Teacher Power

Treehorn Express

For those who respect the power that they have when they care for kids.


With a pupil in the middle of your eye.

Within a speech called The Pupil in the Middle of Your Eye that I once gave at a Primary Principals Conference, I said,

“Institutional teaching and learning places enormous power in the hands of each teacher.  Each shares with parents, for an important period of time, the development of the lives of growing human beings who are going to take over this world from us.  Do we ever reflect on this enormous power of the teacher and whether we principals are allowing them to use their special expertise for the benefit of their pupils.
They are, after all ‘PUPILS’ not ‘students’ because the act of ‘teaching’ is involved. There is serious interplay between two human beings that deals with learning something.”
{What do we do and how well do we do it? Do we ‘pupil’ or ‘hack teach’ ?}


Kathleen A Butler [‘Learning & Teaching Styles’ Maynard 1984] says, “ I’ve come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It is my personal approach that creates the climate.It’s my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humour, hurt or heal. In all situations it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanised or dehumanised.”

Suppose we, as sincere teachers, are able to give some of our thinking time to the consequences of our actions in the classroom.  We do this at times, don’t we?

Or….don’t we bother?

A teaching nun once told me of a pupil who told her, to “Get f…..!”  My instinctive reaction would be to flatten him [I’m a product of the sit–stillery,  exam-ridden schools of the 40s].

The better-trained teacher of today would say what the nun said, “That’s not a nice thing to say to someone who loves you, Danny.”
“Nobody loves me.” said Danny.
“I love you, Danny.”

Wisely, it seemed to me at the time, the conversation with Danny did not go much further than this. Actually, the teaching sister was searching for ideas on how to show Danny that her love was genuine – without over-doing it. She was hoping that the next encounter would assure Danny that he belonged in a circle of learners who shared his teacher’s love and that things would go better in a non-disruptive interchange with his [future] friends, sharing learning challenges with mutual affection for achievement.

This teacher was exhibiting great power, and was using it in a healing way on a small human-being who had been severely injured. Danny really didn’t want to be at school, so the teacher’s task was to make the learning experiences so attractive [in a magnetic sense] that he couldn’t resist them.”


As a former Queensland classroom teacher/teaching principal for many years [and so proud of it], my heart really bleeds for present day teachers of Years 3,5,7,9 who must try to establish enjoyable, challenging learning environments while they are also expected by school authorities to scare the living daylights our of kids to get higher scores with meant-to-be-confusing,  standardised multiple-choice questions that are just so pathetic and meaningless to the Dannys of this world. The Dannys have plenty of more important things to worry about. They need genuine schooling to experience the great joy of learning and genuine teacher-love. They can certainly do without the soul-destroying testucating stupidities forced on them by present day Australian governments.

The task of the humble classroom teacher of 2014 is infinitely more difficult than my colleagues and I had to tolerate.  We certainly taught towards nasty end-of-school-exams, but it was, by no means as professionally debilitating and soul-destroying as NAPLAN is. Our superordinates were demanding, but they knew what was going on. They had ‘been-there-done-that’ themselves and understood the classroom milieu and the kinds of classroom interactions that are productive in learning terms; so could help with the teaching processes…such as they were.  And so we changed and improved our techniques.

Products of the managerial era,  today’s dominating, testucating superordinates would just not have a clue.  NAPLAN’s focus on fear and practice has much greater intensity than did end-of-year tests of old; while there is a much greater need, these days, to take special notice of the Dannys’ of this world whose social future is not bright. There are so many Dannys now. [Of the 42 infants at a pre-school in my neighbouring suburb, 40 are from dysfunctional homes.] Yet, all that our teachers’ superiors and the profiteers care more about NAPLAN testing. The feelings of kids don’t matter.

The deep-soul feelings that come with fighting for kids against these almost insurmountable odds, through the likes of The Treehorn Express is a feeling that bedevils expression. It’s just so satisfying. I’m really proud. To share the crusade on behalf of kids with a number of passionate true-blue professionals  and to be able to keep it up with relish is a true blessing.  It’s truly wonderful. Despite the fact that many old colleagues don’t care in the way that you thought they would, one can still remain hopeful.

To see that the principals of the professional associations, in which one was heavily involved, lie dormant for want of expression, is disappointing.  You hope that it is just because present circumstances have led to a change in the culture of membership and not a change in ideals.  One can still remain hopeful. The occasional comment from some members of Australia’s more respected  groups gives heart to the our Treehorn-type crusade for kids. When these groups eventually decide to exert the group synergy that tells the pompous testucators, politicians and business leaders to leave schools alone, Australia will be able to take its first steps in fifteen years  towards a learning renaissance. Things are looking optimistic. We Treehorners have faith in the power of love-for-kids.

Our children are forced by too many arrogant ne’er-do-wells to spend, during this present fortnight for instance, more school time using practising techniques to gain higher test scores – than to share in the development of music, art and human movement – those aspects of living that are of enormous importance for human well-being and personal interest.  We didn’t have such pressure from outsiders to neglect these curriculum parts in earlier days. While we did it and hid it, but the poor buggers today are forced by superordinates to succumb to politically-sourced dysfunctional manipulations of the curriculum…well beyond normal tolerance.  If our professional opinions were ignored then, our unions usually managed to stand-up for us, or our associations had something serious to say. Classroom teachers have no genuine champions these days. Children have only a few advocates. The teaching culture has altered significantly.  Teachers are confused, compliant, neglected, frightened and meek. As the salt of the earth, these Kathleen Turners, deserve better.

Knowing that one might be helping one or two of them to think clearer is extremely satisfying for those who love the Treehorns of this world….the ordinary, every-day kid.

Neither did we, in the pre-managerial days, have politicians acting as puppets of the big-end-of-town, who would dare to tell us how to teach, nor use their pompous hubris to fiddle with the general curriculum to suit their own quack biases….Yes, you in particular, Chris Pyne.   You do like to be in charge of little eichmanns, and be pompous in spreading confusion, don’t you?

2014 is not a good year to be a teacher. The world is due for change.



1. BUDGET  MONDAY – the day before the NAPLAN devastation. Let’s hope that our all-knowing Treasurer can transfer the money wasted on counter-educative initiatives such as NAPLAN to positive educative enterprises….for the nation’s sake.  NAPLAN costs would be better spent paying for aircraft repair over the years to come.  Just get rid of NAPLAN, Joe, …..save heaps and heaps of money….and then …only after such invasive learning cancers disappear … watch school learning achievements grow.

2. THE AUSTRALIAN RESEARCH ALLIANCE FOR CHILDREN’S YOUTH (ARACY)+ CHILDREN’S HEALTH QUEENSLAND+ THE STATE LIBRARY OF QUEENSLAND + THE LOGAN CHILD FRIENDLY COMMUNITY CONSORTIUM from Logan City, south from Brisbane, are pleased to be hosting a symposium on children and young peoples’ well-being..

The Q’ld State Library, Southbank, Brisbane on Thursday, 19 June….9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
For further details check logancfcc@gmail.com or michelle.swales@slq.qld.gov.au
Should be lots of reliable NAPLAN info available.


     WANTED – Some T-Shirt Printers
Our oligarchy is better than yours.
Visions of Learning
 The Short Story of NAPLAN

4. No Queensland School Principal can receive The Treehorn Express any more.  I have had to remove the addresses of about 40 recipients. Apologies to those who requested The Treehorn Express in the first place.  Your emails kept coming back to me because “Your message was rejected by mxb.eq.edu.aufor the following reason: spam detected (0.20)”  Sorry old buddies.throughout Q’ld.  You just won’t get them. If someone sends this on to you, I’d be grateful, but please believe that there is nothing I can do about it.  Those who gave me their private email addresses might like to contact friends and pass this message along.

I’d like to think that it is a technical hitch, one that infests one special group amongst hundreds of others.

Ah well….

5  Prayer. Prayers. Prayers are the order of the day for the coldly distressed victims of cruel NAPLAN for the next 15 days or so.

Phil Cullen [….just trying to help kids and their teachers] 41 Cominan Avenue  Banor Point 2486    075524 6443.   cphilcullen@bigpond.com

Friends of Treehorn: Bigotry-Free Zone

Aussie Friends of Treehorn

…..for those who believe that learning matters in every kind of political climate..

A Short Story of Bigotry & Totalitarian Control

kimberleyKimberley College [http://kimberleycollege.org/ ] is an Independent Schools on the outskirts of Brisbane, Australia; established by a group of parents who firmly believed in the power of school based professionally ethical teaching/learning arrangements to develop their children’s potential and life chances to the highest degree. Since the original cohort of children enjoyed the multi-aged principles, together with de Bono-based principles of lateral learning while at nearby Kimberley Park State Primary School…. they lobbied unsuccessfully to have a state secondary school established in their own suburb that followed the positive attitudes to learning that their state primary school had confirmed. Failing in their efforts to persuade their state department to attempt an innovative approach to secondary schooling, especially the multi-aged component, the parents decided to establish a school of their own that respected children’s learning.

Despite considerable harassment and negative official comment from some sections of the managerialist-based school authority of the time, it opened.

Thus, Kimberley College, undoubtedly one of Australia’s most outstanding learning institutions, was established in 2000. Its enrolment has rapidly increased and it has enjoyed a respected reputation for its learning programs and for the parental opposition to learning-destructive standardised blanket testing techniques such as NAPLAN. Fewer than 10% of the pupils contest NAPLAN tests. Its prospectus states : ‘We strongly believe that Naplan testing and its ‘necessary’ adjunct, a National Curriculum, are an unnecessary and negative influence on the stated philosophy of Kimberley College.’

Most Kimberley College parents, alive to the degrading influence that standardised blanket testing has on a healthy learnacy curriculum and of its source in the purses of ‘the big end of NY town’, refuse to allow their children to participate – fewer than 10 pupils are expected to sit the tests this year. This educated attitude to high stakes corporate control was featured in a “Four Corners” program http://sixtyminutes.ninemsn.com.au/extraminutes/8726844/testing-times-kimberly-college

This exceptional campus of learning is a reflection of the philosophy of its Principal educator, Paul Thomson …..as all schools reflect the attitudes to learning of their leader, whether educator or testucator.


A STORY FROM THIS SBT-FREE SCHOOL When the annual NAPLAN-crazed preparation with its practice, practice, practice, curriculum-restricted, disrespectful, useless, immoral, child-stressing, Murdoch-purse-enhancing tests was under way in late-February of this year, a proud Mr. Thomson wanted his immediate community [Carbrook] to know that its nearest private school was a learning school, and not a willing contributor to the pockets of those who prefer to use children for data-collection only. Kimberley College wanted its public to know that its pupil clients would become high personal achievers without the curse of debilitating fear-driven tests

Also a general social justice proponent, he had, during this NAPLAN test crazed period, cause to telephone a Courier Mail journalist to suggest that his 22 March article “Why does the Left support this Avalanche of Paedophilic filth?” was excessive in his use of language in the below-the-belt reference to those not of the author’s own political persuasion. The reporter hung-up on Mr.Thomson.

The Courier Mail belongs to Mr. Murdoch. Mr. Murdoch owns lots of things and people.

Unrelated to this incident, but about the same time, Kimberley College proudly displayed on its notice-board that it was a “Murdoch-free zone”. Thomson decided, having second thoughts, to alter the reference and changed the notice to a more inclusive “Bigot-free Zone”. The original lasted only one day. The change to “Bigot-free Zone” encompassed more of those people who have fixed prejudices, are utterly intolerant of those with contrary views and prefer social institutions to be run with an iron fist.

In came the heavies, with the wrath of Rupert.

Believe it ! The Queensland Minister for Education telephoned the school and ordered Mr.Thomson to remove the reference to our lord and master.

Mr. Thomson agreed [he had already removed Rupert’s name] that the notice could be improved.

“Yes.” said Mr.Langbroek, “State Schools are not allowed to put up signs like that!”

“We are not a state school, Mr. Langbroek. We are a private school.”

“Well. You will need to think seriously about how you are funded!”

Believe it!


The Courier Mail’s ‘Andrew Bolt’ , whose Twitter motto is “Whatever it is, I don’t like it”, believes that everyone to his left is a Leftist [and there’s no one to his right], so he found a chance to square the ledger:- “Kimberley College, an independent school in Logan, has done an embarrassing backflip and removed a pompous commentary from its website. The statement, which began, “The wrong people are now in charge of the education future of our children,” was mysteriously taken down yesterday. And signs at the school attacking – horror of horrors – the Murdoch press, also came down. Could it be the college recoiled after being warned it may lose its funding for exposing children to overtly political rhetoric.”

??? Hello?? Where did that come from? ????

What was the name of that planet, again?



A recent Treehorn Express :- ‘”Our Oligarchy is Better than Your Oligarchy” opens with the comment “”It is clear that Australia’s schooling system is under the control of the most effective oligarchy in the world.”

Where else in the world would you find a Minister of Education run defence for a pupil-frozen, money-focussed, test publisher, while a high stakes testing program, of which the publisher is the originator and controller, pollutes the curriculum and inhibits cognitive development within the Minister’s own schools?

QED – quod erat demonstrandum.

Phil Cullen [……for kids who shouldn’t be doing the stress-ridden Murdoch tests] 41 Cominan Avenue Banora Point 2486 075524 6443 cphilcullen@bigpond.com

Educational Readings April 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!

Secret Teacher: if you want teachers to be happy in the job, show them respect

“Valuing and supporting students is a fundamental part of teaching. So why don’t we show the same concern for our colleagues? asks Secret Teacher”


The Learning Curve for Boys: Is it Different?

I linked to this article on Twitter and received a fairly terse response that we shouldn’t be differentiating for boys. What do you think?

“In summary, boys follow a unique learning curve, one that can be significantly enhanced in an environment that appreciates the differences between genders.  A setting that recognizes the cognitive, emotional and social processes which motivate boys to reach their full potential is the optimal learning environment for boys.”


Why free market will not fix problems with teachers and teaching

This article is from Australia and reveals an amazing coincidence – the rhetoric about non-performing teachers and way to sort this so-called problem is identical to that used in New Zealand, England, Canada and the USA. What are the odds on that?

“Related beliefs include the “fact” that teacher education is ineffective and needs reform, that the value of a teaching qualification is questionable and even unnecessary, and that there are benefits that will accrue from appointing non-educators as principals and running schools as businesses.”


A Passionate, Unapologetic Plea for Creative Writing in Schools

(thanks to Michael Fawcett)

“Human beings yearn to share, reflect, and understand one another, and they use these reflections to improve the state of things, both personal and public. If we want our students to have this kind of impact, we have to teach them to express themselves with both precision and passion.”


‘We trust our own instincts more than we trust Pisa’

‘Singapore came third in science and second in maths and reading, and also topped a recent problem-solving exercise. But Pak Tee Ng, associate professor at Singapore’s National Institute of Education, said: “So what if we are near the top of Pisa? What may be the ticket for success in the past may be a ticket to doom in the future. I think we trust our own instincts more than we trust the Pisa results.”’


The Poverty Scam

An article written about New Zealand and which is applicable all over.

“So why is it that Governments persist with an ideology that is demonstrably flawed?

In part it is because the ideology is easily sold to the electorate. Who, after all, would oppose a simple silver bullet that would provide better schools to help poor children succeed? What’s more it enables right-wing Governments to paint themselves as caring, while pursuing economic policies that are are ultimately unfriendly to children.”


Give childhood back to children

A lengthy article by Peter Gray – recommended.

 “The most important skills that children everywhere must learn in order to live happy, productive, moral lives are skills that cannot be taught in school. Such skills cannot be taught at all. They are learned and practised by children in play. These include the abilities to think creatively, to get along with other people and cooperate effectively, and to control their own impulses and emotions.”


Sustainability in schools: give young eco-warriors space to grow

An encouraging article from the UK, with no standards or tests in sight.

“Nash believes the real beauty of student-led projects is enabling children to make that difficult link between their own concerns and what matters to the wider world. It’s a struggle for a nine-year-old to care about global warming, but showing a child the tangible results of, for example, saving energy to free up more money for class resources, actually means something to him or her.”


This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

Seymour Papert : The obsolete ‘Three Rs’ – blocking real change in education

Another one from Bruce’s extensive oldies file:

“All this  Victorian emphasis on the ‘three Rs’  according to people like Professor Seymour Papert, a highly respected MIT expert in learning and computers, ‘expresses the most obstinate block to change in education’.’ The role of the basics’, he writes, ‘is never discussed; it is considered obvious’. As a result other important educational developments are being ignored.”


Quality teaching and learning. 

Bruce’s latest article, looking back over lessons about learning gained from teachers and students he has worked with over the decades.

“What I have observed in all the  creative teachers I have  worked with over the decades is that they are always in motion, working with students, singly, in small groups; briefly addressing the class as a whole, inviting , explaining, explaining, gently correcting, and sincerely affirming. As Elwyn Richardson has written ‘I learnt as much from my students as they learnt from me’”


Contributed by Phil Cullen:

‘Why are they trying to sell me something during the test?’ 

(thanks to Mary Mackay, Amsterdam)

Corporate capitalism lacks morality …

“Grade-school students baffled as brands including Nike, iPods and Barbies appear in exam papers

•Brand names appeared in a New York Common Core standardized test

•Exam was taken by more than a million students in grades three to eight 

•Many complained about the use of specific branding in the test

•New York education officials insist there were no paid product placements”


T-Shirts for Sale.

The Treehorn Express

……for kids

{Sincere thanks to Mary E Mackay, American teacher located in Amsterdam, for supplying this material}



There must be a firm somewhere in Australia who likes children enough to reproduce these sort of t-shirts with its logo on it; and prepared to spread them as far as possible….so that the general public will start to wonder what is really going on in our schools? Most adults don’t really know and school authorities prefer to keep them in the mushroom dark. How about we send this email to as many as possible in the hope that some firm will take the initiative. It might not be possible to produce them before NAPLAN time : May 13,14,15 in Australia; but they will, eventually,encourage the general public to take a keener interest into what is happening in our schools.


opt out
These shirts were a product of the OPT Out Oklahoma organisation. I imagine that a serious minded Australian firm, either involved in the education business or interested in helping school children would willingly produce similar t-shirts without breeching copy-right standards or piracy rules.

Maybe schools can make their own. Why not? They’d be popular at the annual fete or sporting event.

Please spread the idea. The public must learn more…somehow. We have to talk OUT LOUD.

A.    Do you believe that children are being treated with sincere humanity or just being used to gather scores? What’s your credo?
B.    Do you trust your child’s teacher to help him or her to learn without threats? Our public school teachers are truly outstanding. The world prefers them in their schools.
C.    We tend to follow the old British Grammar School traditions for our schooling. We don’t need to. It just happened; and public neighbourhood schooling has superior advantages.
D.    May the crutches of those who now use our school children for financial gain, become infested with the lice of a thousand camels and may their arms be too short to scratch.

May all the above be attended-to as soon as possible.


Don’t forget to do something.
Phil Cullen [….for kids’ sake] 41 Cominan Avenue Banora Point Australia 2486 07 5524 6443 cphilcullen@bigpond.com

Our oligarchy is better than yours.

The Treehorn Express

…..trying to protect kids from the oligarchs


Our Oligarchy is Better than Your Oligarchy

It is clear that Australia’s schooling system is under the control of the most effective oligarchy in the world. It’s a fact of life; and the managerialists’ coup of educational administration circa 1990 when learning in schools was out-sourced to management by lawyer smart-alecks and sycophantic politicians has made it so easy. The non-school big boys took over. Politicians of all colours and directions started marching to the beat of the big-business drum and continue to goose-step to its beat. We now live with it. Control of the school curriculum has moved almost completely to the rich and powerful corporations and their school-inexperienced operatives. The USA can challenge us as it has, but Australian adults are better at compliant subjugation to oligarchical control than anyone else on the planet, especially when it comes to matters of schooling.

It might be alright for Australian adults to be so toady, but it shouldn’t happen when it effects the intellectual future of children and our country’s development. Australian citizens need to think more seriously about what they are doing, don’t they?


A Princeton Study has put some science “behind the recently popular argument that the United States isn’t a democracy any more.’ The researchers, Martin Gilens and Benjamin J. Page have found that ‘…in fact, America is basically an oligarchy.’ The US oligarchy taught our Aussie big boys well, although the greatest mega-mogul of all, a former Australian, is well involved in the U.S, and quietly controls the oligarchies themselves in both countries.

An oligarchy is a system where power is effectively wielded by a small number of individuals defined by their status. Members of the oligarchy are the rich, the well connected and the politically powerful, as well as particularly well place individuals in institutions like banking or finance or the military.

For their study, Gilens and Page compiled data from roughly 1,800 different policy initiatives in the years between 1981 and 2002. They then compared those policy changes with the expressed opinion of the United States’ public. Comparing the preferences of the average American at the 50th percentile of income to what those Americans at the 90th percentile preferred, as well as the opinions of major lobbying or business groups, the researchers found that the government followed the directives set forth by the latter two much more often.”

“It’s beyond alarming” as Gilens and Page write. “The preferences of the average American appear to have only a miniscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy. In other words, their statistics say ‘your opinion does not matter.’” summarises Tom Fry.


While Australia has no replica study, our position at the front of the world queue of oligarchic political control, is unquestioned. Our history of the introduction of Klein Schooling makes this clear.

  1. Julia Gillard met with Rupert Murdoch and his fellow business moguls at a Carnegie Foundation cocktail party in New York on June 28, 2008. She was introduced to Joel Klein, a sweet-talking lawyer who controlled a school district that based its operations on almost-pure fear. [If the children did not pass the tests produced by Murdoch’s publishing company, Amplify, the teacher is sacked; then the principal; then the school is closed in disgrace.] She fell for his sweet-talk. Subsequently, with such influential decision makers in the right place, Rupert Murdoch’s control, supported by financial contributions, news biases and editorial opinions in Australia and in the U.S., was complete. He ensured that both countries followed the Klein line. Today, the opinion-making, lobbying and donating to political causes continues at full pace and its power is extensive .
  2. Rupert Murdoch employed Joel Klein in 2010 as executive director of News Corp to run his AMPLIFY company, a script and on-line testing business that had started as ARIS Data Management, then morphed into Wireless Generation, then Amplify. It’s worth billions per annum and Klein is paid in millions. He gets his way in all respects.
  3. Suitably conned, Julia Gillard invited Klein to come down under to help her to introduce his system. She arranged for him to meet with the leaders of our largest corporations and banks; and to speak at them during dinners held only in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra. He’s an entertaining, convincing speaker. They, the Australian business leaders, paid the fare and expenses for Mr. & Mrs Klein; and his reception was vigorously applauded by the big-end of town. At the time, our present-day head-servant of the oligarchs, Christopher Pyne, insisted that Julia Gillard should resign for bringing such a person down under…but now endorses the Klein tradition of schooling with added venom. He’s added Charter IPSs for easier oligarchical control; and deliberately interferes with the professional curriculum operations as well as basic teaching techniques.
  4. So powerful was the influence of the big end of town on the introduction of Kleinism, that it was not seen necessary for Gillard to seek advice from educators. She consulted with some of them and told them what to do. Non-school-oriented academic testucators were preferred to run the system. Support from the various timid and compliant ‘professional’ associations was then easily arranged; and such is the level of power of the corporations that state and federal legislatures continue to ignore any advice that predominant representative groups have to offer. The dysfunctional NAPLAN scheme has been imposed on suffering children for six years now. A full primary school generation’s future has been tampered with.

Meanwhile, Australia retains the title – the greatest oligarchical political control system the world has ever seen – and it shows. Capitulating to these forces too easily during the 2008-09s, we reversed the Anzac Spirit, that we honour this week.


Control by a beneficent oligarchy would not be too destructive for children’s learning emotions, if basic democratic principles applied; and if they cared about kids or worried about Australia’s future. None of these three conditions apply, unfortunately. Our Klein system is based on pure greed and emotional force. There is no professionally ethical reason for NAPLAN’s existence and its modus operandi follows a more totalitarian fascist base than an open democratic one. In every schooling sense, it is a hideous item.

Its domineering insistence on clandestine modes of administration reveals its evil intent more than anything else. Why hide the truth from parents?

Not only that, but its bullying fascist-like lower-level modes of totalitarian control – blame, threats, bribery, fear, general coercion – only elicit the lower levels of acceptance by operatives in the field. The wholesome teaching-learning spirit declines. The magic of enthusiastic learning is taken out of the classroom. Standards decline. The system’s quality fades and, if it remains unchanged, becomes a laughing stock.






Let’s test that Princeton statistic that ‘our opinion can be easily ignored.’.

It’s the elephant in the classroom which can’t be ignored any longer and our children suffer for the next few weeks because of its presence.

Phil Cullen […trying to protect kids] 41 Cominan Avenue Banora Point 2486 07 55246443 cphilcullen@bigpond.com

Photo: You can see some of the negative impact of all this high pressure/high stakes testing over at www.challengesuccess.org. I’m still unable to share any research showing a positive impact on children…although the folks who write/publish/sell textbooks/curriculums/tests probably benefit.




Great Learning in Action

The Treehorn Express

For kids not for scores.

– – – –

Visions of Learning

In Australia it’s NAPLAN-style learning for three days :

13,14,15 May, 2014.

Feel the excitement.

Crying%20at%20test%20time[1]entryhurdleentry hurdle 2

no 34






Some exciting school days ahead, kids – coming soon to your school.
Hey! Mum and Dad. Don’t forget to send your form supplied by www.literacyeducators.com.au to your school.
Phil Cullen [….just for kids] 41 Cominan Avenue Banora Point Australia 2486 07 5524 6443 cphilcullen@bigpond.com

Educational Readings April 18th

By Allan Alach

New Zealand teachers have just reached the end of the 12 week first term of 2014 and are now looking forward to a two week break so they can rest and recuperate, not a holiday as non-teachers would have it. It’s intriguing how non-teachers make a big deal about all the so-called ‘holidays’ that teachers get, yet they are very quick to say that they could never be teachers.

I hope that all teachers, everywhere, take the advantage of Easter to get right away from the pressures of their job and spend quality time on themselves and their families.

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!

Decisions about teaching methods should be made by educators not politicians

An opinion post from Australia, however you will no doubt notice it is applicable all over.

“In these examples we have a lawyer, turned politician, suggesting that education policy should take us back to an earlier era on the basis of his intuition, the comfort level of parents, and how he was taught many years ago.”


The Long Death of Creative Teaching: Common Core standards are part of a bigger movement towards stifling teachers.

Does this ring any bells for you, wherever you are?

“Being lost is the practical wisdom and planned spontaneity necessary to work with 20 to 35 individuals in a classroom. Academic creativity has been drained from degraded and overworked experienced teachers. Uniformity has sucked the life out of teaching and learning.”


Why many boys only do just enough.

Last week, I included a link to this article “Do boys dislike school? Or just what they’re learning?”  In response, Kevin Hewitson sent me an article he has written on a similar theme. Kevin commented in his email:

“I believe it is not just what we ask boys to learn but also how they respond in how well they learn it. It is my experience, 36+ years of teaching and a father of 2 boys, that boys often do “just enough”. What is just enough is determined by a whole host of things including targets or expectations of others, something schools are awash with. When the target is self-imposed, internal to their needs, then the sky is the limit for boy’s achievement. As a teacher and parent you can use this knowledge to good effect, you just have to lie about what the desired goal or outcome is.”


How Does PISA Put the World at Risk (Part 5): Racing to the Past

Part 5 of Yong Zhao’s series on PISA. More evidence for ideologues to ignore…

“The top performers of PISA are simply better implementation of the old paradigm—the Prussian industrial model of education, which many Western education systems, including the U.S. system, are based on.”


In Defense Of Poetry: “Oh My Heart”

“Will we soon wake one morning to find the carcasses of poems washed up on the beach by the tsunami of the Common Core? That question, especially during National Poetry Month, now haunts me more every day, notably because of the double-impending doom augured by the Common Core: the rise of nonfiction (and the concurrent erasing of poetry and fiction) from the ELA curriculum and the mantra-of-the-moment, “close reading” (the sheep’s clothing for that familiar old wolf New Criticism). It seems we have come to a moment in the history of the US when we no longer even pretend to care about that which is the result of the human heart: Art.”


Education’s culture of overwork is turning children and teachers into ghosts

“Educational reform now largely equals intensive schooling: early-morning catch-up classes, after-school clubs, longer terms, shorter holidays, more testing, more homework.

The trouble is, the human body and human communities do not flourish through being flogged. Families don’t benefit from frenetic rushing. They simply forget who each other is, or could be, which is where the real problems begin. Overtired children don’t learn. And hungry overtired children simply fall asleep, or kick off.”


This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

How Technology Is Changing The Skills We Need To Learn

Bruce’s comment: “ A brilliant small article.”

“We teach people that everything that matters happens between your ears when in fact it actually happens between people.”


Creativity and the Brain: What We Can Learn From Jazz Musicians

Bruce’s comment: “Importance of the arts and improvisation.”

Luckily, creativity isn’t an unknowable, mystical quality. It can be developed. “You have to cultivate these behaviors by introducing them to children and recognizing that the more you do it, the better you are at doing it,” Limb said. The problem is a lot of kids don’t get much unstructured time either in school or out of it. School is often based on right or wrong answers, leaving little room for students to come up with ideas that haven’t been taught to them before.”


Time for a national conversation about education?

Here’s another article from Bruce’s oldies but goodies file.

Bruce’s comment: “Good for a reading over Easter – supposed to be a time of reflection!”

“What we need now is a national conversation about the role of education in the Twenty-first Century. Education is far too important to leave to the politicians and their advisers. They are far too influenced by the need to stay in power and not upset those who have a vested interest in the status quo.”


For Earth Day and Beyond: Focus on Environmental Action Projects

Bruce’s comment: “Some practical ideas for environmental studies.”

“This year, more than a billion people are expected to take part in Earth Day events around the world. Help your students consider their long-term role as environmental stewards by planning global education projects that challenge students to think (and act) beyond their classrooms.”


Contributed by Phil Cullen:

Public Schools for Sale:  Bill Moyers Interviews Diane Ravitch

Phil’s comment:

“This should be seen by everybody. It takes 25 mins. For busy people, that’s a lot of time.  I’d allow three-quarters of an hour, however, allowing extra time to reflect on the comments…. as the charter school  movement heads down under. In Australia, we call Charter Schools ‘Independent Public Schools’….such a LOLy oxy-moronic title.  It’s a jokey cover-up for what Diane R is describing, since NZ and Australia’s are crazily pursuing this  course of action.”


The short story of NAPLAN

Aussie Friends of Treehorn

For the sake of kids.,, in deepest sympathy for those contemporary colleagues who aren’t allowed to enjoy the passion of achievement-based learnacy.

– – –

The Short Story of Naplan


Kevin 07, splendid P.M. that he was, new to the job in 2007, wanted his revolution stamp on everything:


“Get something, Julia, to straighten out those lazy teachers and make them force the kids to get better scores on PISA tests.”

“ No problem Kevie. I’ll find something. I’m off the USA in June. Maybe Dubbya will let us borrow one of its schemes. They have plenty.”

June 27, 2008…Momentous Day for Australia…

Julia Gillard met Joel Klein at a Carnegie Corporation cocktail party in New York.

Where else does one learn all about education, school evaluation and accountability?

“I’ll have that! That’s a scheme that will  grind them into doing what I want.”

“That you, Kevie? Got one.  Name’s Joel Klein. Works for Rupert. I’ll get him to come down to talk to our sponsors.”

…and so it all began.


And  Joel came  down under….




“It’s in! Didn’t take long. It’s just the thing. I’ll discuss things with our school principals….just tell them what I expect.

“Okay!  Won’t they forbid its use on professional grounds?”  

  “So what! Just let them try.”


And education associations conferred…. and conferred….and still think about things in general.


While….back at the ranch…..





























Phil Cullen, […..for kids] 41 Cominan Avenue   Banora Point  Australia 2486   07 5524 6443  cphilcullen@bigpond.com

STRESS – The Essential Element.

Aussie Friends of Treehorn

…..for kids and a stress-free schooling system


STRESS – The Essential Element

“If SBTs, used for high stakes purposes, were not so fundamentally flawed, socially depraved, cognitively dangerous and emotionally damaging to children,they would be treated as a joke.”

STRESS , the vicious whip of NAPLAN {and of all other forms of Standardised Blanket Testing in the galley of schooling) is what makes children and teachers and schools work better, they say. It is the essential ingredient of teaching practices…..so they say. These testing procedures are designed to cause as much emotional turmoil as possible within each child so that each will try harder to get good marks on a one-hit proven-useless test. This kind of fear and emotional concern rubs off on mums and dads and teachers who care deeply about child welfare and their intellectual development. “So what”?” they say.

You know who they are.

There are thousands of Australian educators who are strongly opposed to NAPLAN and challenge it because of its assessment frailties and its contamination of the curriculum. It is a proven dud, costing millions and millions. Despite this, very few others seem anxious enough to consider the impact of such unsuitable devices on the well-being and cognitive progress of school children. That’s a dreadful shame.

It remains the fond belief of all testucators that fear is the best motivational device known to humans. The dreadful consequences are of little interest to them… and educators remain timidly concerned.


Does an aggressive one-hit, fear-ridden, one-size-fits-all data collection do any harm to children? Murdoch agents, ACARA, state education departments, some roughneck parents and society’s dyslexic indifferents know that it does, but they pretend to be ‘tough’’ cookies . They, clearly, support the credo that a few ‘hard knocks’ doesn’t “do ‘em any harm. Do ‘em good.”

AND…For the maintenance of such a national climate of fear, indifference and timidity within the schooling system, excessive aperient forms of school administration have to be employed. …

McGregor’s Theory X, for instance, suggests that superordinate operators must maintain a punitive atmosphere because teachers are basically lazy and do not know as much about the job as these superordinate test-experts do. Blame is a very useful device and the public is gullible enough to believe what management says.

If one turns to Maslow, one can be sure that there is little interest within today’s school systems for trying to fulfil the higher level needs of school children. There is no overt concern nor hierarchical emphasis for full attention to the whole curriculum. There is, unfortunately, a pervading indifference in schools to holistic forms of cognitive development. They find comfort in doing what they are told to do. They close the learnacy shop during April and mid-May. Our schooling is a great big mess, so well described by Leunig in the attachment above.

The new Australian system’s beliefs [d.o.b. 2008] are blind to the holistic learn-how-to-learn techniques in schools; and try to ignore the certainty that there are modes of learning and evaluation that actually sharpen the intellect of every child to the extent that pupils accept the challenge to do everything well, and be happy about it. Learning as much as possible and achieving as high as possible becomes a part of their psyche.

In Australia, the entrenched Nelson-Rudd-Gillard-Pyne belief system reflects the view that life is linear; that school subjects should be isolated from each other, that assembly-line forms of curriculum delivery need to be maintained and that jug-to-mug classroom strategies work best because the goal is to get better scores, not to educate children properly. The system supports the crass belief that achievement can be measured only by numbers – and that such numbers can be used to describe children, teachers, schools, system, countries as it suits them and in a score-based, competitive way. They dare to quantify learning and teaching for goodness sake and talk in placement language! Their conversations depend on the use of score-talk because they know no better. Learnacy-talk seems verboten.

The system ONLY causes STRESS, STRESS, STRESS! Nothing much else.

How often do you read or hear some dyslexic pollie say such things as : “Australia needs to do better. It is only tenth in the world in reading according on the PISA test!” This reliance on the highly-competitive, crazed, unreliable, invalid world test, that is such a risk to the world that it should be discontinued immediately [Zong Zhao], does nothing to enhance the kind of thought processes that enables a country’s schooling system to progress.

{ Famous last words : “Australia will be in the top 5 by 25!.”……..I have spoken.}

There is a problem with the entrenchment of such philosophies within the minds of political parties both ‘down-over’ and ‘up-over’. The recent report from The Parliamentary Inquiry in Australia, after 93 submissions made just a passing reference to the morality of the tests….”Some students are being harmed by this exercise.” Garn. Who’d-have thought!

The use of painful stress on those who do not have the means to resist or ignore, is clearly undemocratic, and, in a continuum of forms of political ideologies stretching from Democracy to Fascism, its use is much closer to the fascist end. All major parties ‘down-under’ in the South Pacific, share similar non-democratic, fascist-style crazy notions that kids have to be scared into learning better, except the New Zealand Labour Party. It’s a stand-out. It cares about kids. U.S. Democrats and the Australian Labor Party focus their attention on the welfare of ‘business’ and ignore child welfare in schools. U.S. Republicans, N.Z. Nationals and Australian Liberals focus their attention on the welfare of ‘big business’ and exploit kids in schools. That’s about the only difference when one considers the school scene in the three countries…..except that ‘down-under’ dwellers tend to follow their ‘up-over’ leaders without question. Australian politicians now exploit school children with the best of them.

[N.Z. Labour Party is a world leader in the belief that the future of their country is in the children presently in their classrooms; that children need to be treated better, with learnacy in mind. While it seems unlikely that they will win this year’s elections – fingers crossed for them, for your sake, you Kiwi kids – they will certainly curtail ‘national standards’, the N.Z. version of NAPLAN and NCLB testing, close all charter schools and seek to find more humane ways of doing things, if they achieve power. May the blessings of an apolitical universe that respects kids at school be with you, NZLP. The world awaits.]


If one thinks that there is not much stress around schools at NAPLAN time, one should just halt for a while…..and consider…

    1. Why is it that bookshops and supermarkets cover their wall with “Practice Tests”? The use of them at school art-BJDarPxCIAAuiQX-jpg-large-620x349and at home must be prolific. Practice stress books.
    2. Why do young mothers on talk-back radio shows, rail against the stress that the testing of their kids causes them; and then do nothing about the tests?
    3. Why do the sales of pharmaceutical performance enhancers spike during this period of the year? Remember the fish oil advert to the right?
    4. Why do parents have to go to extremes to calm their children during the test-induced periods of sleeplessnes? Sing with Dad here.

5. Did you know that increased stress on children from unstable family environments are more likely to suffer damage to their DNA than do others [SMH 9/04/14]?

6. PNSD – Post Naplan Stress Disorder – is now a fact of life. It lasts a lifetime

7. Can you judge the level of professional integrity and reading proficiency of a person by the level of their use of score-talk or learning-talk? ‘Seasy really. Try it.

Why do we have to treat our young children this way ? The use of NAPLAN testing is clearly damaging to our children on a number of fronts. It is professionally immoral, unnecessary, costly, curriculum wrecking and only serves to line the pockets of identifiable plutocrats and their lobbyists.

There’s too much fear about.

How come that there is no known Australian politician in any party, in any state or federal electorate, who is prepared to stand up for kids with sincere determination and spunk in their party room? If there is, no one has heard about her or him. Is the pay-off so controlled that none dares? It’s truly mystifying that those pollies who have children of their own can follow their party’s low-level ideological processes, its totalitarian party line, so timidly; tolerate the ridiculous score-talk without comment; and allow small children to be stressed sick. Isn’t there a pollie somewhere with the stomach to stand up for kids?

Who will test the party line? Which party?

What if the new power-source, Clive Palmer, almost in command of the Senate, became worried about school children? Let’s pray.

Do Aussie adults really want to perpetuate stress-laden tests?

What ever has happened to social justice for kids?

Who cares?


Please make sure you look at www.literacyeducators.com.au
and tell all parents to keep looking at it.

Expect interesting news this week, if you care about kids facing NAPLAN

Phil Cullen […for kids and stress-free schooling] 41 Cominan Avenue Banora Point Australia 2486 07 5524 6443…cphilcullen@bigpond.com


Educational Readings April 11th

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!

The Downside of “Grit”

What Really Happens When Kids Are Pushed to Be More Persistent?

One of the latest GERM bandwagon is the notion of ‘grit.’ In other words, children with ‘grit’ will achieve and from there it follows that driving children is the key to success, or the inverse, that children who are not achieving lack ‘grit’ (i.e. are lazy). Alfie Kohn, typically, deconstructs ‘grit’ in this article.

‘Grit is usually justified as a way to boost academic achievement, which sounds commendable.  But take a moment to reflect on other possible goals one might have for children — for example, to lead a life that’s happy and fulfilling, morally admirable, creative, or characterized by psychological health.  Any of those objectives would almost certainly lead to prescriptions quite different from “Do one thing and never give up.”’


Whole Brain Teaching…?

Last week’s posting of a video showing Whole Brain Teaching generated some discussion.  Being a skeptic, I went looking for an article that backed me up and found one on the Neuroskeptic website. I’ll leave it to proponents of WBT to find reputable articles supporting their claims.

“I’m not saying Whole Brain Teaching is useless, I’m not saying anything about the method itself, but the “brain” claims are misleading. Many of the things they recommend are teaching aids and classroom exercises, and no doubt those are helpful.”


Is ‘filling the pail’ any way to train teachers?

Sticking with the drill and kill theme, here’s an article from 2012 about a similar methodology for ‘training’ teachers.

“I do not fault the teacher in the video for her style. She is performing as taught by a system that, in my opinion, better prepares students for the dutiful obedience of the military than for the intellectual challenges they will encounter in college.”


The Classroom of the Future: Student Centered or Device Centered?

Anthony Cody looking at claims for device centred education. His conclusion is not good for Gates, Murdoch et al.

“And I think these devices will fail ultimately fail to deliver. Here is why.


Do boys dislike school? Or just what they’re learning?

“By not exploring where boys achieve and what this achievement means to them, we know little about how to reengage disenfranchised boys, especially those in the “at-risk” categories, with formal schooling. Learning why they disengaged to begin with, and how to re-engage them, is essential to improving the outcomes for boys in schools.”


Risky Play: Why Children Love It and Need It

“An ironic fact is that children are far more likely to injure themselves in adult-directed sports than in their own freely chosen, self-directed play.  That’s because the adult encouragement and competitive nature of the sports lead children to take risks–both of hurting themselves and of hurting others—that they would not choose to take in free play. “


Scientists’ depressing new discovery about the brain

This one’s not directly educational but I’m sure you will see the relevance …

“Science Confirms: Politics Wrecks Your Ability to Do Math.”


Reading Comprehension: Paper or Screen?

A long and somewhat technical article, but don’t let that put you off.

“This suggests that it will not be long before electronic reading might be a better choice than paper reading for reading for comprehension. Such a claim, of course, depends on the familiarity of readers with the interface of that reading technology and its ability to allow for the reading features listed here.”


This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

Educational Books for Creative Teaching – to develop the gifts and talents of all students

Last week I posted a link to The 50 great books on education.

Here’s Bruce’s own pick of ‘must read’ educational books. Which list do you prefer? What would be in your essential book list?

“I have searched through my postings for some of the best books that provide courage for teachers to make stand against the current anti educational approaches of a market forces competitive ideology.”


50 Ted Talks Every Educator Should Check Out (2014 Edition)

Bruce’s comment: Ideal wet weather viewing or staff Professional Development,

“Using TED Talks to convey an important message or spark creativity might be more effective in teaching students than an individual agenda or preconceived notion of what should be said.”


Is boredom the real epidemic in our schools?

Rapidly being made worse by standards based classrooms…

“It is time we rethink the environments in which we are raising our children and what our priorities are. Are our schools places that provide an environment where childhood can be a happy time full of wonder and exploration? What does that look like and what would it take to make that a reality for children?”


We have lost so much over the past 50 years. We need to return leadership back to creative teachers.

From Bruce’s oldies but goodies file:

“In recent years the myth of the principal as the key to school transformation became persuasive and as result the principal’s status has gone up commensurably. Crowther questions this myth, believing that the reality has not lived up to the rhetoric. The so called ‘heroic leader’ may effect short term change but all too often this is a temporary transformation.”