How Wrong Can One Be?


Treehorn Express

How Wrong Can One Be?

It’s election day in Australia next Saturday and I have long anticipated that the topic ‘NAPLAN’ would be on everyone’s lips during this week and that everybody would be talking about its effects on the cognitive development of our school children and the economic future of this country. Each political party would then have ‘Ban NAPLAN” as its prime policy. I was hoping that NAPLAN would be, far and away, the main issue of the election.

I was so wrong. I came to appreciate how powerful is Florence Parry Heide’s message, in The Shrinking of Treehorn. Adults just don’t give two hoots about children of schools age, as young Treehorn so ably demonstrated. I thought that ordinary Australians would be especially rebellious when politicians started fiddling with and forcing teachers to apply inappropriate ways of dealing with children’s mental health and their ways of learning; and that some crazy Yank-happy people had cloned a failing New York system to do it. I just could not see NAPLAN lasting very long.

I was so very wrong.


 I knew that any effort would be ‘pushing it up hill’ since NAPLAN’s scandalous introduction in 2008; but I was pretty confident that the ethics of Australia’s leading education bodies would quickly remediate the extraordinary mistake made by their quick blessing of such a fear-based system of schooling [I hereby acknowledge the outstanding ‘persuasive’ techniques of Julia Gillard] even though the scheme was antipathetic to the successful achievement-based learning theories, known to every teacher.

Having been active with associations such as Primary Principals, Educational Leadership and general education under banners known as APPA, ACEL and ACE, I could not see NAPLAN lasting more that a year at most. I had been so impressed, during my career, by the moral integrity of each these associations during previous skirmishes of a political nature [SEMP, M:ACOS, Standards, MCT amongst them] I was surethat NAPLAN would have a life of about the same time-frame as the MCT movement. When their approval of NAPLAN testing portrayed them as complicit ‘Noddies’ standing approvingly behind an arrogant and contemptuous politician, the vision was quite shattering.

I misjudged things badly. Wrong again.


 When serious tertiary studies revealed that over 80% of teachers showed that they disliked NAPLAN and did not believe that it would work, one expected that their unions and organisations would raise the standard and even march on parliament houses to tell the uncaring pollies that ‘enough was enough’. The message went through to the keeper.

I was so completely wrong again.


 Then, when schools started to rely on constant pavlovian-style practice of small-time, albeit essential, maths and literacy items by dumping worthy aspects of the curriculum, I was pretty sure that subject associations, academics and teachers would tear ACARA apart, as would State Ministers of Educations who used to get pretty jumpy when artistic aspects of the curriculum were fiddled with. It almost seemed as if our state ministers became very lily-livered when the federal master-mind ministers wanted her or his own way.

Disappointing ….and disgusting. Nothing happened. I erred.


 The intensity of opposition to Standardised Blanket Testing by the world’s leading educationists [Brady, Robinson, Yong Zhao, Ravitch, Wu, Sahlberg, Goodlad, Glass, Hargreaves…the list could be so long that it would be easier to look for a school-educationist who supports the use of standardised blanket tests for school improvement purposes. [“If there is one out there, would you please stand up!”] has been so appropriate and honest, I could not envision any true-blue schoolie ignoring it.

The wave-length that these real educators share is based on sound learning theory and practice, not on measurement tactics. Marion Brady, in his most recent comment in the Washington Post expresses the feeling: “It should be self-evident that a democracy can’t function without an educated citizenry. It follows, then, that when leaders of business and industry buy a particular theory about educating and sell it to politicians who write education policy, responsible citizens will try to make informed judgements about it.

The key word that drives the present corporate-influenced education reform movement is “rigor”. Its supporters assume that teachers and kids have been getting off easy for decades, so a tough “no excuses” regimen is long overdue.” [See his quiz below]

Measurers would of course support testing in schools. They should have no place in decisions affecting school learning. Their role, in a schooling context, is to be on tap, never on top. What did Australia do?

[Why are we so afraid of Mr. Murdoch, owner of the $US700billion [Yes] firm producing the material and equipment, who is the main beneficiary of large heaps of money from various testing procedures everywhere; and is the de facto controller of Australian schools…..or…..have I got that wrong too?]


 Finally, I have not heard nor read the word ‘NAPLAN’ mentioned in any election material by any person for the last month or so. I thought that ‘BAN NAPLAN’ deserved to be splattered over each candidate’s poster. I thought that it would have been installed as of far greater importance than boat people, CSG, or paid maternity leave. No. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

The Treehorn Syndrome is just too overcoming. Adults just don’t care about kids.

Sorry kids. It’s so true.

Phil Cullen Sub_83


Read Marion Brady’s quiz:

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