A Clear & Present Danger – Pyne


Pyne – Charlie McCarthy

The ABC’s ‘Q & A’ TV program on Monday, 28 October 2013 clearly illustrated what happens to children when political ideology controls the curriculum. Children’s welfare takes a back seat. Mr. Pyne, the new centre of attention, made it clear that Aussie children’s learning will continue to be deliberately obstructed in favour of collecting test scores. I was left with the frightening impression that Mr. Chris Pyne is a dangerous person, worse that Garrett, Gillard or Nelson who seems to believe that small children are his robots with skin plastered on, and that he doesn’t care two hoots how children [especially Year 3s] feel. He looked like a spoiled brat, with a Costello smirk, who is determined to get his way no matter what anyone else thinks, no matter how kids feel and no matter what evidence exists. He takes the conservatism movement too far back in history.

He treats each interview such as Q&A as a school debate. The topic is unimportant; winning the argument is. It is noticeable that embarrassing questions are usually diverted to his favourite sport of denigrating teachers and principals as if he alone can improve the quality of a profession that he knows nothing about. Doesn’t he realise that all professions can improve their activities by personal quality control. He has a hide to single out teaching !

His knowledge of schooling is so limited that, as Murdoch’s Charlie McCarthy, he now screeches ‘on-line testing and data collection’. Those of us who taught as we were taught can appreciate his weak knowledge of classroom teaching and learning behaviour. He needs to realise that we are now in the 21st Century and that teacher-interactive pupilling of an holistic [not his silly bloody ‘robust’ 19thC model] curriculum in ever-changing technological surrounds is here to stay. NAPLAN and its failed aims have no place…..at all. Ask, as Ray Martin did, the teachers. They are loosening the Gillard bonds off totalitarian control, the ‘You are forbidden to discuss NAPLAN honestly with parents or give them a choice” forms, and are speaking out now for the sake of kids. As we move closer to the NAPLAN Test Period [November to May] this should intensify.

Australian classroom teachers are regarded as outstanding on the world stage. Keenly sought after in other countries because of their quality – their attitude and professionalism – they don’t need high-flying nincompoops to tell them what to do. They have been a very quiet lot….until now. We should listen to them.

Pyne does no favours for the Liberal National Party, his colleagues, his electorate or fellow members knowing that they have such a representative in such an important portfolio. He just shouldn’t be allowed near children other than his own! It is not comfortable to confront the reality that such a rude, talk-over, information-deaf, self-important, know-it-all fibber is in such a critical political position. The portfolio is too important to be treated like that. Corrective Services, maybe; but even then. He is no credit to conservative politics.

Fancy talking glowingly about oxymoronish Independent Public Schools aka Charter Schools, [started by Bill and Melinda Gates and now not doing what they thought they’d do in New York, California and a few other states] and attributing their ‘success’ in W.A. to issues of autonomy. If autonomy works so well, why not just grant it to all schools [Is ‘autonomy’ grasped or granted, by the way?]. Why try to bribe jurisdictions to accept the idea? Why? What’s the problem? He must know where the charter misfit came from! He must know the purposes that they are used for in other places. $$$$

Wouldn’t you like to see a debate on TV, hosted by Ray Martin [who knows what he is talking about], perhaps, between Christopher Pyne and New Zealand’s Shadow Minister Chris Hipkins who says, “Let me be very clear about our position on charter schools. We see no place for them. And any charter schools established under the current government will have no future under us. Our focus will be on ensuring that every school is a great school.”

He added that ‘National Standards’, the N.Z. equivalent of NAPLAN, “….narrows the focus of teaching, encouraging teachers and pupils to focus time and attention on getting pupils over an arbitrary hurdle, rather than supporting that child to achieve full potential.” Such testing will go since “…results are no measure of effective teaching.”


What a discussion it would be. Christopher P. trying to talk down to a political colleague who knows what schooling is about.


A School System Model that the World Needs

“Give back the chalk. Get away from the blackboard.” said Wendy Harmer to the face of Mr. Pyne. [She’s Ministerial material!]

Imagine a schooling system in which the managerial, administrative, organizational and leadership control changes from what it is today to a true-blue school based system. It is possible, by the way…..


Organisational management, such as this replacement hierarchical framework suggests, is entirely possible. It starts where it needs to start…. child welfare and achievement.

At the top of the control system should be those people who, from school days, wanted to be teachers and help young children to develop personal learning styles to achieve as much as they can. Such people undertook years of academic and practical study, and application, at tertiary institutions before experiencing further years of chalk-face teaching to all sorts of children in all sorts of places with all sorts of abilities. There are thousands and thousands of these expert school educators who, together with the expertise of trained and experienced classroom teachers, would know, far more than anyone else in the country, how to run an effective education system. They need to be put in their place ….the top.

Why use experience-free ex-university students, as we do, who have built on their expertise in measurement and little else to run education systems? Plumbers don’t run garages. Five years of it is enough. Let’s try classrrom experience expertise. There’s plenty available.

Since the country’s future is in the classrooms of today, a model can be developed that can locate overall control in the hands of experts…not in the hands, as it is today, of sciolists, measurers, test-lovers, testucators and lawyers.

This proposal does not suggest simple representation from organised principals and teachers’ groups, now cloistered in the management of their historically developed cultures, isolated from confronting global and holistic issues, which, as professional mendicants vis-a-vis esoteric operators, are generally inert when serious issues arise.

The need is for a leader [like Chris Hipkins] who has the capacity and the will to stop the nonsense completely, and for all electors to RETHINK. What the hell are we doing to our children?

Do we really need another Murdoch mouthpiece to tell us what to do?


Phil Cullen 414 Cominan Avenus, Banora Point 2486 07 5524 6443 cphilcullen@bigpond.com.au

Dear Mr Gove

This open letter to UK Secretary for Education Michael Gove was posted on the English blog Secret Teacher: life inside the classroom.

I’ve taken the liberty of reposting it here, as its message is applicable internationally. Please comment on the original article.



Dear Mr Gove,

I read recently how you described the current cohort of teachers in the UK as “…the best generation of teachers ever seen in our classrooms- including the very best generation ever of young teachers.” You described how you believe teachers hold the success to this country and the well being of its citizens in their hands.You rightly claim that teachers are the most important fighters in the battle to make opportunity more equal. Therefore, I hope as a young teacher you will appreciate how difficult it is that I have felt the need to explain how I feel, Mr Gove, as I am exhausted, demoralised, disengaged and surfeited.

I attended a CPD (Continuing Professional Development) session today. In this conference we, as a group of professionals, sought to address the imbalance between boys and girls attainment in reading and writing. We examined a multitude of ways to support boys in literacy, to engage them in writing, to deconstruct barriers to learning and to enhance the life opportunities of reluctant readers and writers. Finally, to finish the session, we discussed how ludicrous school league tables were and considered SATs (Statutory Assessment Tests) in a facetious manner. We compared the creative and engaging ways we can make a text come alive for children to interact with, and the monotonous and uninspiring manner in which all SATs are presented. We discussed how difficult and abstract exams really can be. We considered how absurd it is to compare the scores of two different schools which will be so incredibly different in terms of prosperity, cultural diversity and parental support. And then, we looked at funny answers from SATs gone by.


We laughed, oh how we laughed, Mr Gove, as one by one we were shown unintentionally humorous retorts. Then, slowly, after looking at 5 or 6 ridiculous answers, we sat in silence. Suddenly, it wasn’t very funny any more. The joke had been lost, for we came to realise that we work in a regime that repeatedly and systematically provides opportunities for pupils to fail; for pupils to be labelled failures.

In the UK, pupils enter school at a younger age than almost any other country in the world. By the time they reach the age of 6, the age at which students begin school in Sweden (a country you often like to draw comparison from), our children already are provided with an opportunity to become failures as we assess them on their ability to use one reading strategy to read words which don’t actually exist in the English language, or indeed any other language for that matter.

The following year they complete their Key Stage 1 SATs. Already, by the age of 7, pupils begin to develop an awareness of where they consider themselves to be academically. You will often hear pupils as young as this professing how terrible they are at reading, or how they are unable to do maths, or how they cant write. If they are lucky they will have a teacher who can deconstruct this self image before it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. If they aren’t, we have lost them before other nations have even considered their pupils’ attainment.

Then they move into the big world of Key Stage 2 where they can look forward to three years of a generally “broad and balanced curriculum” which of course is continually being eroded by more and more time being spent on being able to identify your subordinate clause from your main clause and the article from the pronoun, before counting to 1000 in Roman numerals. Of course this is before you even enter the graveyard of educational creativity, vibrancy and expression that Year 6 has become in this country. Children will be blitzed with maths, reading and writing until every ounce of their being becomes disengaged. We force SATs upon our children in such a way that stifles creativity, limits vibrancy and diminishes expression…and that’s among more able pupils. Those who were lost somewhere around Year 2 have long since resigned themselves to failure and ridicule. If they try, they may just be able to come out with a personal best which is in no way celebrated privately as it still below the target that the Fischer Family Trust set for that child many years previously, failing to account for the individual needs and circumstances of that child. But hey, Mr Gove, they’re only a statistic. Its not like we are setting that child up to be seriously disadvantaged throughout their entire life, right?

Then we move our children on into secondary school. We (and by we, I mean you) continually move the goalposts so that it is progressively more difficult to achieve meaningful GCSE or A Level results. In fact, the ever changing system of assessment seems to be shifting towards a style that will make it increasingly easy to fail, and increasingly difficult to do anything about it. Finally, if a pupil has managed to achieve in spite of our education system, they will face the dilemma of whether to pay £9,000 annual fees to access further and higher education before entering a system where youth unemployment and underemployment is as high as we’ve ever seen in this country and economic promise looks bleak, at best, Mr Gove.

Now, forgive me if I am presumptuous, Mr Gove, but I rather suspect you wont reply to me so I shall hazard a guess at one of your replies. You often speak of ’rigor’, so I suppose I could assume that you will claim you are making our exams more rigorous. If encouraging pupils to fail is rigorous, perhaps you are right. If responding to 100 educational experts by calling them ’enemies of promise’ when they wholeheartedly (and rightly) disagree with your policies, is rigorous, perhaps you are right. If independently writing an entire section of the National Curriculum despite having no qualifications or experience to do so is rigorous, perhaps you are right.

I’m tired, Mr Gove. I’m tired of being told I am a valued educational professional when I see unqualified teachers being employed in other schools. I am tired of being told I have a vital role to play in addressing educational imbalance when we are forced to fail children at the age of 6. I am tired of pupils being disengaged in reading and writing when we present them with such ridiculous and unsupportive means of assessment. I am tired of being made to feel like I am lazy or incompetent when I spend every ounce of energy I have trying to provide opportunities for every child I encounter on a daily basis to succeed. I am tired of such destructive and invalidating means of judging schools capabilities. I am tired of daily attacks on my pension, my work ethic, my commitment to raising standards, my commitment to improving the quality of pupils lives and my reputation as a professional. I am tired of a pretentious egomaniac, who has no experience of education other than having gone to school as a child, holding the education system in this country to ransom.

I ask you, Mr Gove, who is the real enemy of promise?  Who is causing incomparable destruction to our education system? Who is condemning a generation of young people to mediocrity and demise?

Surely not you?

Secret Teacher

Educational Readings October 25th

By Allan Alach

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at allan.alach@ihug.co.nz.

This week’s homework!

Neil Gaiman: Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming

Not purely educational but of great value all the same.

‘I’m going to tell you that libraries are important. I’m going to suggest that reading fiction, that reading for pleasure, is one of the most important things one can do. I’m going to make an impassioned plea for people to understand what libraries and librarians are, and to preserve both of these things.’


‘The simplest way to make sure that we raise literate children is to teach them to read, and to show them that reading is a pleasurable activity. And that means, at its simplest, finding books that they enjoy, giving them access to those books, and letting them read them.’


 The Not-So-Hidden Cause Behind the A.D.H.D. Epidemic

Fallout from GERM? Not purely educational but of great value all the same.

When Hinshaw compared the rollout of these school policies with incidences of A.D.H.D., he found that when a state passed laws punishing or rewarding schools for their standardized-test scores, A.D.H.D. diagnoses in that state would increase not long afterward. Nationwide, the rates of A.D.H.D. diagnosis increased by 22 percent in the first four years after No Child Left Behind was implemented.’


 Following on….. we really are living in a very sad world.

 Attention Disorder or Not, Pills to Help in School

“We’ve decided as a society that it’s too expensive to modify the kid’s environment. So we have to modify the kid.”


Will NewsCorp Soon Own Your Child’s Student Data? Education Technology and the Murdoch-Klein Connection (via Mary Mackay, Amsterdam)

A nearly inevitable end point for the collection of data on children, not just in the USA. Big data is turning into a 21st century nightmare.

‘…the ability to store large amounts of student information and provide tools for analyzing the data–information that will be available not only to educators, but also to education-technology developers who can tailor products to student and school needs. The article also explores the privacy concerns raised by the easy access that large numbers of companies will have to a vast array of information, ranging from academic achievement to disciplinary problems, for potentially tens of millions of students.’


 Free schools: our education system has been dismembered in pursuit of choice

‘Our uneven and unclear education provision now allows well-informed, persistent parents to entrench social advantage.’

An article about how the English education system is being gradually dismembered. Spot the similarities with New Zealand’s developing education agenda.


This next item isn’t educational but is well worth watching. Amazing eloquence!

Russell Brand interview.


 This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

Howard Gardner – developing a disciplined mind

This is a recursive link back to Bruce’s blog and this excellent article.

‘The most important reason to develop disciplined understanding is that through achievement a desire for more is created. Once one has understood something well an ‘appetite has been whetted for additional and deeper understanding…..having eaten from the tree of understanding, he or she is likely to return their repeatedly for ever more satisfying intellectual nourishment’.’


 How Soft Skills, Passion and Connection Can Promote Learning, Competence and Employability

‘Jane McGonigal is an ambitious alternate reality game designer who believes gaming has the potential to unlock solutions to world hunger, poverty, and conflicts.’


 Some Good News About Public Schools

Bashing the public school system, wherever, is a prerequisite to introducing school reform. This must be countered with everything we’ve got.

‘The public school system is not broken. Just like the parents of most 15-year-olds, it is overwhelmed and overworked. It is also underrated and underfunded. But still our school system is pushing the world forward. We are as responsible for our successes as for our failures.’


Thought Police

Aussie Friends of Treehorn





 Penalty for Thoughtcrime: Confinement to Room 101 with your friends, the children from Years 3,5,7,9, until Thursday May 15, 2014; where you will do what they have to do.

This is NAPLAN control. There is no worse punishment than this.

In the dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, thoughtcrime is the criminal act of holding unspoken beliefs or doubts that oppose or question the ruling party. In the book, the government attempts to control not only the speech and actions, but also the thoughts of its subjects. To entertain unacceptable thought is known as crimethink in Newspeak, the ideologically purified dialect of the party.

In the book, Winston Smith, the main character, writes in his diary: “Thoughtcrime does not entail death: thoughtcrime is death.” There is also a “ministry of love” which is actually the place of torture for people who commit any type of crime, including thoughtcrime. [Wikipedia]


 THOUGHT POLICE controlled not only the speech and actions, but also the thoughts of the constituency of the Inner Party in 1984. Revived in 2008 it’s modus operandi is much more effective.

 Refined, better-trained latter-day officers of the Thought Police are now used by media moguls, publishers, miners and bilky politicians to control those of easy moral gullibility to adopt the tenets of their bullying possessive culture….make money, assault kids, contaminate water and profit from their ‘per diem’ allowances They operate in many devious ways…..through party members, paid lobbyists, politicians’ personal staff, professional groups, special-focus journalists. They are adept at using canards and hoaxes to decorate their officialese. They are many. They work very hard to maintain the “smelly orthodoxies” of the ruling class. Don’t pretend they aren’t around you. Look around. The comments that aren’t printed, the TV comments left off the airways, the unlisted policies of political parties are testimony to their presence.

Their task is to quell media comment and public utterances, derail those who might be tempted to make them; and hide positive comment by opponents who hold democratic ideals, support ethical behaviour, genuinely love their country and are concerned about its welfare.

While Rupert Murdoch and Joel Klein clearly control the minds of Australians, their immediate Big Apple coterie are working on the rest of the world. They all know a gold mine when they see one. Close NY billionaire friend, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been very busy, for instance. This week’s TIME magazine [21-10-13] says,

 “Without billionaires like Bloomberg, Bill Gates, Eli Broad and Jim Walton, the revolution now taking place in K-12 education – charter schools, standardized tests, Common Core, merit pay, the end of tenure – would be years behind schedule. 

 Not since the early 20th century have individuals had so much power to unilaterally shape our lives and shift our ideas. Never in history have they been able to exert their will so easily on such a global scale. “

 [You might like to think about this kind of comment, if you are allowed.]

 The TIME article also discusses [P.37] the widely held conviction that big money should operate independently of public opinion.

[What would you think about this if you were allowed to think?]



I’ve been influenced by thought police. All of us in the schooling business have. Few of us realise the extent that the efforts of goody-goody Thought Police and baddy-baddy Thought Police have had over professional wisdom, although each of us can identify those folk whose influence on our beliefs have been life changing. Orwell was prefacing the work of 2013 Thought Police that act as agents of totalitarian fascist-type controllers and willingly undertake the dirty work of dominant corporate tycoons. The damage that they do is endless. But then, the welfare of the country is not their concern. The profit god must be served. In the absence of free discussion and freedom to innovate, following the totalitarian groove is the easiest thing to do. It’s a comfortable groove.

In the field of schooling, Messrs. Pyne, Garrett, Gillard, Nelson, Rudd and their cohort have been easy push-overs for the Interpol section of Thought Police; easily controlled by the Orwellian brand of Thought Interpol Commissioners:- Klein, Murdoch, Pearson, Bloomberg, Gates and Co. . How else did Australia end up with Kleinist schooling? Think back five years. The round-ups.

What a shame Ravitch, Sir Ken, Brady, Glass, Alexander, Sahlberg, Hammonds, Alach, Hornsby, Wilson, Cambourne, Gurr aren’t billionaires.

I’m saying that the Thought Police, like those just mentioned, can control us in positive ways. Learning ways. I willingly confess to being manipulated by their kind of thought police….. good guys, I reckon….of the pre-competency-testing era, pre-testucaton, pre- managerial, pre-political eras…..the learning era. Great educators. Great teachers. It was feel-good manipulation of thoughts and practices in a wonderful child-centred era.. Let me tell it this way….

My impulsive cancellation of all blanket testing in my school, my complete volte- face, the day I realised the damage that I was doing, was a result of my mindlessness. That Quo Vadis moment made me feel very pleased with myself. I’d broken free. Until that day, I had been obediently and mindlessly following the established pattern of schooling….teach/test, teach/test, teach/test. The tears of the Year 2 test contestants, on that day, were telling me that I was really mutilating their joy of learning, their spontaneity, their pride of achievement, their pleasure of creating, their sense of self. Such beautiful keen little learners did not deserve to be treated this way. I later figured that I had been inwardly toying with the ‘revolutionary’ views of a set of identifiable thought provocateurs – my next-door thinking principal who kept asking me, “Why are you doing that??”, John Goodlad, Bill Bassett [‘Each One is Different’], Lady Plowden, Rosenthall & Jacobsen, John Holt [‘How Children Learn’ & ‘How Children Fail’], Sylvia Ashton-Warner, Nuffield Foundation [‘I Do & I Understand’] and others, whose arresting thoughts I had resisted for too long. I was a dyed-in-the-wool testucator. I needed a cerebral rebore, a reality check.

It was sheer bloody mindlessness that had made me what I was….a crazy, test-focussed principal, more conscious of scaling hierarchical ladders and pleasing superiors than of child welfare. I had become a sadistic, routinised clod deliberately avoiding self-examination. I did as I was bid. I felt so ashamed when I started to think how damaging test-based processes of schooling can be to the well-springs of learning. More personally damaging was the thoughtlessness that had invaded my professional attitude.

It was Erik Erikson who said, “The most deadly of all possible sins is the mutilation of a child’s spirit.” Until May, 1968, I had been acting like the present-day NAPLAN test-crazy ogres, mutilating the spirit of positive learning.

The amount of damage now being perpetrated on young school pupils is disgusting….and more permanent, because the baddy-baddy Thought Police are better at their job than we are at ours.

“To ignore the effort to understand is to resign from the human race,” [Wayne Booth]

I believe that Australian School Principals, presently questioning their role, will resuscitate the Duty of Care that society expects of them. It will happen. School principals are the guardians of our children’s learning processes and of our nation’s future, after all….not the Billionaires Club. The thoughtless inanities of the past 5 years are coming to an end. Keeping secrets from parents, children vomiting, not sleeping and crying, extra-coaching, performance enhancing medications are not part of a true learning environment.

Sadly, those addicted to the Murdoch spell, the NAPLAN freaks, will want to modify tests; and help him to maintain the on-line program and test material – the for-profit publishing components of testing. The floggings will still continue. Kids will still cry .

The supply of gas to the ovens cannot be adjusted. It still kills. It has to be turned OFF if healthy progress is to be returned to the victims and their families.

Hang in there, good teacher buddies. Grit will replace easy compliance. It won’t be long before we can stop the mutilation of the learning spirit of our wonderful kids. We’ve done enough damage for five looong years.


Think about it.

Phil Cullen, 41 Cominan Avenue, Banora Point 2486 07 5524 6443 cphilcullen@bigpond.com

Educational Readings October 18th

By Allan Alach

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at allan.alach@ihug.co.nz.

 This week’s homework!

Set the Learning Free

‘Learning is messy. It does not occur in a vacuum. It is different for each individual. The structure that works for one learner may hinder the innovative approach that another needs to thrive.’

Someone get this message to the GERMers!


 Teachers on strike: a struggle for the future of teaching?

Be warned…. this is a MUST READ.

‘In this article I want to set out the issues over which teachers are in dispute, and around which their action is focused.  These are issues of workload, pay and pensions, but at the heart of the conflict is the effective dismantling of a national framework of teachers’ pay and conditions of service.  On their own, the changes currently being implemented by government represent an attack on teachers’ entitlements on an unprecedented scale. However, I want to argue that the changes being imposed are pivotal to the government’s wider objective of reconfiguring public education in England as a largely privatised system. Central to achieving this objective is the creation of a low-cost, flexible and fragmented workforce without the organisational capacity to challenge dominant policy agendas.’


Learnacy – A curriculum for the Future

Distinguished Australian educator Phil Cullen (13 years Director of Primary Education in the state of Queensland):

‘Testucators are now deliberately using their debased version of the language of learning, their pseudo-technical woo, in order to destroy schooling’s cognitive base. They use words like ‘achievement’, ‘improved performance’, ‘better outcomes’ as they universally describe the mechanical, robotically contrived, useless results from deceptively unreliable and invalid testing programs. They talk educational gibberish using PISA-style measurement bullshit. At no time in the history of GERM countries has schooling been so debased; its teachers devalued and abused by flat-earth policies, miseducated ‘experts’ and test-publishing profiteers.’


Tech Time vs. Wild Time for Kids (via Steve Mouldey)

This follows on from the article by George Mondiot in last week’s readings. While not strictly educational, this article does provide a comprehensive set of suggestions for how technology and outdoor activities can be blended together – useful when planning outdoor education programmes!

‘As a parent and educator (I make the distinction, but all parents are educators) I always struggled with finding the right balance between my son’s screen time vs other activities. While some children are deprived of ‘wild time’ connected to nature, so too are some children deprived of important ‘screen time’ to technology. Wild and screen time are often pitched against each other in a simplistic and dichotomised way, but the reality is far more complex.’


 How a Radical New Teaching Method Could Unleash a Generation of Geniuses

Extending Sugata Mitra….


Beyond learning styles

This week’s sacred cow…

‘The scientific research on learning styles is “so weak and unconvincing,” concluded a group of distinguished psychologists in a 2008 review, that it is not possible “to justify incorporating learning-styles assessments into general educational practice.” A 2010 article was even more blunt: “There is no credible evidence that learning styles exist…”’


 Howard Gardner: ‘Multiple intelligences’ are not ‘learning styles’

On the other hand…..

‘The theory became highly popular with K-12 educators around the world seeking ways to reach students who did not respond to traditional approaches, but over time, “multiple intelligences” somehow became synonymous with the concept of “learning styles.” In this important post, Gardner explains why the former is not the latter.’


 This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

Elementary School Children Need More Time to Learn

‘Give us back our time! Elementary school children need more time to learn as scientists, social scientists and artists.’


 To Innovate We Must be Willing to Learn a Lot!

A vital message for all principals and teachers….

‘Learning new things means admitting that we are not experts in all areas and that we are willing to improve our learning agility. Yes, we all have great excuses why we don’t learn new things (if we are willing to be honest)! But, here is the reality: the rate and intensity of innovation is directly related to our agility and willingness to learn.’


 PROJECT-BASED LEARNING:Bringing Authenticity to the Classroom

‘Authenticity — we know it works! There is research to support the value of authentic reading and writing. When students are engaged in real-world problems, scenarios and challenges, they find relevance in the work and become engaged in learning important skills and content.’


PROJECT-BASED LEARNING: What Does It Take for a Project to Be “Authentic”?

‘Everyone thinks that Project-Based Learning has something to do with “authentic” learning. But not everyone agrees what this means.’


Aussie Friends of Treehorn: Mum says,”Screw You.”

 Aussie Friends of Treehorn 

“I let the fury get the best of me. Like I said, my eyes welled up with tears out of anger and frustration. You diminished my child to five categories.

…Screw you, Common Core State Standards [=NAPLAN] and all the people that came up with this crap program.”

 In one of her facebook entries, Diane Ravitch [“Reign of Error”], printed a letter that she had received from a non-teacher US mother who had just received notification from the equivalent of Australia’s ACARA to tell her that her slow learning son was performing at a level below the New York state standards for Mathematics. In this extract, I have changed some organisational descriptors to suit Australian conditions………as if the letter was written by an Aussie mum. Check on the original if you wish on http://dianeravitch.net/2013/10/09/23372

 “I let the fury get the best of me. Like I said, my eyes welled up with tears out of anger and frustration. You diminished my child to 5 categories and to simplify the wording you chose, deemed him “too stupid to be in the grade level he is currently in. “ Screw you ACARA and all the people that came up with this crap program. Screw you for its horrible implementation. Screw you for not considering the kids who are not on the right side of the bell curve. Screw you for not thinking about the kids who are developmentally delayed. Screw you for not thinking about the kids who aren’t developmentally delayed, but just don’t test well. Screw you for putting pressures on teachers. Screw you for allowing the kids to feel this pressure; it is bound to impact them. Screw you for allowing this chaos to spill over into our homes and mess with our emotions, both child and parent. Screw you for NAPLAN and evaluating my son’s teachers on his test score. Screw you for creating a problem in which our kids are ragdolls and in which big businesses will be allowed to profit. I’m not a conspiracy theorist; I just call it like I see it. I am done with this. I’m not political. I’m for kids. I am for teachers and most importantly I’m for my son.

 I am still learning about NAPLAN and I don’t claim to know it all, as some do, but what I do know is this, he is not a score and neither are his teachers! I don’t care what he received on these tests. I never did and I told him the same. What I do care about and what I would hope you do too is what you can’t measure on these tests. The light in the eyes when he finally tackles a problem, be it Math or Literacy, which he has been struggling to get and because of the help of his teachers he succeeds. The hard work my son demonstrates at the dining table, studying spelling. The joy we ALL feel because he has stood up for someone who was being bullied. The time when he conquered his fear of heights, outside of school on a Saturday, using tools he learned in school, from whom? Yes, from his teachers! I realise carrying the diagnosis of autism is not the norm for most; however were children, like my son, in mind when NAPLAN was implemented? Because he sure doesn’t like it.

 I will say this one more time. My son, Liam, is NOT your NAPLAN test score. He is a 9 year old boy, who works hard in all aspects of school. He receives tremendous support and kindness and life lessons from his teachers. He will be successful because of them, not because of this test. How do you evaluate that? That is my million dollar question.”


  Chris Pyne should read this letter. Julia Gillard should read it. State Minsters should read it. ACARA staff should read it. APPA and ASPA should read it. ACE and ACEL should read it. All principals’ and teachers’ associations should read it. AEU and state teachers’ unions should read it.

 Their complicity and use of SBT testing, such as NAPLAN, has had too many Aussie victims like Liam. A few hundred victims are too many. There are thousands. Far too many.

Screw all testucators. They shouldn’t be allowed near schools.


 As Sir Ken Robinson said,

  • “The dominant culture of testing is dangerous. It obstructs learning and does not excite curiosity and creativity.”
  • “While literacy and numeracy are important, tests can’t measure the things that matter.”
  •  “ Education is not mechanical; it is human. We need to embrace a different metaphor – a human one.”
  • “ We need to institute a climate of [a] Individualised teaching and learning; [2] Accord high status to teachers. Invest in teachers. [3] Pass full responsibility to schools to get the job done.
  • “ The good work being done in schools is being done in spite of the dominant culture of testing; not because of it.
  • “The real role of leadership is not ‘command and control’, but to control a climate of possibilities.

“Benjamin Franklin says that there are three kinds of people in the world: 1. Those who are not moveable. 2. Those who are moveable. 3. Those who move. When people move, that’s a revolution – that’s what we need.”



Phil Cullen 41 Cominan Avenue, Banora Point 2486 07 5524 6443 cphilcullen@bigpond.com

Post-script to Learnacy article

The Treehorn Express



“Learnacy – The Curriculum For the Future.’

Sir Ted Robinson adds his piece.

 The good guys are on the same wave-length and cordially invite others to join the wave. We are on the crest and there’s plenty of room. SBTs have to go.

 I had so sooner sent the most recent Treehorn Express , than I received an email from Aussie super-anti-NAPLAN stalwart, Bruce Jones. It contained a delightful talk by Sir Ken Robinson.

If you care about kids, you will enjoy sharing this with as many colleagues and friends as possible:


If you are stuck with the testucation procedures and mis-education imposed by mandated testing, you might like to say NO to what you are doing.


Phil Cullen 41 Cominan Avenue Banora Point 2486 07 5524 6443 cphllcullen@bigpond.com

Learnacy – A curriculum for the Future

The Treehorn Express 

Welcome New Readers

Treehorn, the hero of The Shrinking of Treehorn by Florence Heidi, represents all the young school children of this world whom adults allow to be treated in most shameful ways and just don’t care. Most shameful of all are the quack-medicine notions of politico-lawyer testucators of various countries, who believe that fear, shame, creation of stress, competition, extra coaching, use of performance-enhancing medicines and direct didactic sermonising techniques motivate learners to perform well at forms of Standardised Blanket Testing [SBT] that sadistic legislators impose. The sparkle and joy of child-centred learning is deliberately discouraged and replaced by an insatiable quest for acceptable numerical scores from blanket tests.. The outcome, clearly, is mediocrity in test results, distaste for the challenges of learning, bullying in the playground and from administrative levels; and discouragement for the attractions of teaching as a true-blue caring profession.

Ask yourself whether honourable adults would be brave enough to impose the kind of hard-wired, cruel and long-lasting stress on fellow adults that the testucating fraternity imposes on small school children in countries that claim to be seeking education reform.

NCLB, NAPLAN and ‘National Standards’ are these kinds of nasty testing programs held in GERM countries for reasons beyond the normal. If the world was fair and democratic, it would care for its young and inhume all SBTs asap.

The brain-child of lawyer politicians, SBTs represent a form of cognitive malnutrition, imposed and maintained by flat-earth testucators on powerless, neglected and ignored young children so that program producers and publishers can increase their wealth.

It is now so noticeable that wholly-owned ‘professional’ groups and associations, that once fearlessly upheld the dignity, social and mental health of children, now prefer to discuss educational principles, successes and achievements and decline, in numbers and test scores. Progressive child-based shared-evaluation achievements in learning terms are seldom discussed. Educational ethics and codes of school-based professional rectitude have deteriorated seriously during the past decade and the prospects for a bright, creative, progressive, schooling future for all GERM countries are dim. You know it. We all know it. There’s evidence galore.

The dog-whistle politics aimed only at a gullible, disinterested and couldn’t-care-less public, is working. Testucators are now deliberately using their debased version of the language of learning, their pseudo-technical woo, in order to destroy schooling’s cognitive base. They use words like ‘achievement’, ‘improved performance’, ‘better outcomes’ as they universally describe the mechanical, robotically contrived, useless results from deceptively unreliable and invalid testing programs. They talk educational gibberish using PISA-style measurement bullshit. At no time in the history of GERM countries has schooling been so debased; its teachers devalued and abused by flat-earth policies, miseducated ‘experts’ and test-publishing profiteers. And they have the floor. They now own the territory because we have allowed them to do so…..forgetting to protect the kids. We dropped the ball.

Australia’s ACARA, the organisation that conducts the tests, can only discuss the effects and outcomes in mathematical terms, deliberately ignoring the effects of their crude tests on human dignity, young children’s emotions, teacher ethics and concerns of parents. The collateral damage from SBTs to children’s lives is enormous; shamefully hidden from public view. ACARA says that it “…provides students and parents with nationally comparable information on….performance.” Yes. Monkey-like. So what?

In its pitiful “ACARA’s response to 60 Minutes”, it responded to the query “How much does NAPLAN cost?”, deceptively replying that the cost to ACARA as $7 to 7.5 million; as if that portion of the overall cost was peanuts – AND – not mentioning the states’ costs for administration and control by senior officers nor the marking of papers by hundreds of state tick/cross counters – many millions more of wasteful expenditure. The full truth is deliberately impossible to find.

The question has to be asked, as demonstrated by the testing-giant Pearson’s handling of the Pineapplegate affair last year: “Should the testing industry be allowed to police itself?”

 Shouldn’t serious school-based educators reclaim the territory, their profession? Shouldn’t they care a lot more about kids than they do now?


It is a child’s birthright to learn in the best way possible. No child should be badgered by unseemly lower level motivational techniques nor subjected to in-built emotional ridicule and stress-related operations. One should never expect that a child’s basic human rights will be assaulted in a school classroom, nor its individuality fractured to the extent that SBTs do. Our children are not just robots made of meat.

Each child is different. During the most important stages of development, children gather together at a primary school and mix with others of various backgrounds, various personalities, various interests and various stages of intellectual development for about 7 years. Although each one is different in so many ways, present day testucators crazily try to standardise their learning efforts and manipulate their attitudes using techniques that run counter to the social and psychological needs that children share…..

  •  school pupils are naturally curious and interested in the world around them;
  • school pupils enjoy play and prefer to be happy;
  • school pupils are curious young people. They love to handle things, explore situations and try things out;
  • school pupils always feel thrilled and motivated by achievement….. as much as they feel disappointed, rejected and depressed by ‘failure’.
  • school pupils learn effectively when their own interests are being satisfied;
  • school pupils learn by doing, observing, imitating and teaching other children.

Why have these kinds of essential elements of the basics of the teaching/learning act been despised and ignored during the past decade? [We have a lot to answer for.] Why have these basics been forced to make way for the strict demands of a ‘robust’ SBT-based curriculum. [You and I know very well that we must use distressed kids for testucators profit.] Why do most of our more eminent organisations decry the shameful behaviours that SBTs bring, and support their use at the same time? [Must be a new definition of ‘crazy’]

Children know [and adults forget] that learning is an active, pleasureable experience. Children believe that schools are learning places….happy places…challenging places…free from stress places. They know [and adults forget] that they cannot and will not learn a thing unless the circumstances suit them. Learning resides in the individual.

“You testucating bullies cannot make me learn, if I don’t want to.”

 “Hey Teach. I have ways of learning that you had better learn about if you want to help me. Forget about that SBT crap. It just doesn’t work.”

 “I’m your pupil…NOT a helpless test-dummy. I want to become a life-long student. I want to learn as much as I can and be good at it” [See below]

 “Help! Someone!”

If a child does not know and understand why he or she is at school, he or she is not at school. If pupils are forced to believe that they are there to try to pass tests and to achieve at a mediocre level, instead of building-up their personal learning ability to its dizzy limits, they are not at school.

Let’s think about LEARNACY……how it works… and how TESTUCATION works.


 Surely we need a schooling authority that is based on Freedom to Learn with serious expectations of high achievements,

to the limits of personal ability,

by finding joy in the learning act itself?

Freedom from fear. Freedom from stress. Freedom from shame. Freedom from feeling a failure. Freedom from bullying. Freedom from high-stakes pressure. Freedom from useless tests.



 Let’s look with noetic intensity, at the kind of schooling now being endured by children. Let’s look seriously at the ‘criminally insane’ outcomes – charter schools, performance pay, business managerial structures vis-a-vis educational administration arrangements.

Let’s check out what thoughtful writers and child-warriors of this decade have to say. Diane Ravitch. She’s one of us…a Treehorner. Here is a review of her latest book.

 “Diane Ravitch’s Reign of Error takes the myths surrounding public education head on and provides her readers with logic and reasoning sorely missing from the current debate. Diane is a fierce warrior against the so-called reformers whose ideology exacerbates the problems of poverty and inequity. Reign of Error takes on each of the common myths and blows them up with the reformers’ own holy grail – DATA!! Data that disputes the miracle schools, the effects of poverty and myth of the dropout factors. Ravitch also takes on the Billionaire Boys Club with swipes at their handmaidens of destruction, including Michelle Rhee, Joel Klein, and Wendy Kopp, and the book provides the solutions that will change the trajectory away from so-called destructive innovation towards equitable, high quality education for all children.”

—Karen GJ Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union

 “American educational reformers have fashioned a narrative that has become so pervasive that it has effectively silenced alternative accounts. In this courageous book Diane Ravitch persuasively challenges both the narrative’s presentation and analysis of data and its underlying value system.”

—Howard Gardner, Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education,

Harvard Graduate School of Education

Maybe, amongst the new readers of The Treehorn Express, there are some true-blue educators wandering around the Tiananmen Squares of our SBT countries looking for the bully-boys’ tanks from the ‘Billionaire’s Boys Club’ to divert. Maybe. You?


 I was good at everything

-honest, everything –

until I started being here with you.

I was good at laughing,

playing dead,

being king.

Yeah, I was good at everything!

But now I’m only good at everything

on Saturdays and Sundays…

 [Albert Cullum “The Geranium on the Window Sill just Died but Teacher you went right on” P.40 Harlin Quist, Belgium 1971 ]


 Phil Cullen, 41 Cominan Avenue Banora Point 2486 07 552 6443 cphilcullen@bigpond.com

Educational Readings October 11th

By Allan Alach

After a lovely break in England, I’ve returned to the fray. The nonsense didn’t take a break while I was away!

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at allan.alach@ihug.co.nz.

 This week’s homework!

How Poverty and Privilege Are Fueling America’s Gaping Education Divide

It’s time for some new thinking about how to address the persistent inequalities that plague our education system.

Not just the USA…..


 Case study: The false promise of value-added teacher assessment

‘Value-added assessment is all the rage in school reform these days. It involves the use of complicated formulas that plug in student standardized test scores to try to determine how much “value” a teacher has added to that result.’

One of the curses of modern times is that of teacher performance pay, under a variety of disguises. Teachers in England were on strike last week, over this very matter, and we can expect it to keep reappearing until GERM is eliminated.


U.S. Needs Moratorium on (Privileged) White Men Pontificating on Race, Class, Gender

‘Before I continue, let me clarify that my calling for a moratorium on white men pontificating on race, class, and gender would include me.’ 

The points made here apply to many other countries, such as Australia, New Zealand and the UK…..


 Smart learning strategies

‘What’s the key to effective learning? One intriguing body of research suggests a rather riddle-like answer: It’s not just what you know. It’s what you know about what you know.’

Not rocket science, and not necessarily completely new, but oh how we have forgotten this.


Rewild the Child (via Dave Kennedy)

English journalist George Monbiot is always a good read and this is no exception.

‘What is the best way to knacker a child’s education? Force him or her to spend too long in the classroom. An overview of research into outdoor education by King’s College London found that children who spend time learning in natural environments “perform better in reading, mathematics, science and social studies.”’


After viewing the Crucible

US reading guru Ken Goodman:

‘The evil I speak of is what is happening in schools to children in the name of teaching them to read. All of the forces of evil are involved: Greed of publishers and profiteers, greed of politicians who use literacy  to attack schools and stir up fear among their constituents, amorality of school board members and administrators. But especially evil are those whose fundamentalist views of literacy, learning, and schooling are being enacted into laws that are designed to root out heresy- anyone who does not share their  fundamentalist belief- and create an atmosphere of fear and intimidation  for any who challenge their doctrine.’


 Bruce Hammonds never sleeps… here’s a selection from the zillions Bruce send me….

Building a District Culture to Foster Innovation

Not rocket science, and not necessarily completely new, but oh how we have forgotten this…..

“The factory school model of the 20th century [was] designed to mimic what factories needed in their workers,” Ms. Moran said. “Now, [the workforce] wants kids who can really work through issues to generate solutions that work without being dependent on someone at the top to solve it for them.


 A Better List Of Ideas For Project-Based Learning.

“Are you running into snags when it comes to bringing project-based learning into your teaching practices? Maybe you’ve been trying to incorporate PBL into your classroom and you’re stuck on ideas of how to proceed. There are some great ideas to move you forward in the following article by the staff of TeachThought …. read on and be enlightened! ”


How Do We Raise Critical Thinkers?

“As students progress through the 21st century, the essential skill set they must possess has shifted. Students must develop critical thinking skills if they are to succeed in a globalized, digital world. This infographic produced by Mentoring Minds provides teachers with a daily reminder of the skills students must cultivate in their classrooms.”


 Schools’ Test Focus Queried

“According to Prof. Yong Zhao of the University of Oregon, our focus on testing only succeeds in educating students using the factory mentality that was the basis for the Industrial Age educational model—a recipe for disaster in the digital age. Read more in the following NZ Herald article by Nicholas Jones.”


Kindergarten gets tough as kids are forced to bubble in multiple choice tests

‘They don’t even know how to hold a pencil yet, but kindergartners are getting a taste of the tough side of education with Common Core standardized math tests.’

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