Educational Readings February 28th

By Allan Alach

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at

 This week’s homework!

Teachers are Learning Designers

‘What really struck me is that great teachers create the conditions for success, just as gardeners do. You can’t make a flower grow, but you can design and improve the condition for that flow of naturally occurring events. It’s the same for our students. We have the power and the duty to create the best conditions for students to flourish.’

 Testing and thinking (thanks Tony)

Great article by Grant Wiggins.

‘…it raises troubling questions about the validity of all typical tests of achievement used to evaluate student achievement and school effectiveness. Because if the tests reward content knowledge but not powerful thinking – yet, all Standards highlight important thinking – then the tests may be yielding invalid inferences and thus very harmful consequences.’

 How do inquiry teachers….teach?

Kath Murdoch.

‘Inquiry is not just about knowing how to plan – it’s about how we teach. It’s about what we say to kids and how we say it. It’s about the way we listen and the way we feel about what our kids are saying. It’s about knowing when to step back and when to step in.  The language we use and the silences we deliberately leave.  It’s about what we are thinking about what we are doing.’

 Play: Is it Becoming Extinct?

‘In an era of high-stakes testing and teacher accountability, play—the cornerstone of child development—is slowly becoming extinct. As more and more schools are doing away with physical education, recess, and curriculum that allows for children to engage in play activities, teachers find themselves relying on more teacher-directed instruction. Teacher-directed instruction includes activities and lessons planned by the teacher. The teacher guides the entire daily schedule and this type of instruction is the most structured teacher-centered form of planning. In schools and homes today, free-choice play, imaginative play, and physical play are almost gone in a child’s daily schedule.’

The Industrial Classroom

Learn about Taylorism and how it underpins the standards and accountability movement.

Very important article!

‘When education is reduced to test prep, rich curricula and the craft of teaching are imperiled. The vapid classroom of neoliberal school reform mirrors the vapid workplace of Taylorism. Teach for America, which implicitly advances the idea that the sparsely trained can out-teach veteran educators, engenders deskilling and deprofessionalization.’

 The Wrong Way to Teach Grammar:

No more diagramming sentences: Students learn more from simply writing and reading.

Well what do you know? Are you surprised? After all teaching writing through rules is the written version of ‘paint by numbers.’

‘These students are victims of the mistaken belief that grammar lessons must come before writing, rather than grammar being something that is best learned through writing.’

 Bigger Gains for Students Who Don’t Get Help Solving Problems

Doesn’t fit with the standards movement….

‘First, choose problems to work on that “challenge but do not frustrate.” Second, provide learners with opportunities to explain and elaborate on what they’re doing. Third, give learners the chance to compare and contrast good and bad solutions to the problems.

By allowing learners to experience the discomfort of struggle first, and the triumph of understanding second, we can ensure that they have their cake and eat it, too.’

Infographic: Why Corporations Want Our Public Schools

Where’s the big money in privatization? Take it from the teachers.

 The Myth Behind Public School Failure

In the rush to privatize the country’s schools, corporations and politicians have decimated school budgets, replaced teaching with standardized testing, and placed the blame on teachers and students.

Does this ring any bells for Australian, English and New Zealand teachers?

‘Until about 1980, America’s public schoolteachers were iconic everyday heroes painted with a kind of Norman Rockwell patina—generally respected because they helped most kids learn to read, write and successfully join society. Such teachers made possible at least the idea of a vibrant democracy.

  Since then, what a turnaround: We’re now told, relentlessly, that bad-apple schoolteachers have wrecked K-12 education; that their unions keep legions of incompetent educators in classrooms; that part of the solution is more private charter schools; and that teachers as well as entire schools lack accountability, which can best be remedied by more and more standardized “bubble” tests.’

 This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

Getting Beyond the Blame Game

‘Not surprisingly, surveys indicate that teacher satisfaction has declined dramatically in the last five years, on some measures to the lowest level in the last 25 years (Harris Interactive, 2013). A decade of belt-tightening and unprecedented levels of teacher and union bashing from pundits, philanthropists, and all sides of the political spectrum have finally come home to roost.’

 Nine-hour tests and lots of pressure: welcome to the Chinese school system

The secrets behind Shanghai’s PISA results. Warning – germers are flocking to learn from this.

‘Even though Shanghai students scored well on the test, this doesn’t mean that Shanghai’s education system doesn’t have any problems,” said Lao Kaisheng, a professor in the education department of Beijing Normal University. “In fact, it’s the opposite.”

 The New Classroom: A Vessel for Innovation

Bruce’s comment: Taking Google environment to the classroom – isn’t it what good NZ teachers do (or used to ?)

‘When people walk into my classroom — renamed The Hive Society — they aren’t quite sure what they’ve entered. There are no textbooks, there is not one single desk, there are no stock motivational posters with children in neon eighties garb, no signs telling students to turn off their voices. Instead, desks have been replaced by conference tables, vintage stools, low-to-the-ground tables, and area rugs. Authentic student work and thought-provoking prompts leave no room for cliché posters. Textbooks have been stacked away in closets while tablets and desktop computers are easily accessible. And students are greeted each day with the challenge to activate their voices.’

The Right to Give Permission [3]

The Treehorn Express

The Right to Give Permission [3]


 No aspect of social justice for children was considered at the time of the 2008 mad, counter-productive scramble to gather tests scores. Teachers and their organisations, principals and their associations, academics and their learned groups dutifully complied with the arrogant directions ‘from above’. Disfigured by the acceptance of managerialism of the nineties, the various representative groups lacked the professional and ethical backbone to take-on the quasi-Stalinists. Although it was their major duty, caring about kids was out-sourced.

Despite the abundance of research, empirical evidence and learned offerings about the deleterious effects on a Rupert%20sucks[3]child’s mental capacity for learning under stressful conditions, testing has continued….. under suspicious circumstances…..the circumstances being that it continues only because of the financial benefit to a few mega-rich profiteers and is of electoral benefit to some narrow-minded, gullible politicians.

The blanket testing industry is a multi-billion industry, according to its major benefactor, a New York former Australian. In the six years since its inception, his pet NAPLAN has, almost completely, fragmented the school curriculum for Years 3,5,7,9. It’s a cancer eating out the soul of any knowledge-building curriculum, not giving our kids much chance to learn and to like learning. How did it happen? How did our kids come to be treated like little robotic testing machines….with no feelings nor emotions?

 1. From the start, school principals, the lynch-pins of any useful reform were isolated, then corralled. Their opinion was not sought; then they were told what was expected of them; an alternative principals association was formed to ‘legitimize’ changes; and coerced to give their ‘approval’ of the hunt for higher test-scores. The school-cash handouts and a chance of some ‘autonomy’ made compliance complete. Now, as NAPLAN’s central operators, they seem to operate with blind indifference. They accept any direction without question.. Their associations give a squawk or two every now and then, but there is no large-scale examination nor serious experience-based view expressed about the effects of high-stakes testing on classroom strategies and curriculum outcomes. Things are not looking too well for stressed kids while principal complacency continues.

Child feelings and the effects of severe testing on their cognitive development have yet to be considered….by anyone.

2. The acceptance that ‘being tough on kids’ is good for them and is part of the process of ‘growing up’ is a stated belief of ACARA; and is oft times repeated by business associates and ‘tough’ parents. A return to crash-bang-wallop techniques won’t do much harm. Despite being a shameful tenet, this has created an atmosphere of support for the cruel mandated tests. Classroom teachers know this and know that they shouldn’t be co-operating – but the heavy, coercive, authoritative chain of gestapo-like government controls are compelling.

A child’s reaction to being ‘toughened up’ has yet to be considered.

3. Principals were not allowed and are still not allowed to inform parents about the general and specific effects of high-stakes testing on classroom performance; nor encouraged to generalise about the kinds of evaluative devices that a school can use to enhance higher levels of learning…..shared devices, parents informative devices, on-the-spot developmental devices. The evidence that test-free achievement-based, learnacy-focussed, happy classrooms using an holistic curriculum, produces higher scores on PISA tests than do practice-practices-practice devices, is kept secret….deliberately hidden. [Unless you are talking about Finland]

Shhhhh – don’t talk about the best ways for kids to learn..

4. People are encouraged to talk in scoring-talk in preference to learning-talk. It’s PISA talk. A class or school or state or country is ‘academically better’ because it made higher scores. Huh! All state and federal ministers as well as shadow ministers, talk in scoring talk. They have great difficulty in describing schooling using curriculum terminology. Their descriptions have to entail NAPLAN or PISA talk. Its the favoured terminology of the classroom ignorant.

5. Teachers who show compassion towards individual kids during the strict exam period …the sorts of exchange that are common during normal classroom activities …are branded, sometimes as ‘cheats’. Their misdemeanours are exposed. They are subjected to local versions of Room 101 . It can be a helluva few days for compassionate teachers to have to supervise the distress and anxiety of their loved ones.

FEAR abounds.

Australia is certainly in a crazy schooling whirlpool with numerous woolly politically-based additions made, merely to divert attention from the main game…teaching kids.

Right? What are you going to do about it? Each Australian school is now a veritable Wellmeadow Cafe. The snail is in the bottle. It’s deteriorating.


Phil Cullen 41 Cominan Avenue Banora Point 2486 07 5524 6443.

“it’s impossible to understand a dynamic, systemically integrated world using a static, fragmented curriculum.”

Marion Brady

The Right to Give Permission [2]

The Treehorn Express

The Right To Give Permission [2]


 In an OLO article [08-01-14] I tried to suggest that more serious thought be given by serious-minded practitioners to the reasons why Australian states’ officialdoms deliberately forbid schools to inform parents that they have the right to say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ in regard to their children’s participation in NAPLAN testing. Why do they want to ‘cover-up’? It seemed clear at the time [2008] that ACARA did not want anything to impede its gathering of test scores… which unethical pretenders, political ignoramuses and ACARA itself prefer to use to make broad judgements about the quality of schooling.

I referred to the likelihood that, in the near future “…many parents will claim retribution for the stress and disturbance to family life and the mental injury to their children, caused by the use of Aussie-style quasi-mandatory, high-stakes, useless and cognitively damaging forms of testing in use since 2008. It is important that as many parents as possible seek to do so in the interests of social justice.”

A helpful commentator, ‘James E’, proffered the advice that “…NAPLAN tests are prescribed under the Schools Assistance Regulations 2009” and could be immune from “…legal proceedings for implementing them”. Thus, one can presume that only the perpetrator of the mischief [State Minister, Federal Minister or ACARA Chair ???] would be liable for prosecution. Compliant principals and teachers who dutifully follow instructions would be clear.

But then, are they ? Should they be…. if the ‘neighbour principle’, one of the basics of the tort of negligence, applies?

“The rule that you are to love your neighbour becomes in law, you must not injure your neighbour; and the lawyer’s question, “Who is my neighbour? receives a restricted reply. (…) The answer seems to be – persons, who are so closely and directly affected by my act that I ought reasonably to have them in contemplation as being so affected when I am directing my mind to the acts or omissions which are called in question” [Click ‘snail case’ below.]

James E further suggested that negligence law had come a long way since the 1932 snail case . However, with deep respect and appreciation, I would suggest that each child at school is a neighbour, i.e. not an impersonal object that can be treated with casual disregard as the young Treehorns of this world are treated; nor by politically sponsored fiat as illustrated by cop-out regulations. Further, legal decisions relating to basic Christian principles do not wear out over the years….because of age.

NAPLAN has the potential to cause serious harm on many fronts. That is indisputable. This was a ‘given’ from Day 1, easily seen in the procedures required in the administration of the tests. Since the first tests, ample academic and empirical research has revealed the extent of the mental damage and distress being caused by the fear-embedded operation. NIMSCO – Not In My School’s Classrooms Operations, of course. Despite the startling outcomes, no effort has been made to suspend NAPLAN because of its cruelty…..vomiting, sleeplessness, emotional upset, hatred of learning, serous distress. Neither has it done what it said it would do….increase test scores. It is a very nasty piece of work…yet it continues. ???? It exists only for the production of test scores with no regard whatsoever for the human element…. AND…. someone is responsible. And it just goes on and on and on, creating damage.

 We all know that serious test stress occurs….but no mother, no father, no teacher, and only one or two principals at any public school seems prepared to stand up for kids. Almost every Australian politician has to rely on test scores and comparison of results, for instance, when on an ‘education’ profundity kick. There’s only one or two untouchable commentators who really care about kids at school and who will speak out, it would seem. Organisational fear abounds. Fear of official sanctions. Fear of a promotional stale-mate or demotion. Fear of NAPLAN bullies with limited schooling experience. More FEAR, FEAR, FEAR.

 NAPLAN testing was introduced in 2008 with total disrespect for the rights of parents, the ethical standards of the teaching profession and the mental health of children at school. It was and remains a dumb-ass race for useless scores, disrespectful of children’s feelings and ignorant of how they learn. It is so obvious that caring about kids at school is not in the top twenty of Australia’s social concerns, thanks to ways that political power-brokers have manipulated the belief systems of the gullible. All Australian educators with school experience knew that Mr. Klein, Ms Gillard’s model of excellence, deliberately advocated fear and distress to achieve his own personal political ambitions in New York.

There exists a very real NAPLAN threat to each and every Australian child’s cognitive development. That’s the most serious threat of all; and it effects even those children who show no fear. No child who does the test can escape the consequences.

Why aren’t schools able to protect their clients, their neighbours, their pupils from the dire consequences of NAPLAN? Why? Why? Why?

Let’s talk about SOCIAL JUSTICE FOR CHILDREN. Let’s think. Think. Think. Think.

 More ‘Thunk’ soon. ‘Thunk’ is a term used by Tony Gurr at Check him out.


Phil Cullen 41 Cominan Avenue Banora Point 2486 07 5524 6443

Educational Readings February 21st

By Allan Alach

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at

 This week’s homework!

 On being a profession…

Written about New Zealand and very applicable all over.

‘Consequently, the whole question of whether teaching is a profession, or can become one, is a bit of a red herring. The real issue is the degree to which teachers can resist deskilling and maintain some measure of autonomy within the schooling system. For that to happen I believe we need a complete re-think about what our schooling system might be like as we sail merrily into the 21st century using 20th Century models of thinking supported by a 20th century Education Act that fails to place the learner at the centre of all subsequent policy and resourcing decisions.’

 Asphyxiating Education

The following quote refers to USA but the same rhetoric is used to justify ‘reform’ all over.

A coincidence of course????

“The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers. With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy.”

 What EXACTLY are the “Skills” needed by 21st Century TEACHERS? – The “Robocop” Upgrade…

Tony Gurr commenting on the role and skill set of teachers in Turkey, applicable all over.

But, my “business” is LEARNing (as if you didn’t know) – not TECHNOlogy. And, I’m interested in how we actually “do” something with all the talk-we-are-talking these days – talk about the ”new kids” on the ”curriculum block”:’

Bill Gates, On the Record

Anthony Cody:

‘Bill Gates is a charlatan as far as education is concerned. He has discarded the expertise of educators as if it were trash, because it did not align with his concept of how learning ought to be measured and improved. In its place, he has fostered a worship of almighty data. He will come to the National Board singing the praises of accomplished teachers, because he wants to bring leading educators to his side, even as he devalues their expertise and autonomy.’

 7 reasons educators secretly fear creativity

‘Developing creativity in the classroom, in the school, in the district is not particularly difficult. Simple teaching techniques can spur divergent thinking. Innovation can be a part of all content areas and disciplines. Any project can have recognition of originality in its assessment. But creativity tends to be actively suppressed by teachers and administrators. Here’s why.’

 Psychologist on a mission to give every child a Learning Chip

Brave New World? Nineteen Eighty-Four? Or something written by Philip K. Dick?

Mind you the title is misleading…. the article has little to do with ‘chips’ and much more to do with the debate over genetics and learning.

The education world, he thinks, doesn’t take enough notice of genes. Learning about genetics should be part of teacher training, he says, so that teachers understand how to draw out individual talents. His big idea is personalised learning. He’s against all labels: dyslexia, attention deficit disorder, gifted and so on. Every child has special needs, he argues. Schools should therefore offer the widest possible choice of subjects and extra-curricular activities, even if it means them being very large.’

Five bad education assumptions the media keeps recycling

Alfie Kohn:

‘While the occasional journalist and even politician may acknowledge that, just possibly, we’re overtesting kids, almost all take on faith that test scores are appropriate for judging a student’s, school’s, state’s, or nation’s education status.  If it turns out that standardized tests are inherently flawed indicators — not just misapplied, overused, or badly implemented — then all judgments based on those numbers would have to be rethought. ‘

 The 4 Most Profound Ways Privatization Perverts Education

‘But there’s no market-based reform where children are involved. Education can’t be reduced to a lottery, or a testing app, or a business plan. Equal opportunity in education ensures that every child is encouraged and challenged and nurtured from the earliest age, as we expect for our own children.’

 This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

To Help Students Learn, Appeal to What They Value

‘The nonacademic passions, social intrigues and fads we would dismiss are among the things students value and, ironically, are a springboard for learning. What are your ideas for uncovering and working with students’ values? Please share your thoughts and experiences.’

 5 Ways to Make Your Classroom Student-Centered

‘Expert teachers know how to give students choice and voice, finding ways to design learning experiences that tap into what students value. This isn’t always easy, especially if our preparation experiences didn’t frame learning this way. Here are five questions that can help us develop and refine the teacher strengths needed for creating a student-centered classroom. Use them to start the new year off right!’

 Quotes from Sir Ken Robinson’s 2013 TED talk

‘Ken Robinson’s talk “How to escape education’s death valley” is one of my favorites. It was recorded in April of 2013. I highly recommend that you watch his latest talk on The quotes I assembled for the talk are the one’s most salient to me personally. This is not an attempt to summarize his talk in anyway, but perhaps a quote or two will be useful for you in your own presentations related to education, etc. The slides are in PDF, but you can easily cut and paste text as you wish. You can of, course, get the entire transcript of the talk on the website (in many languages). Let’s keep the conversation regarding the education revolution going.’

Seven Types of Projects that Foster Powerful Learning

‘Research projects are an important tool for both instructing students and assessing whether students have developed critical knowledge and skills for college and career success in a 21st century world. Students also have the opportunity to explore their interests, which increases their motivation to learn. They learn how to develop questions, find, sort and evaluate information, read widely and deeply, analyze, think creatively, write in many different formats, problem solve, and communicate results. Students also learn how to work independently and collaboratively. Many of the “soft” skills, such as curiosity, perseverance, “grit”, and dealing with failure and frustration are developed while working on a research project. Like the musician or athlete, students who conduct research projects have the opportunity to practice and improve important skills that they don’t normally get to use regularly in traditional classrooms.’

The right to say ‘Yes’.

Treehorn Express

The Right To Give Permission [1]

In a democratic community, parents of school children are usually asked to give permission for their children to undertake activities supervised by teachers in circumstance that have the potential to be harmful, or might threaten their well-being and comfort. Parental permission to attend out-of-school sporting contests, school camps, excursions and on-site special events are instances of this.

The need for permission is generally described as a DUTY OF CARE and it is a legal obligation. There are issues of social justice, of ethical standards, of possible danger, of respect for human dignity and compassion for the young entwined in this duty. Until the beginning of this century, parental respect for the exercise of professional ethics in school leadership has always prevailed, and the need to take issue with the Duty of Care has been minimal. Schools used to be regarded as the citadels of safety, child welfare and progress….so instances of litigation have been rare.

In 2008, however, Australia succumbed to the pressures of a political heavyweight who copied a kitsch system of schooling from a New York school district that operated on fear-driven testing. Mr. Joel Klein, its inventor/controller was a lawyer who, not long later, took command of Mr. Rupert Murdoch’s enormous test production empire. The kinds of tests used are fully based on a rare pedagogical notion that fear is the most effective motivator of classroom learning….fear of failure, fear of public exposure, fear of parental disappointment. Fear. This modus operandi has been operating with little to no success in Australia for six years and its crass crudity continues to endanger the mental health of all children. No experienced ‘curriculum’ educator nor world ‘expert’ educator can find any worth in it.

 Its social construct has no base. Why it continues in Australia is a tribute to the crafty assignment of unexamined belief systems to underlings by political power-brokers, to principles of eichmannism and dog-whistle politics, to press control of information; and to the greed of the test-production profiteers.

In Australia, the movement towards high stakes, fear-based testing is referred to as ‘Kleinism’ after its founder. Its educational misology has disposed test-centric authorities to impose a heavy testing regime on the curriculum of learning-anxious school children. In Australia, it’s called NAPLAN and a hideous device it is. For about three months of each year, it completely controls the currculum of Years 3,5,7,9.

It can be expected that issues of human rights bruised by such Standardised Blanket Testing [‘SBTs’ in general U.S. parlance] procedures and their effects on child learning emotions in the classrooms, will be severely tested in the Courts of Justice over the next few years if NAPLAN lasts that long.


The prestigious legal faculties of Sydney University and various campuses of the ACU have established socio-legal studies designed to address such issues. It has been predicted [SMH 3-12-13 p35] that the availability of the graduates on a ‘pro bono’ basis through local community centres will lead to increasing challenges to emotionally disturbing school activities. Many parents are more than likely to seek retribution for the stress and disturbance to family life and the mental injury to their children. The injury to a child’s overall cognitive development is a very serious matter, caused by a test’s tendency to brand achievement and to seek mediocrity. That’s an issue that the education profession has been unwilling to discuss. Perhaps it can be challenged in a court of law.

One thing is certain. If NAPLAN pursues its evil ways, it is sure to be challenged as the culture of litigation develops. For the sake of kids…the sooner the better.

Parents have been deliberately kept in the dark and misled by official statements since the inception of NAPLAN.

Do the prescriptions of the Schools Assistance Regulations 2009 adequately protect schools? We should all talk about it.


More THUNK soon.


Phil Cullen 41 Cominan Avenue Banora Point 2486 07 5524 6443

Learnacy or Lunacy? A thought.

 Refer: TIME magazine cover story. The Infinity Machine  February 17, 2014
Aussie Friends of Treehorn
For true believers in Learning and Social Justice for kids.
The present pursuit of SBT-aka-NAPLAN testing results by inexperienced and thoughtless testucators will keep Australia in the horse-and-buggy age for the next century.
The D-wave age, for want of a better description of the unknowable future, demands a population of thinkers with the capacity to calculate and express themselves at a level never known before. For a country to progress, learnacy – learning HOW – mustreplace the fallacy of fear as a motivational force in the classrooms of now.
THINKING is a first step. Our thinking. Adult thinking. Just think! How do learners with an endless array of social and intellectual differences, within the present-day kind of classroom setting, react to the prescriptive modes that teachers are forced to provide and the pressure to do well on useless, invalid, unreliable. immoral tests ?  This type of  SBT/English Grammar School ideology is providing dreadful outcomes… least no progress of any known kind has resulted in Australia… only stress and sickness and family disruption.
2014 is a crucial year for THOUGHT.
What are the best ways of sponsoring higher achievements in the basics and of enlivening the challenge to always try to do better?
NAPLAN has been a gigantic flop on both fronts..
If a curriculum is a description of what ought to happen in classrooms, as many think it is, will the current ‘curriculum’ Review in Australia give us the chance to examine the effects of the NAPLAN-based curriculum on current classroom processes?  Too many educators seem to believe that its recommendations will merely reflect the ideology of the leading political party.
I hope not.
I have more faith than that.
Why does this country  leave the control of its future to one political party power-figure, as it did to Nelson, Gillard, Garret and Pyne, each of whom has steadfastly maintained, during the past six years of Naplanics,  disdain for effective learnacies, misunderstood the reasons for genuine pupilling; and never ever shown respect for kids as kids.
2014 is  a very crucial year for thinking.
Phil Cullen, 41 Cminan Avenue   Banora Point Australia 2486   07 5524 6443

Our Great NAPLAN Leader

Rupert Murdoch’s empire receives $882m tax rebate from Australia

Payment revealed by News Corp in US likely to reignite debate over how much tax is paid by international corporations


Please tell our testucating junkies that more is needed. He didn’t get all that he wanted!
Rupert Murdoch
Rupert Murdoch delivers the 2013 Lowy lecture in Sydney. Photograph: Dan Himbrechts/AAP

Rupert Murdoch’s media group received a $882m tax rebate from Australia last year in a revelation that is likely to reignite the debate over how much tax is paid by international corporations.

The payment by a “foreign tax authority” was revealed in accounts published by News Corporation in the US earlier this month and related to a $2bn claim by News Corp for historic losses on currency transactions by its Australian subsidiaries.

The payment was estimated to be worth $600m to News Corp but the final figure grew to $882m after interest charges.

It was one of the the biggest single factors in the multi-billion dollar federal budget blowout announced by Australian treasurer Joe Hockey in December.

The Australian Tax Office wanted to challenge the claim but was overruled by the Federal Court of Appeal in July last year, the Australian Financial Review reported on Monday.

The refund amounted to one of the largest ever faced by the ATO but a decision over whether to appeal against the ruling came amid the build-up to the federal election with News Corp’s Australian titles launching a series of attacks on the then Labor government.

The ATO decided not to appeal the case after consideration by “senior officers and after seeking legal opinion”.

“All decisions on whether to appeal a court decision are made by senior technical officers. Careful consideration is given to a range of factors, including the costs to all parties of proceeding and the importance of the particular case to clarifying the law for the benefit of the wider community,” an ATO spokesman said.

“The ATO seeks external legal counsel opinion on the prospects of success for an appeal before making a decision.

News Corp reported in its half yearly accounts published on 6 February that “a foreign tax authority’’ paid $882m which included the original tax and interest.

“The Company previously filed refund claims for certain losses in a foreign jurisdiction that had been subject to litigation.

“In the first quarter of fiscal 2014, the foreign tax authority determined that it would not appeal a favorable court ruling received by the company in July 2013 and therefore, a portion of the uncertain matter was resolved.”

Although the paper loss on the currency transactions involved the Australian businesses and dated back to 1989, the tax refund was paid to Murdoch’s newly created entertainment business 21st Century Fox under the terms of the split of the empire last year, the accounts said.

The Australian Treasury was forced to include the sum in its December budget update which forecast a deficit for this fiscal year of $47bn – a $17bn increase on earlier forecasts.

This led the AFR to calculate that the News Corp payment was the “single biggest factor in the budget deterioration” in the four months between August and December.

Announcing the blowout, Hockey warned Australians to expect spending cuts. The deficit was “not sustainable” and that “doing nothing is not an option for Australia”. 

News Corp declined to comment.

__________________________________________________    Phil Cullen   41 Cominan Avenue   Banora Point  2486     07 5524 6443

Educational Readings February 14th

by Allan Alach

The list is shorter this week (do I hear sighs of relief?) as my brain has gone AWOL….

 I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at

This week’s homework!

 Does size matter?

Article on class sizes written for a Canadian readership but as usual applicable all over.

‘Mr. Biased Columnist points out that places like Finland, Korea, Singapore (among others) have class sizes that are larger than in Alberta, and still perform better on PISA (this is fact). What he deliberately neglects to tell us (Logical fallacy of Omission – Stacking the Deck) though, is that teachers in those countries spend far less time in front of students than we do in North America.’

 Parsing The Unintelligible Stefan Pryor

Article about the inability/unwillingness of an Education Commissioner to speak plain English when discussing education. You will, of course, note the similarity with language used by similar people in your country.

‘The model that we established for evaluation with the inclusion of teacher observations of student learning indicators to making sure that we are looking at student outcomes and other features — that was arrived at by consensus through our Performance Evaluation Advisory Council.’

From failing to killing writing: computer based grading.

The ultimate nightmare, the death of creative writing.

‘Our students’ writing has “something the tests and machines will never be able to measure,” and it is now the duty of all writing teachers to make known the art of human assessment of writing.’

 This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

Debunking the Left Brain and Right Brain Myth

‘There is a common belief in many management and popular psychology circles that a person’s creative ability is determined by which part of their brain is more active. People often refer to people who work in the creative industries or find it easy to come up with ideas as “Right-brained”, whereas people who are more methodical, logical or process-focused are “Left Brained”. I’m here to show you why these terms should be ignored, and give you more of an insight into how the brain actually comes up with ideas.’

Inquiry-Based Instruction Explores, Then Explains

‘It is common for lessons to follow an “Explain-before-Explore” model, which includes reviewing previous work, introducing a new concept, modeling that concept, and then student practice with the concept in a controlled, prescriptive exercise. The goal is for students to be able to replicate solution methods or to parrot what was told to them. With the Explain-first model, ask yourself, how are you challenging students to think deeply every day about science or mathematics? Alternately, an “Explore-before-Explain” instructional model allows students to grapple with the ideas and skills within a concept before the concept is thoroughly discussed and described.’

The Art of Thinking Like a Scientist

‘Through the arts, students learn to observe, visualize, manipulate materials, and develop the creative confidence to imagine new possibilities. These skills and competencies are also essential to scientific thinking and provide a strong argument for transforming STEM education by integrating the arts.’

 Innovation: Are You a Gardener or an Architect?

“Integrative Thinking is the ability to constructively face the tensions of opposing models, and instead of choosing one at the expense of the other, generating a creative solution of the tensions in the form of a new model that contains elements of the individual models, but is superior to each.”

Educational Readings February 7th

By Allan Alach

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at

This week’s homework!

Secret Teacher: why I’ve given up my dream job in teaching

A story from England that will ring bells for many teachers all over.

I have nothing but respect for those who don’t find it a toxic environment to work in and manage to maintain their enthusiasm – they must be far more resilient than me. The problem is that we shouldn’t feel like that about a job that is so incredibly important for the future of our society. Most of all I miss the feeling that being a teacher meant something.’

Inventing the future

UK academic Steve Wheeler discussing a keynote presentation by Brian Solis:

‘He dwelt on organisational use of technology, and presented us with some challenges. He suggested that the future will either happen to us or because of us. In other words, it is up to us to shape our own futures, but our own inability to push forwards is often what holds us back. He argued that technology is a part of the solution but can also be a part of the problem, and unfortunately technology in organisations is usually imposed on us from above.’

 Setting Children Up to Hate Reading (thanks to Michael Fawcett)

“Many children will not be ready—not because they’re slow, not because they have learning disabilities, but because they’re normal and moving along at their own pace! The door should be opened to them in kindergarten and beyond to learn how to read in a relaxed manner. Even when a child has difficulty learning to read (dyslexia for example), you don’t attack the problem by pushing the child to read beyond what is considered normal.”

 Follow the Money

Deborah Meier is another US educator battling against the school reform movement. In this article she follows the big money that is underpinning the reform movement in the USA.

‘Publishing companies and private tech companies saw $$$$$ everywhere. By the time we wake up to what is happening we will no longer have a public education system in reality.’

 School choice, Australian style

Madness in Australia.

‘The choice really is whether we continue to dabble in superficial solutions for our fractured and hierarchical schools, or whether we try to create a better balance and improved opportunities for our poorest students and families by boosting their schools – and national achievement levels.’

Why Common Core Isn’t the Answer

US educator Marion Brady – while he’s writing about the USA, much is applicable to other infected countries. Highly recommended.

‘I’ll start by affirming what I believe most thoughtful educators take for granted: The main aim of schooling is to model or explain reality better. As you read, don’t lose sight of that. The aim of schooling isn’t to teach math, science, language arts, and other school subjects better, but to expand our understanding of reality.’


Political power must be exercised, but parents, grandparents, and thoughtful, caring citizens are the only ones with enough clout to exercise it effectively. They need to recognize poor policy when they see it, organize, and act appropriately.”

 Control Will Be the Demise of Education

Written for USA, however relevant to New Zealand, Australia, and elsewhere.

‘So again our education system is in a pickle consisting of an outdated model and the pressure to prepare students for an absurd amount of testing days throughout the school year. The world does not rest on standardized tests. Success now lies in one’s ability to create solutions to problems, collaborate with peers to meet a goal, communicate effectively, and develop unique ideas that can change things for the better.’

Ink on Paper: Some Notes on Note-taking

Especially relevant in light of reported schools going 100% digital, either with iPads or using Google Docs.

‘Apparently there is something about typing that leads to mindless processing. And there is something about ink and paper that prompts students to go beyond merely hearing and recording new information — and instead to process and reframe information in their own words, with or without the aid of asterisks and checks and arrows.’

 This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

5 reasons to teach spelling, handwriting in the new year

Following on from the Ink on Paper article..

‘Handwriting instruction has been found to contribute to success with beginning readers. Brain scan studies show that early manuscript lessons help activate and coordinate reading circuitry.’

Time for an Education Reformation

(as opposed to ‘reforming schools’)

‘Too often the disparity between the lessons we intend to teach and the lessons we actually teach causes angst and confusion for students. While we preach the idea of systematic conformity as a route to success, virtually every example of greatness, success, genius, innovation, or profound influence that we use in our classrooms is an individual who did not conform. The current shift to the Common Core State Standards will not change this. Our diplomas will continue to signify the successful completion of a prolonged course in conformity unless we insist on something more.’