Unhappy Anniversary.

 The Treehorn Express

‘The Treehorn Express is a tribute to those children who are forced to encounter Standardised Blanket Testing in GERM countries and are forced to suffer from the distress, a narrowed curriculum and loss of progressive cognitive development. Like little Treehorn, they are wonderful young citizens, ignored by those who are expected to care and exploited by those who don’t.




 An Unhappy 5th Anniversary

A Short History of NAPLAN

The Senate Inquiry into NAPLAN is due to produce its report on 27 June, 2013.  That makes it a neat 5 years since NAPLAN started its wilfully destructive path. It was on this fateful day, 27 June, 2008 that Julia Gillard, then the federal Minister for Education and Deputy Prime Minister was visiting Washington with a representative [unknown] of the Department of Education to attend the 16th annual Australian-American Leadership Dialogue [AALD]; and they attended a Carnegie Corporation function where they met the redoubtable Joel Klein, then Chancellor of the New York City Board of Education.

He sold Julia a pup. He invited her to adopt his educational theories and to follow carefully the pedagogical strategies of his New York School District, where billionaire Mayor Bloomberg had given him carte blanche powers to run a large school system, because he had been a successful lawyer. The essential element of his theoretical underpinnings was that fear is the greatest of human motivators and the more forcefully you use it on children, teachers and school administrators, the more successful the outcomes. Fear is now the DNA of Australia’s NAPLAN.  At the time, his SBT [Standardised Blanket Testing] system was already failing in New York where academic gains were  proving to be meagre; and creative enthusiasm for learning and scholastic achievement was being crushed.  “Parents were shut out. The annual budget nearly doubled, low-scoring students shuffled from school to school, discipline problems hidden, teachers demoralized, and principals scared of every twitch in the data, as incompetents ruled the administrative roost.  What is there to celebrate?” Marc Epstein asks.  Never mind. Julia copied it, holus bolus. Klein’s self-congratulatory narrative and narrow-minded view of teachers became legendary; and his spin machine was such that the rhetoric appealed to those who mattered: the greedy, the gullible and the media.  Friend Rupert Murdoch’s bought it. There was money in it. Klein tried hard to believe it himself :  

His self-promoted fame spread;  and Julia, following this ‘chance’ meeting at the Washington knees-up, became a devotee.

KLEIN-articleInline-v2A master pedlar of testing material as a school administrator, his style suited Rupert Murdoch down to the ground. Rupert was already running a cut-throat business based on the pretence of a ‘reform’ agenda that was worth billions of dollars through his publication of tests and allied material; with the promise of online testing soon to control everyman’s schooling. When his newspaper sales later started to sag, his testing companies were able to subsidise their recovery from the huge income from  Standardised Blanket Testing.  Our befuddled Julia was conned into believing that the testing industry, now feeding from the profits that the sort of Joel Klein system of schooling offered, had something to do with learning in the classroom.

wlEmoticon-note[1]When will they ever learn?wlEmoticon-note[1]

Joel Klein is now a Senior Executive of News Limited. Australia lives with his legacy.

How did this happen to us? Julia was so impressed by his spin that she invited him to Australia. She was then in a long line of federal education ministers who could not tell a learning-based classroom from a flung sandwich…..Kemp, Bishop, Nelson amongst them.  They suffered from the same malady that infects the world every now and then.  When such peculiar memes spread around the globe as fast as torn jeans and tattoos, we teachers know that creative, purposeful learning suffers.  There are some people who just love bashing schools about without evidence of any substantial nature.  Politicians are usually the amongst the most critical and lead the assault.    Do you vote for any such mischief-makers?

In early 2007, Julie Bishop, the federal minister for education lamented declining education standards at the same time as a book called Dumbing Down by a Dr. Donnelly, the self-described ‘thinking man’s Andrew Bolt’, was launched.  Dr. D had been chief of staff to Kevin Andrews. Fascinating how memes spread, isn’t it?  This time, in Australia, a one-man black paper. Last time, some pommy academic malcontents’ ‘Black Papers’!  Julie Bishop followed the best whinging traditions of Messrs. Brendan Nelson and David Kemp. The tradition has been maintained and it looks like being maintained by Chris Pyne. He’s part of the red-neck testucating brigade, hiding his cards ready for a ‘robust’ attack on schools.  When will it stop?  Our children’s cognitive development will have to maintain a stet position and suffer more, unless something is done real soon. Who is thinking of the kids?

Gillard was true to her leader of course, who, upon his appointment as PM, had become really forthright about the need for accountability in regard to standards. His ‘Revolution’  wasimage[3] based on comparison of scores between schools and, if children did not score well at one school, they could ‘…walk with their feet to a better performing school.’ Whatever!  Gillard knew what her friend and leader meant.

Back to Mr. Klein. Gillard’s invitation led to a week-long trip down under, sponsored by the investment bankers, UBS. He spoke in Melbourne about “Enacting Transformational Change” and in Canberra “Report-Card Grading Systems”.  If he had visited Brisbane or Perth, he may have ended up in Moreton Bay, or Freemantle Harbour, but the New York Times reported him as flying ‘flack free’. At the same time, his Melbourne talk was described as ‘Rubbish’ ; and Save Our Schools [S.O.S] reminded him that Australia knew where its problems were, without his suggesting schemes that were known to have failed. He told The New York Times that “…Australian education officials seemed ‘quite excited’ by the New York model, and he was hopeful the accountability movement would gain traction.  ‘It won’t be without noise. ‘ he conceded. ‘I wish I knew a way to do transitional change without making a noisy process, but I just haven’t figured to do that yet.’”

He left that action to Julia. She’s good at it.

Juiia%20G.%20cartoon[2]That’s how Australia got lumbered with the Klein system. When Julia took over PMship from Kevin, it was a done deal. She had decided. No reference to anyone who knows how classrooms work. Her Klein-based fear system, described as a joke by the normless and supported by the gormless, needs to become a ‘dead, buried and cremated’ monument to stupidity, if democracy in Australia is to be regained.  NOW! Not next week.

We are stuck with this evil, unethical,  immoral, expensive, unnecessary evil unless the Senate Committee of Inquiry strongly suggests that NAPLAN and any other forms of Standardised Blanket Testing be banned forthwith. An adjunct to this decision should be a proposal to establish an Integrity Commission, headed by parents and teachers – no measurers anywhere – to examine expensive government-led ‘revolutions’ of any kind.  Surely, the Auditor-general’s report that the $540million – Yes – $540million dollars spent on NAPLAN, “as yet to make any statistically significant improvement in any state…” is reason enough to ban the financial monster..

At this stage – a few days before the publication of a report that could make a huge difference to the future of Australia – do you feel confident?

I shouldn’t….but I do feel that the party line will prevail in each of the committee members. I have trouble imagining that there is any genuine concern for  kids at school amongst our political representatives and that they will come before party ‘loyalty’.   Dear God. Prove me wrong.

Have you ever heard of any noises from the party rooms about NAPLAN over the past 5 years? Have you heard of any one or groups of members insisting that ‘Ban NAPLAN’ become part of party policy?

Have you seen any tax-payer paid full-page adverts in any of the dailies, screaming “Ban NAPLAN. Think of our children” sort of thing?

The Courier Mail reported on Friday 22/06/13 that, in their submission to the Inquiry, Queensland principals complained about the excessive crying in schools, the pressure that NAPLAN imposes on teachers,  the side-lining of important curriculum subjects during the lengthy preparation period, the enormous pressure that parents are imposing on children [this also from Q’d P&Cs]. The Catholic Education Commission was concerned about Year 3 anxiety during the testing period. What’s going on?  Both organisations could stop the nonsense tomorrow. Either could say NO en bloc.  Campbell Newman would approve. By allowing this sort of turmoil to be imposed on the children who are attending their schools, shouldn’t professional ethics come into play?  Clearly, NAPLAN is a nasty, nasty business.

It’s been five l o n g years, kids. In summary…..

The way that Australian school systems and represenatives treat their children is bewildering.

How can Gonski reforms operate while NAPLAN infects the system?  Please explain!

Shouldn’t Australia have an Integrity Commission to protect us from expensive government-sponsored innovations? [What would it have done if it had known that NAPLAN was based on scaring children?]

If the Senate Inquiry Report doesn’t recommend the closure of the factory , what will our children’s carers do?

What will our school children do?      Where are their parents?



  • that, according to Klein [Dec.2012] , the education testing lobby  is worth about $US700billion to  his company, Amplify….. providing digital products and services?
  • that Mr. Murdoch was described as ‘not a fit and proper person to lead a world corporation’ in a British Parliamentary report?
  • that Mr. Abbott has described Mr. Murdoch as the ‘man who shapes the world.’


Phil Cullen AM  FACE  FACEL  FQIEL  Gold Medal ACEL

Founder : Treehorn Express.

Former State Director of Primary Education, Queensland

41 Cominan Avenue,

Banora Point 2486

Ph.: 07 5524 6443



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