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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