Q&A – the NAPLAN one

It’s election time. no special guest.

The Treehorn Express

Images of Tree horn

 TO: Folk who should care more about kids, especially about those kids from 5-15 years of age, forced to go to school and ordered to sit for tests and examinations….the ‘Treehorns’…………

used by the unscrupulous,

ignored by those who should care,

exploited by those who don’t.



Q&A [ABC] does not approve of the mention of NAPLAN on its show. Here is a Q&A, devoted to NAPLAN, that was run on ‘Primary Schooling’ in April 2010 – – when Julia was the Education Minister, the manufactured consent of local unions and ‘professional’ bodies had been arranged, testucators were goose-stepping behind Her Immenseness, the press was losing its respect for kids, dominant corporations were overjoyed; and coercion needed no justification.

Q. Is Australia really failing to reach reasonable standards of schooling?

A. Yes, it is; and things will get worse if we continue to follow the imported practices for much longer.

Q, How come?

A. It keeps copying the quick-fix, force-feed, packaged culture of its dominant friends , the US. and the U.K. It used to copy the best aspects of schooling from parts of these decentralised systems when they were run by schoolies. Then shallow, profit-based business took over with politically-backed manic energy – both up-over and down-under.

Since the time of Governor Phillips, Australians have always felt inadequate when it comes to heavy-lifting intellectual work, never believing that it can produce an indigenous Aussie system of real learning and achievement. Hence our penchant for copy-catting. The root problem is that, in all three places, there is a prevailing business credo that someone with a Ph.D in anything knows everything; and can run anything. This forte of business modellers took over political thinking in the late 1980s. New York/Harvard managerialists provided the classic model of these beliefs and established a system of schooling that was heinous. We copied it, without thought or belief in ourselves.

Q. Well, what should Australia do to get kids to learn more and better.

A. It’s a pity that we cannot turn the clock back to 1990. That was the defining year when management theorists and business modellers tossed the baby out, when all they had to do was change the nappy. For instance, those who supervised the standards of all school activities were made redundant in that year. We called them Inspectors. Instead of continuing to place such people with wide hard-yard experience, proven academic ability, a measure of authoritative clout, and a yen to ‘fly with pollen on their wings’ to positions that mattered, we adopted the Patel system of appointment to positions of higher authority. A practical background did not count. If a candidate could compile or purchase an attractive curriculum vitae, use better-than-average thespian skills at interview time, and had an academic background of any sort, the job was theirs. So. Plumbers took over the garage. Is it any wonder that the answer to your first question is ‘Yes.’ ?

But, in answer to your implied question asking if Australia can develop an administrative model that makes us the very best in the world, the answer is a big YES. THE THINKING needs to start from the classroom, the business end of any schooling system. That’s where a country’s future is located. That’s where our teachers and pupils get together. That’s where the action is. What happens there determines what sort of country Australia becomes. Think about it….seriously. It hasn’t been tried south of Finland yet; but Australia has the knowledge and expertise NOW within its school-active working ranks to design and operate an holistic model that focuses on achievement in ALL the things that our down-under society believes to be important. Trust me.

 Q.That’s all airy-fairy wishful thinking, isn’t it?

A. On the contrary. In each room that is a group of pupils [‘student’ – a meaningless word in a school context] who interact with an adult to develop a learning expertise that is unique to them and will last them forever. That’s what ‘pupilling’ means. Teachers are trained to do ‘it’ better than others. They know about learnacy, the centre-piece of classroom cognitive development. A school’s first duty is to pupil children. Each day, the interaction between both pupil and teacher is intense, as it should be; and needs to be well planned and well resourced.

Before you ask……yes…..fundamental learnings are crucial. Some learnings are quasi-measureable and parts of these lernings are generally regarded as essential.They have a special need to be pupilled very carefully if we require our future citizens to want to do the best they can do in whatever they choose to do. We certainly should not frighten vulnerable young children with fear of failure nor scare them away from learning things. Effective learning is such a pleasant, delicate matter. A reliance on testing procedures is a heavy, jack-booted, lugubrious, prosaic state of affairs. It’s the work of the devil.

At the same time, children want to feel that things are going okay. They evaluate their progress as they go and they usually like to share their successes with someone close, whom they respect…Mum, Dad, Teacher, Friend, Relative…as long as their co-evaluators respect the level of confidence that their learning progress means to them. Evaluation is an essential part of learning. It is on the spot, positive, personal, private, developmental. It recognises the place of errors as an essential part of learning. The fear-based forms of so-called accountable blanket testing regimes, conducted from afar, are particularly destructive of the learning processes. They destroy every known tenet of top-level learning. Please note: State based efforts to standardise learning outcomes destroys the uniqueness of each child. As such, t is cruel and immoral.

Each child has an idiosyncratic learning style, and the teacher has to handle each style. Each teacher uses an enormous range of strategies for particular situations that are arranged or happen to occur during each day, ranging from the didactic [bossy chalk-talk] to the maieutic [chid-initiated]. A myriad of group-learning techniques form part of each teacher’s repertoire, which themselves are personal and idiosyncratic. Teaching is a busy, busy high-octane occupation.

Tolerating criticism from sciolist managers and ‘know-it-all’ rigor-based, child-despoiling politicians on accountability kicks, is part of the game. Teachers have to accept that “…where ignorance is bliss….’”.

Let me refer you to the work of our own Aussie, Dr. Michael J. Dunkin, whose studies of classroom practices is esteemed world-wide. He draws serious attention to the sorts of things that happen at school, more often ignored as quirky than regarded as of any consequence. When you hear our Shortens, Pynes, Gillards, Garretts, McGaws, Nelsons, Randells, Piccollis and the like discuss classroom activities, with the dignified expertise that Dunkin does, you will know that they have started to think about children’s learning and that Australian education is in safe hands. We await. When they can only discuss assessment of children’s testing abilities, and use weirdo descriptions like ‘5 by 25s’ or ‘we need a rigorous curriculum’ or ‘let’s get rid of child-centred education’, be worried. Be very, very worried.

Have you, as Dunkin has done, observed the kind of agitation that occurs on wet and windy days, the ‘shows’ put on for visitors, the concentration mode at the end of each week, each year. Why do schools teach maths in the morning; leave art and physical education to the late afternoon; cancel sport, art and music when test heat is high? Can our ‘experts’ describe many of the million social-teaching-learning exchanges that occur each and every day? Dunkin says, “Few attempts have been made to document these ‘truths’. These are examples of the context of the classroom upon the processes [e.g. smiling, listening, problem-solving, distracting, answering, asking, demonstrating, commending, cajoling, questioning, supporting, expounding, correcting, distributing, frowning] that occur within it. These are context-process relationships that could be examined. Such relationships reveal influences that need to be examined. Such relationships reveal influences upon classroom events that environmental factors, physical and temporal, have.”

Why not design a schooling system that starts with a discussion on these sorts of things…and NOT from the presumptions of those whose only classroom experience comes from the crash-bang-wallop, gotta-pass-the-exams techniques of their own school experience.

The anti-child finds easy managerial comfort in controlling systems that still believe in Edwardian techniques that David Copperfield and Tom Jones endured, head-mastered by the likes of Creakle and Gradgrind : “What I want is, Facts. Fact, fact, fact!” Australia introduced the modern-American version of this approach and we called it NAPLAN. It’s so easy for test nerds to follow. But. It’s was vomitous then. It’s vomitous now.

 Q. Are you saying that you would have no external testing of any kind?

A. None whatsoever. The use of state or country-wide blanket testing in Australia, United States and Britain has shown itself, empirically. to be very damaging to functional learning, children’s mental health and parents’ expectations. We continue with it only because large corporations have a stake in the profits from test-paper publishing, on-line programs, sale of androids and learning-based apps; and from growth industries such as specialised coaching clinics, personalised coaching, sale of pharmaceutical supplements and special packaged programs of all kinds. [That, dear reader, is a brief description of the Australian schooling system as it is…now. ] NAPLAN is, put simply, a multi-billion-dollar industry . It does not…..does not…..does not contribute to improved classroom learning of any kind.

NAPLAN is dangerous because it unfairly ignores the social and temporal conditions within each school. The testing program is revealing itself as unnecessary, immoral, costly, unreliable and destructive of curriculum spirit and school time. My School website doesn’t seem to do anything for anyone. I ignore it. If I wanted to check out my child’s progress, I’d ask her teacher and hang around her school more than I do now. I’m sure my child would respond positively to my interest

Q If tests are so damaging, how come the principals of schools haven’t told us so?

A. Australian principals of all kinds are wonderful people, so easy to get along with, so knowledgeable and keen……and so easy to control, politically. They are busy at school as curriculum leaders and as head teachers. That’s their job….curriculum leadership….guiding pupils through the best learning experiences and leading teachers through the best pupilling techniques. The more they are immersed in the teaching-learning activities, the better the school. In these turbulent times, they have to read widely and deeply. They have to give parents their personal opinion about the school’s place in the changing landscape. They need to be able to give their opinions of the more popular contemporary education literature – The Cambridge Review, Death and Life of the Great US School System, The Stupid Country. Their tasks are onerous….far more onerous than other academic or intellectual pursuits.

Australia is fortunate to have the kind of school leadership that it has. However, when asked why they don’t speak to their parents about the parental rights and privileges as applied to NAPLAN or to comment on the usefulness of SBTs like NAPLAN they will tell you they are not allowed. This kind of ‘fascist shift’, as Naomi Jacobs describes the present changes in the political landscape from democratic governance to uneasy forms of ‘benevolent’ dictatorship, prevents schools from progressing much further than the present level of mediocrity. As parents, our rights are being denied and our principals have to do the dirty work of test-crazed politicians and greedy entrepreneurs by curbing their ethical beliefs and just doing what they are told. Collectively, they have the power to refuse to administer NAPLAN tests on ethical grounds and their part in breaching the U.N. Rights of the Child Charter. Apart from the implications of such immoralities, what true educator can possibly approve of a fear-based schooling system? Well…..Since national needs are framed by the needs of the dominant, Rupert and his testucators are having their way. That’s it! What’s with the ethics and moraities, anyhow?

 Q, Won’t GONSKI and the new reform movement help?

A. Yes. They are the most promising vehicles of progress in decades. Australia could move along well once the mechanics fix or replace the defective parts. Sorting money and organising Rupert like curriculum programs for onlining to schools will take some time, however. AND….. It wont go very far while one of its tyres is flat and it tries to drag heavy, chartered useless gimmickry.


 No.83 Read it?





 Phil Cullen No. 83 A.M., A.Ed., B.Ed., Dip.Ed.Admin. M.Ed.Admin[Hons], Former Q’ld Director of Primary Education, FACE, FACEL, FQIEL,, Gold Medal FACEL, Life Member QSPSSA, QSPSCA,QSPSA,QSPPA,BPSRLSA. Founder:Treehorn Express, FNQPPA, Primary School Principal 23 years 41 Cominan Avenue, Banora Point 2486 07 5524 6443 cphilcullen@bigpond.com                http://primaryschooling.com

 Did you cruise around ‫Images of Treehorn ?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s