPLAN a top election issue.

Vote for the good guy who cares for kids.

Click: ‘Care for Kids’

Phil Cullen

January 29 2013



One thought on “Power of Free Will

  1. Reblogged this on Thinking in the Deep End and commented:
    In Victoria in the late 90’s parents took the wind out of the sails of the LAP (Learning Assessment Program) testing program by simply not allowing their children to participate in numbers great enough to undermine the statistical reliability of the tests.

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