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


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