A few thoughts

The Treehorn Express


An Ordinary Classroom

It’s an ordinary Australian classroom of, say, Year 3s, aged between 7 and 8 years of age. Treated as special young human beings in most other modern cultures, where they start formal, mainstream schooling at the same age [7 years], we start preparing them for a life of testing and pressure for the next nine years of schooling.

Why not ? It’s a tough world that they have to face, we reckon…….as if they didn’t know.

Fellow carers in various other professions, who indulge in statistics, tell us that the average class of 30 primary school kids, when they arrive at the school door each day, will contain….

  • 10 who have had some sort of major trauma already in their lives.
  • 6 who have been the victim of domestic violence.
  • 7 who have been the victim of sexual violence.
  • 3 who are very poor.
  • 12 who have an identifiable learning difficulty.
  • 10 who have not spoken to any adult, except their teacher, during the past 24 hours.
  • 30 who just want some love and consideration; and help in their quest to learn things that will be important for them.

So….. we hit them at Year 3 with NAPLAN practice tests that the big end of town wants them to do; and pressure them to get better at tests of things that many will eventually hate, for four months of each school year. Great help. We are in accord about this, aren’t we ? Doesn’t make teaching any easier, does it

Phil Cullen […..still hoping that someone will take notice] 41 Cominan Avenue Banora Point Australia 2486 07 5524 6443 cphilcullen@bigpond.com

Neoliberalism – the new religion

Treehorn Express

Neoliberalism – The New Religion

Neoliberalism as an economic device has been around for about 25 years. It impacted on world politics at about the same time as managerialism’s organizational rearrangements. It has proven to be an unhappy marriage.

The meaning of “Liberalism’, in this case, images the Australian meaning ….a conservative, anti-Labour political movement that represents the interests of business….and not in the literal sense of free-wheeling. The addition of the prefix ‘neo’ or ‘new’ to the maxim presents it as an ideology, a pious revival of ‘free’ enterprise, ‘free’ trade, ‘free’ competition, ‘free’ rights to make as much money as possible. It has been described as a capitalistic desire to turn the world into one big shopping mall where anything at all can be bought and sold…..goods, children, workers, smaller businesses, ‘even a whole country’. If a government enterprise makes a profit or has the potential to do so, such enterprises [railways, bus services, schools] should be privatised for profiteering purposes. The principle of Gekkoism – ‘”Greed is good” – is the guiding light.

Rearranged governmental management aka managerialism, based on academic modelling that removed ‘experience’ from administrative requirements, made things a lot easier for favoured ticket-holding sciolists to rule the roost and reinforce neoliberal acquisitions.

Democratic principles were replaced by the profit-motive during the period.
Profit before people. Profit before social services. Profit before environmental welfare. Profit. Profit. Profit.
Leads to : Men before women. White before black. Right-wing before Left-wing. Sycophancy before experience. Adults before children. Bureaucrats before Mums. Testing before learning.

These neoliberalism’s ideals are now entrenched in the basic activities of all major political parties: Labor and Liberal [Aust.]; Republican and Democrat [US]; Labour and Conservative [UK]. There is no real difference between parties, no choice for voters. No party will stand up for kids or treat them as human beings; and it shouldn’t br such a difficult political activity. Kept under control, the back-bench silent majority in each place has no clout and lacks the gumption to try too hard.

“Just as Wall Street has captured corporate America, so has it captured Washington. Few mainstream politicians on either side of the aisle have much interest in fixing things, since they get so much of their financial backing from the Street. Unfortunately for them, the fringes of their parties – and voters – do care.” [Rana Foroohar :Time Magazine July 21 2014. P.15]

I’m not so sure. In Australia? Our fringe-dwelling pollies don’t show much sign of caring, although it would double their votes. Their excuse is that the forces are too heavy. The party bonds are too tight. It is obvious that their counterparts in neighbouring New Zealand care a lot more about schooling ,and will try to ‘fix things’ this year. God bless them. Interesting, don’t you think, that two small countries on opposite sides of the world – Finland and New Zealand – will lead the world in their advocacy for affective and effective schooling?

Despite the serious efforts that Australian schools make in order to cope with the neoliberal politically-based wrecking of a needs-based, affective, achievement-oriented curriculum, there seems to be little indication that things will change during the next decade unless the back benches of the major parties, all of the minor parties and the independents step in. This writer thinks there is a chance for backbenchers to uphold the dignity of a possible democratic regime, slim as it may be. To date however, these ‘fringe dwellers’ have been asleep in the benches [of the house] and in the trenches [of the party room]. They have failed to take an interest in what is happening to Aussie kids at school. The higher-order politicians are busy arranging the local culture for higher profits for their neoliberalist sponsors by using children as inanimate robots; and the backbench mortals in the various political parties let them get away with it. Morally childless, they don’t care much about kids. They are probably not even au fait with what their party’s policies do to kids.

The issue is extremely serious. Australia shouldn’t wait until the social-strain theory becomes a reality, as it has in ages past. The imbalance between the cultural goals of schools and the needs of the greedy is profound. The moral deviance of kleinism’s fear-based schooling has gone too far. It is causing the fabric of a genuine democratic country to disintegrate. Margaret Clark agrees.

The mid to lower levels of Australian society have been sucked in….and say nothing….not even the mushroomed parents kept in the dark. Banking and large corporations, the High Priests of Wall Street are confident that their financial accounts will keep improving, as long as the fringe-dwellers of all political parties and every-day mums and dads remain silent.

I rant , like our observant and child-concerned teacher aide who seriously cautioned parents to pay more attention. Just the same….

Please let me take this further.

The religious fervour of neoliberalism dominates the lives of every Australian….whether they realise it or not. It is a form of religiousity that is an outcome of the profit-based ideology of the mega-rich. We mere back-benchers and ignorant citizens confirm by our actions and lack of action, that that is the way that things must be. All Australian politicians not only believe in the neoliberal articles of faith based on the leifmotif : PROFITS BEFORE PEOPLE; it has seeped into their very being and has become their battle-hymn. Check these cartoons. Get the messages?

polyp_cartoon_make_poverty_history 5106820591_486cef7dfd_b
polyp_cartoon_make_poverty_history 160306Bell512

bramhall-world-higher-education polyp_cartoon_oligarchy

SL EDU. Am Art WallStreetOneWay-thumb-510x473

We have all been conditioned to ignore the aspects of social justice exposed by cartoons such as these that highlight the requirements of neoliberalism: that all should learn, work and slave hard to maintain the superiority of the rich in all aspects of decision-making; that issues of equity are ignored when it comes to basic human rights like worthwhile schooling; that better care is taken of charter schools than for neighbourhood schools; and that the parents of most attenders at high-fee schools make poor judgements in their selection. These and other issues within the moral/political/ education trinity are now part of the value systems of most Australian people; and, to our great discredit are entrenched in the mores of those who run the schools , where Australia’s future is located.


Neo-liberalism in action is akin to the catholic church in action. Their modus operandi deserves comparison. As a practising catholic, proud of it, I can say this without bias or disrespect. The pope in Wall Street is infallible in matters of political policy. His regular encyclicals and thoughts control the daily agenda of all western countries; and other countries as well.

His political cardinals [first class], holding high office in very important political positions, report to him when the opportunity presents itself for a papal blessing; and he issues papal bull to them at appropriate times, personally, or through his high priests in his news-media temples situated in strategic locations around the globe. His word is sacrosanct. Deviation is punishable. .

His Immenseness can change the liturgy in a wink without notice or question; and even the faithful naplanners [i.e. a branch of the trapped monks] way down under will obey. Supplications for more testing, more charter and independent public/private schools will intensify; and some of his cardinals [ 2nd class], splendid ministers of his faith, will added to the pleas “More packaged D.I., more fear, more robustness, more phonics.” Such ministers are exceptionally gifted, vociferous advocates. Beatification in their after-life is assured. The bedevilled child-loving, papa-respectful congregation will bow their heads and just wonder.

This religious kind of network is much, much larger and probably more efficient than the admirable [Weber-ish] bureaucratic organisation of the catholic church. It encompasses millions and millions of buddhist, moslem, shinto, christian, atheist, agnostic, sikh and all other arrangements of a religious nature who accept the Gekko mentality that “Greed is good…..no matter what the cost to human dignity or morality or caution.”

His infallibility dogma is aggressive and It is virtually impossible for those who care for kids to stand up to his crusading army of lobbyists, big-time donors and media units dwelling within his ministerial offices. Their purpose is clear. Round up more neolberal true-believers.

We all – christian, moslem, jew , atheist – despite the frightening, hopefully far-removed, overtones, are expected to accept all the tenets and political ploys, politely; and just not bother to care too much about the probable future.

Australia’s choice is between our basic christian love for children….or….neolibs’ love for money. The conditioning processes have forced us to become consubstantial with our children’s persecutors. It’s very sad, but it is a fact of life.

Phil Cullen [. former acting- pope /evening manager of Pavilion of Holy See, Brisbane Expo, 1988; former ‘Old Boy of the Year’, St. Edmunds Christian Brothers’ College, Ipswich]
41 Cominan Avenue Banora Point, Australia 2486 07 5524 6443 cphilcullen@bigpond.com

Teaching Strategies

Treehorn Express

Teaching Strategies

A Practitioner’s View
Phil Cullen

Any observer of a primary school in action will see a number of different teaching strategies in use during the course of the day.  Many are planned to suit the topic in hand and many spontaneously arrive as particular circumstances arise. There is an enormous assortment. Let’s arrange the kind of  strategies that you might see……

Didactic                                                Group                                                  Maieutic


Adult Controlled                                   Inter-active                                           Child-centred


This continuum is meant to represent individual gradations of teaching styles stretching from didactic styles of teaching to the maieutic.  Between the two extremes, there are hundreds of techniques. In days past, folk would refer only to the use of ‘traditional’ techniques [the left-hand end of the continuum] or ‘progressive’ [right-hand]. It was a mindless distinction, and gave little credit to those who were skilled at strategies located anywhere on the continuum. Good teachers understand the use of all techniques. They move up and down the gradations at different times of the day.

Try this. Visit a school on a Sunday or any holiday. Try to identify the prevailing strategies used in each classroom from the arrangement of the furniture and equipment . If all desks face in orderly rows towards one end of the room, you can be assured that adult-controlled didactic strategies prevail. Think twice about sending your children to a school that has all its desks facing in the same direction. This  statement is not  intended to rubbish the technique itself, even though the furniture setting indicates that didactic chalk-talk methods, overloaded with boredom,  are used for most of the day.  Of course, didactic strategies have to be  used at some stage during the course of each school day; when the teacher needs to be dominant or needs to explain matters in a general fashion or has to use the ‘board’.  As a constant or prolonged  pupilling device, however, such methods are limited in their effectiveness.

With pride, I would claim that my generation was the first in endless decades to remove the screws embedded in static desks, firmly attached to the floor, all facing the same way. It was the ‘enlightened sixties’.  Slow as we were to learn and confined by bureaucratic and exam-based procedures, we adjusted our cojones and went for it. We had started to take the child as the point of reference, and tried to come to terms with the differences between children. We started to recognise the need for active participation and conversation and laughter and fun and freedom to enhance genuine learning and healthy cognitive development..

Until then,  pupils, subject to explicit, direct instruction, in almost every classroom in the country, were expected to sit still on a  chair or a form, all day, every day, for a full year….for twelve years! Yes. The style that schools are now being encouraged to return to.

Didactic Strategies

The left-hand extreme above represents the sermonising strategy. Priests and Ministers use this technique regularly during their weekly instruction at church, when they talk to a large group of sitting people. A good test of its efficacy is to stand outside a church on any Sunday morning at the completion of a service, and ask members of the congregation what the sermon was about. Never-the-less, sermonising is a legitimate, oft-used, didactic-teaching technique in classrooms, and some are better than others at using it. Instructional techniques at this end of the spectrum are favoured where there is a large group to be instructed or when one is preparing a class for a blanket test and wants each one in the class to be at the same level.  On such occasions, there is little choice. ‘Jug to mug’ process of instruction are favoured. Add plenty of practice and a fear-of-failure to the class culture and approved scores will be ejected at the same time on test day…..sometimes with the morning breakfast..

Usually, there is no place for the expression of emotions or basic humanity. Didactic techniques are  usually gradgrind/hard-grind that expect clear, formal, testable outcomes.

A didactic strategy can be improved upon as a teaching technique if a chalkboard or whiteboard is used… or an OHP or a Power-point presentation or a computer program or some other appropriate teaching-aid. Just listening has limitations; so, as one moves along the continuum towards the right , learning-attention is increased. Eyes and hands join the ears.  Packaged schemes, often described as ‘teach-proof’, can be used by the instructors. I used to love the SRA Structured Reading kits!

In my own time as a student-teacher, we were instructed in ‘school method’. All were didactic techniques; and the textbooks of the time emphasized only adult-controlled methods. We were obliged to practise our blackboard writing as often as possible. We were instructed on how to write on the black-board while keeping alert for misdemeanours that might be committed behind our backs. [In many authorities at the time, left-hand writers were not employed as teachers even though they had an advantage. As they moved across while writing, they did not stand in front of the screed.] We also learned not to repeat the reply to our questions because children must learn to remember what we tell them. I don’t recall learning much more than this from our lecturers. Direct teaching was the only mode, it seemed. We learned some useful tricks of the trade from teachers at our practising schools, but were  never taught to use a variety of teaching strategies. We should have been.

When the study of the use of all teaching strategies is combined with the knowledge of teaching and learning research as revealed by Dunkin, by Gage, by Biddle and others [i.e. about what really happens in the teacher-pupil exchanges], the topics used at teacher-preparation institutions became more academically rigorous. They became ones of high academic calibre, practicality and of prolonged practice-based study. I think.

As one describes teaching techniques, using the above framework,  moving from left to right one can also see that teachers are moving off the stage and, as pupils are allowed to talk to each other, the pupils start to believe that they have more control over their learning. Group practices are brought into play. There is an enormous number of group settings [5. Learning in Small Groups] and, as we move along further, the teacher’s role starts to become one of confidence trickster. They ‘set up’ the learning exchanges. As they move more to the right, pupils undertake learning with greater enthusiasm because they start to believe that they have control, that learning is their business; and they want to learn more about the topic-in-hand and share personal achievements with their teacher and others. Learning becomes personal. Evaluation is a serious part of it. The act of learning per se becomes important. Each has a different way of ‘doing it’.

The desire to learn is a natural thing for pupils and has been from birth.  When they feel that they have control over the choice of what they are learning, the world is theirs. As for teachers, they are teaching learnacy at the same time as they are pupilling knowledge because child-centred efforts are more effective than any other kind. The two-way exchange, called ‘pupilling’ is a serious affair. I will teach; you will learn. It’s why schools are established.

As pupils and teachers  move along the continuum of teaching strategies towards the more affective end [repeat AFFECTIVE],  the strategies become much more complex and demanding. The school day usually provides a healthy mix.

Let’s now consider consider the maieutic styles, keeping in mind that true learning resides in each individual. It has to emerge. It cannot be forced with the likes of fear of examination failure, heavy didacticism and  other crippling personal, stress-ridden  distortions. The emergence of learning confidence through true learnacy techniques is paramount. The teacher’s pupilling task is to draw it out and refine it.

Maieutic Strategies

Maieutic strategies convey midwifery roles to teachers; and the strategies towards the right-hand end of the continuum imply that a child’s natural desire to learn is helped to manifest itself as the child develops. The teacher is there at the birth of learning of something new and nourishes the child’s personal control of it. Learnacy is part of a child’s psyche from birth and its development is the real business of the concerned teacher. The pupilling processes accelerate cognitive development with genuine concern for achievement. As one moves to the right along our continuum, [towards ultimate Emile-type activities] the methods become more inter-active, more pupil centred. The pupil starts to take centre-stage. Since there has to be close one-to-one contact as much as possible, this style of interaction requires intense effort. It is extremely physically demanding and mentally challenging on the teacher. The smaller the class, the greater the interaction and more purposeful the learning and sharing of effort. Smaller classes do not mean easier teaching, as smart-alec, ‘ne’er-do-anything’ critics are wont to espouse. The closer one gets to one-on-one pupilling the more intense the interaction becomes and the greater the learning outcomes.

There are schools that try to operate on the premise that pupils should believe in full control of learning.  It’s a hyper-version of confidence trickery. When pupils feel that they are learning what they want to learn, even though the teacher has ‘set them up’, the world is their oyster, so the classroom becomes learning-attractive and achievement-effective in every sense. I have only ever visited one school that verged on the extreme right-hand maieutic strategy. It was a splendid infant school in a suburb of Bristol, England [Sea Mills] where quality teachers performed extraordinary confidence tricks. The children really believed that they were doing what they wanted to do. They arranged their own curriculum – what they wanted to learn – and the school took it from there. Extreme? Yes. Successful? Yes. Popular with parents? Outrageously so. Children learn?  Amazing achievements.

Higher up the school, one has difficulty in imagining a present-day Huntingdale Tech., Victoria, kind of secondary education where attendance at classes is completely voluntary…a school that really believed that “Learning resides in the individual. It is a voluntary act.” and it shaped its curriculum to suit…..no graduating examinations….advice offered  to post-school occupations and institutions [e.g. Universities] when requested?  The laws of compulsory education insist that children attend school….and say nought about attendance at classes.

Some people used to think that the term ‘open education’ or ‘alternative schooling’ referred to these child-centred activities to the right and, because some classrooms appeared as if there was little adult-control and too much freedom…children allowed to walk around and talk to each other… they did not like it. The term ‘open’ however was meant to apply  only to school architecture , in places where teachers shared large spaces. The use of ‘open’ as a learning descriptor was a monumental misuse of the English language. Use of terms such as  ‘traditional’ and ‘progressive’ teaching styles, ‘direct’ and ‘child-centred’ instruction are sterile terms when used in a classroom context. It’s a plain, fair-dinkum pupilling place with the pupil in the middle of the teacher’s eye. Critics just did not appreciate the distinction, nor the terminology, nor what was happening in  schools. Still don’t.

If official judgements are based on misused terminology, the future is bleak.


Phil Cullen [….still looking for more humanity in the classroom]

41 Cominan Avenue, Banora Point Australia 2486

07 5524  6443



Education Readings July 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!

Is Education as We Know it On its Way Out?

Your thoughts?

“Call me old-fashioned, but in my mind, I still feel teachers have their place in the world. Setting aside other considerations, there is something intangible that a one-to-one interaction with a teacher brings that cannot be replaced. Every person I’ve ever met has a story about at least one teacher who played a significant role in shaping who this person is. Not all teachers are the same, and it is telling that every person mentions this one teacher who made an impact.”


How One Designer Bridged the Gap Between Play and Learning

How can we reflect this in primary schooling?

“When we talk about playing and learning, we naturally think of children’s museums. Most major cities offer some experience like this, where kids are able to get their hands dirty, and — shocking! — learn something at the same time. The museums — at least the good ones — are always both engaging and interactive in a way that’s fun for kids, but they’re also fun for grown-ups too. As we’ve been reporting for our series on play next month, it got me wondering: What goes into creating great museum experiences, and how do designers go about them?”


Leonard Cohen on Creativity, Hard Work, and Why You Should Never Quit Before You Know What It Is You’re Quitting

Not strictly educational but I’m sure you will be able to make the connections. This is a gem.

“Before I can discard the verse, I have to write it… I can’t discard a verse before it is written because it is the writing of the verse that produces whatever delights or interests or facets that are going to catch the light. The cutting of the gem has to be finished before you can see whether it shines.” 


Ray Bradbury on Failure, Why We Hate Work, and the Importance of Love in Creative Endeavors

On a similar vein to the above article …

“I can only suggest that we often indulge in made work, in false business, to keep from being bored. Or worse still we conceive the idea of working for money. The money becomes the object, the target, the end-all and be-all. Thus work, being important only as a means to that end, degenerates into boredom. Can we wonder then that we hate it so?”


An Open Letter to My Son’s Kindergarten Teacher

This is good!

It concerns me a bit that you are going to require him to “With guidance and support from adults, explore a variety of digital tools to produce and publish writing, including in collaboration with peers.” I appreciate the guidance and support from adults, in fact I expect it, but I’m confused about him publishing his writing. You see, he can’t write.”


This is educational ‘innovation’?

If you still have any notion that the OECD/PISA manipulation of education has any beneficial features, this article should put an end to that. More madness …

“The ability to measure innovation is essential to an improvement strategy in education. Knowing whether, and how much, practices are changing within classrooms and educational organisations, how teachers develop and use their pedagogical resources, and to what extent change can be linked to improvements would provide a substantial increase in the international education knowledge base. Measuring Innovation in Education offers new perspectives to address this need for measurement.”


Stuck in the past?

UK academic Steve Wheeler:

“… there is conflicting evidence that technology has actually delivered any significant change to the pedagogy practiced in school classrooms. The answer to the question for many schools, is that technology brings very little change to the way teachers educate. The mass production pedagogy model stubbornly persists, and personalised learning seems far from the reach of many young people.”


Marion Brady: We Need the Right Kind of Standards, Not CCSS

Another excellent article by Marion.

“School subjects are just tools—means to an end. We don’t tell surgeons which scalpels and clamps to use; what we want to know is their kill/cure rate. We don’t check the toolbox of the plumber we’ve called to see if he (or she) brought a basin wrench and propane torch; we want to know that when the job’s done the stuff goes down when we flush. We don’t kick the tires of the airliner we’re about to board; we trust the judgment of the people on the flight deck.”


This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

The Neuroscience Behind Stress and Learning

Bruce: “The real oil about brain friendly learning”

“The realities of standardized tests and increasingly structured, if not synchronized, curriculum continue to build classroom stress levels. Neuroimaging research reveals the disturbances in the brain’s learning circuits and neurotransmitters that accompany stressful learning environments. The neuroscientific research about learning has revealed the negative impact of stress and anxiety and the qualitative improvement of the brain circuitry involved in memory and executive function that accompanies positive motivation and engagement.”


Classrooms Flooded with Devices

Article from New Zealand with relevance all over!

‘“It is increasingly important,” says the ministry’s “head of student achievement” Rowena Phair, “that school leavers have the skills to succeed in the digital age”. A student with their own device can “learn any time and anywhere”, and “connect and collaborate” with students and experts outside the school. Plus there are loads of great educational resources online. That sounds fair enough, yet there’s something naggingly familiar about some of the rhetoric. Sixty years ago, Skinner said his Teaching Machine offered “vastly improved conditions for effective study”. Last month, a report from the ministry-backed 21st-Century Learning Reference Group told us that digitally-based education “can significantly improve learning outcomes”’.

But is that really true?


Edutopia – a great site for creative teachers

Posted by Bruce on his blog.

A site that regularly supplies us with interesting ( and practical ) links is Edutopia. Edutopia is a site set up by George Lucas of Star Wars fame. I recommend you joining their  newsletter – add your e-mail on the Edutopia site.”


Chipping Away: Reforms That Don’t Make a Difference

‘A sculptor was once asked how he could start with a big block of marble and create a beautiful statue of a horse. The answer: “I just take my hammer and chisel, and I knock off everything that doesn’t look like a horse.”’

‘Among a plethora of bad ideas being shoved at educators today, here are five myths that we should knock off:’


From Bruce’s oldies but goodies file:

Educating for Creativity

Bruce: “An oldie – always good to read/listen to what Sir Ken has to say.”

“It is a shame that schools, secondary schools in particular, have such fixed routines that ensure their students receive an outdated fragmented view of learning and in the process that deaden the human spirit.”


Linda-Darling Hammond: Lessons for New Zealand from America

Bruce’s comment: “Perfect pre –election reading” (New Zealand has a general election on September 20, which we hope will bring the end of GERM in New Zealand).

“‘The Flat World and Education’,  a book by Linda Darling-Hammond is a must read for educationalists and politicians who want to develop an alternative to the technocratic style of education that has been slowly destroying the creativity of students and teachers  in New Zealand and, in turn, the social fabric of our increasingly troubled society.”


Learning is about constructing meaning.

An oldie:Wise words from Dame Marie Clay.

“I was pleased, many years ago, to read an article by Marie Clay in which she wrote about the importance of the creative arts in the learning process. All too often, as soon as children enter school, early attempts to write and draw are subsumed by a sect like obsession with literacy. It may be time to redress the balance? In earlier, more creative times, it was common to see ‘language experience’ and ‘related arts’ approaches to learning.”


This week’s contributions from Phil Cullen

Corporal Punishment

Australia, under the Tony Abbott led government, is returning to the 19th century in many ways. This includes suggesting that corporal punishment has a place in 21st century schools. Say no more …


People are Funny Cattle

Aussies Friends of Treehorn

People are Funny Cattle

No harm
We sure gave him a bad time, didn’t we? Corporal punishment which has not been dispensed in any Australian school for many decades hit the headlines when it was mentioned in passing by a famous Australian ‘educator’ who has the ear of the Minister, the print-press and television shows. This expert is so well known, that you know who he is without his name being mentioned, don’t you?

His opinion is more highly regarded by political power-brokers than anyone else in Australia at the present time, it would seem. He has been featured in newspapers, TV shows, magazines and been the subject of endless letters to the editor, because our sanctimonious commentators don’t like to think of our school children being hurt….physically, that is.

People are funny cattle. They can lambast an inexperienced, but noteworthy school critic, yet tolerate the insane cruelty perpetrated on a million school children every year, the kind of cruelty that damages a child for the rest of its life; remaining constantly silent about this annual child-bashing catastrophe! Australia has developed a mind-set that treats its children in an extremely casual way. Just as one cow said to the other “Mooooo.”, the other replied, “I was just about to say the same thing”, they’ll scream blue murder about a bruise on the bum, because it’s easy to talk about and has a compliant audience; but ignore the emotional assault on our children’s psyche because those elected to power tell them that it is okay to ignore this sort of thing.

confusedMass emotional assault on school children is now a fact of life in this place. It is government sponsored, and operates deliberately under an avalanche of gimmicks that just don’t work. Each is a cover-up, a diversion from the reality of achievement-based, purposeful schooling. Each tries to disguise the Naplan damage. If the Klein-based schooling system, started in 2008, is not now bordering on chaos, it is certainly confusing. Leunig, once again, illustrates the confusion.
While a smack on the bum draws more attention than more serious damage……

I’m the one in the middle…..

Not understood! The secret springs of action
Which lie beneath the surface and the show
Are disregarded; with self-satisfaction
We judge our neighbours, and they often go
Not understood.
[Thomas Bracken]
Phil Cullen [……quoting

Not understood, we move along asunder;
Our paths grow wider as the seasons creep
Along the years; we marvel and we wonder
Why life is life, and then we fall asleep
Not understood.

Not understood, we gather false impressions
And hug them closer as the years go by;
Till virtues often seem to us transgressions;
And thus men rise and fall, and live and die
Not understood.

Not understood! Poor souls with stunted vision
Oft measure giants with their narrow gauge;
The poisoned shafts of falsehood and derision
Are oft impelled ‘gainst those who mould the age,
Not understood.

Not understood! The secret springs of action
Which lie beneath the surface and the show,
Are disregarded; with self-satisfaction
We judge our neighbours, and they often go
Not understood.

Not understood! How trifles often change us!
The thoughtless sentence and the fancied slight
Destroy long years of friendship, and estrange us,
And on our souls there falls a freezing blight;
Not understood.

Not understood! How many breasts are aching
For lack of sympathy! Ah! day by day
How many cheerless, lonely hearts are breaking!
How many noble spirits pass away,
Not understood.

O God! that men would see a little clearer,
Or judge less harshly where they cannot see!
O God! that men would draw a little nearer
To one another, — they’d be nearer Thee,
And understood.

Thomas Bracken

Peter Green; “Dancing into the Apocalypse’.

The Treehorn Express

Peter Greene is a classroom teacher who resides at Curmudgucation  [http://www.curmudgucation.blogspot.com]. It’s a first rate site conducted by a classroom teacher. in the U.S. who has given me permission to change any American references to Australian.

Australia blindly follows whatever the US wants us to do, so Peter’s comments apply directly to Aussie teachers. The reformist scato-meme [that Pasi Sahlberg calls GERM] now infests most of the English-speaking world because Messrs Murdoch, Klein, Pearson and their money-hungry ilk, speak English.  It’s the same dog….a mongrel bitch…. different leg-action.

Peter describes himself as “ A grumpy old teacher trying to keep up the good classroom fight in the new age of reformy stuff.”
You might like to check out the original article in Allan Alach’s latest ‘Treehorn Readings’ or on Curmudgucation or on Bruce Hammond’s blog. You will be interested in the interesting side-band articles in each one.
Thank you, Peter Greene. May lots and lots of Aussie teachers join you in this crusade….or start their own.

Dancing into the Apocalypse

Peter Greene

I’m writing this now so that I can read it to myself when the first day of school rolls around. Sometimes you have to be your own motivational speaker at the start of the new year.


Why the World of Public Education Has Never Been Worse, and Why I’m Excited To Be a Teacher Anyway

How Bad Is It? 

It is almost breathtaking to step back and try to take in the wide array of forces lined up against the great traditions of Australian public education.

State parliaments are re-writing the rules of employment to end the idea of lifetime teachers, and an entire organization has been set up to replace them with an endless cycle of barely-trained temps.

Data miners are rewriting the entire structure and purpose of schools to focus on gathering data from students rather than actually educating them, treating them as simply future marketing targets.

A far-reaching network of rich and powerful men is working to take the public education system as we know it and simply make it go away, to be replaced by a system that is focused on generating profit rather than educating children.

Teachers have been vilified and attacked. Our professional skills have been questioned, our dedication has been questioned, and we have been accused of dereliction and failure so often that now even our friends take it as a given that “Australian schools are failing.”

One of the richest, most powerful men on the planet has focused his fortune and his clout on recreating the education system to suit his own personal ideas about how it should work and what it should do. He’s been joined in this by other wealthy, powerful men who see the democratic process as an obstruction to be swept away.

We have been strong-armed into adopting new standards and the programs that come with them. These are one-size-fits-all standards that nobody really understands, that nobody can justify, and that are now the shoddy shaky foundation of the new status quo.

And in many regions, our “educational leaders” are also part of the reformster movement. The very people on the state and local level who are charged with preserving and supporting public education are, themselves, fighting against it.

All education is now slave to standardized testing. We live in a bizarro world where we pretend that test results tell us everything from whether a seven year old is college material to whether teachers (and the colleges at which they studied) are any good. The future of teachers, schools, and students themselves, ride on these tests that, when all is said and done, measure nothing except the students’ ability to take these tests.

Tony%20Moanie%202[2]The Prime Minister agrees with most of the forces lined up against public education. At his best, he has simply stood by while public education has come under attack; at his worst, he and his administration have actively implemented policies to break down our public education traditions.

It is true, as some folks like to say, that public education has been tossed about by the winds of one edu-fad or another. Anyone who has worked for more than ten years can rattle off a list of Next Big Things that have come and gone while teachers closed their doors and kept working.

But this is different. This is worse. This wind comes with more political power, more widespread support, and more power to do real damage than anything before. If these people achieve all their goals, what’s left will be a system that looks nothing like the American public education system, and teaching as a career will be done.

So Why Am I Not Bailing Out?

First of all, none of what I’m saying here is meant as criticism of people who have left the profession. You can’t do what you can’t do, and when you reach your limit, you have to make the choice you have to make. Not all of us have the same kind of strength, and we do not all face the same level of challenge. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I can say why I still think it’s worth the fight.

There has never been a tougher time for public education, and that means there has never been a time when teachers have been needed more.

Education can’t run on autopilot any more. I don’t mean it shouldn’t (though that has always been true), but that anything resembling an autopilot or inertia or just a gravitation in the right direction has been busted, shattered. Public education will take its direction from the people who fight to get their hands on the steering wheel. Teachers need to be in that fight.

Someone has to look out for the students. Someone has to put the students’ interests first, and despite the number of people who want to make that claim, only teachers are actually doing it. The number of ridiculous,  time-wasting, pointless, damaging, destructive policies that are actually making it down to the pupils themselves is greater than ever before. Somebody has to be there to help them deal with it, help them stand up to it, and most of all, help them get actual educations in spite of it.

I don’t want to over-dramatize our role as teachers, but this is what professionals do. Police, lawyers, doctors, fire fighters– they all go toward people in trouble. They run toward people who need help. That’s what teachers do– and teachers go toward the people who are too young and powerless to stand up for themselves. And for professionals, the greater the trouble, the greater the need.

The fact that public education is under attack just means that our pupils, our communities, need us more than ever.

Is There Hope?

Yes. Yes, there is.

The new high stakes test-driven corporate status quo runs on money, and money is not infinite. Particularly when resistance picks up and the ROI isn’t looking so great. The big bold reformster programs all have one thing in common– they have not produced any sort of success. Well, two things– they also all required a big boost of money and “advocacy groups” to even happen in the first place.

The naplanners of Australia are not going to win and neither are we going to simply set the clock back to twenty years ago. Our education system, our schools are going to be different, changed. And we will deal with that, too.

The naplanners are tourists, folks just passing through for a trip that will last no longer than their interest. They’ll cash in their chips and move on to the next game. But we’ll still be here, still meeting the challenges that students bring us. They’ve committed to education for as long as it holds their attention and rewards them; we’ve committed for as long as we can still do the work. They think they can sprint ahead to easy victory; we understand that this is a marathon.

I don’t care if this is a passing storm or the apocalypse. I choose not to meet it huddled and hoping that I’ll somehow be spared. And while we keep defaulting to battle metaphors, I’d rather not get into the habit of viewing every other human as an enemy that I have to combat with force of arms. I learned years ago that you don’t wait for everything to be okay to do your dance and sing your song; you keep dancing and singing, and that’s how everything gets closer to okay.

We can do this. We will do this. And our pupils will be better for it.

The poetic pic of our leader was supplied by an Aussie teacher
Phil Cullen  [….. relying on teachers to getup&getatem] 41 Cominan Avenue Banora Point  Australia  2486    07 55246443   cphilcullen@bigpond.com
Aussie Schoolies Only
CryingWhat kind of child abuse produces this reaction?
Corporal punishment ?   [Refer : Kevin Donnelly]
  Emotional distress?      [Refer: Christopher Pyne]

Education Readings July 18

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!

Creativity is rejected: teachers and bosses don’t value out-of-the-box thinking.

“Unfortunately, the place where our first creative ideas go to die is the place that should be most open to them—school. Studies show that teachers overwhelmingly discriminate against creative students, favoring their satisfier classmates who more readily follow directions and do what they’re told.”

“It’s ironic that even as children are taught the accomplishments of the world’s most innovative minds, their own creativity is being squelched.”


Poverty and the Moral Imperative of Education

An important article by Peter Greene, dismantling the neoliberal claim that education is the cure to poverty.

“This is the “education fixes poverty” mantra. If we get everybody through high school prepared for a good job (defined in many PD sessions as “a job with an above-the-poverty-line” wage) then nobody will be poor and everybody will be healthy and happy and successful. There are two huge problems with this argument.”

“Failing school does not cause poverty. And it’s not even right to say poverty causes failing school. The high level of failure among students living in poverty is a sign that our schools are not meeting the needs of those students.”


Sweden’s School Choice Disaster

Neolibs – take careful note…

“Advocates for choice-based solutions should take a look at what’s happened to schools in Sweden, where parents and educators would be thrilled to trade their country’s steep drop in PISA scores over the past 10 years for America’s middling but consistent results. What’s caused the recent crisis in Swedish education? Researchers and policy analysts are increasingly pointing the finger at many of the choice-oriented reforms that are being championed as the way forward for American schools. While this doesn’t necessarily mean that adding more accountability and discipline to American schools would be a bad thing, it does hint at the many headaches that can come from trying to do so by aggressively introducing marketlike competition to education.”


Great technology requires an understanding of the humans who use it.

“MIT BLOSSOMS, one of the most exciting and effective uses of educational technology to help high school students learn math and science, doesn’t boast the latest in artificial intelligence or adaptive algorithms. Its secret weapon is, rather, a canny understanding of human psychology—both students’ and teachers’. Technologically speaking, its basic model could be executed with an old television and VCR.”


How can schools feed student appetites for sourcing sustainable produce?

“Thankfully the workshop leaders were undaunted by the challenge of slowly unpicking the jargon to help students understand why it’s important to think about how their meals got to their plates. From food miles and Fairtrade to the environmental and health benefits of becoming a vegetarian, no aspect of the journey from soil to supermarket shelf was unexplored. At the end of the class, the penny finally dropped. Asked what they can do to source more sustainably, the response from pupils was emphatic: “Grow my own vegetables,” shouted one girl. “Buy foods locally,” offered another.”


This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

Transforming School Culture Through Mutual Respect

Bruce: “Importance of valuing mutual respect.”

“A pivotal aspect of fostering mutual respect among teachers, students and staff is adhering to the following eight expectations, which I’ve witnessed fundamentally change the way schools function.”


Study: Too Many Structured Activities May Hinder Children’s Executive Functioning

Bruce: “Over structuring results in students missing out on social skills – is this happening in NZ classrooms?”

“When children spend more time in structured activities, they get worse at working toward goals, making decisions, and regulating their behavior, according to a new study.

Instead, kids might learn more when they have the responsibility to decide for themselves what they’re going to do with their time. Psychologists at the University of Colorado and the University of Denver studied the schedules of 70 six-year olds, and they found that the kids who spent more time in less-structured activities had more highly-developed self-directed executive function.”


From Bruce’s oldies but goodies file:

The transformative Power of Interest : Annie Murphy Paul – Dan Pink and Carol Dweck

Bruce’s comment: “I really like the message of this blog. There has been a recent Education Review Office Report on Secondary school achievement saying the most impressive school was one where the school tailored the curriculum to students’ interests e.g. linking maths to information technology. Seems obvious to me. Personalised learning is the pedagogy of relationships.  We need to focus on what students are thinking – they are too often a neglected resource ignored by teachers to busy teaching to listen to student ‘voice’..The blog below is about the transformative power of interest.  The future is about learning not education. Education is what someone gives to you – learning is what you do yourself. We need to focus on ‘teaching’ students ‘how to learn’ – to ‘seek, use and create their own knowledge’ as it says in the 2007 New Zealand Curriculum.


Children as scientists

Bruce: “An oldie – something written in 1947 which is reflected in 2007 New Zealand Curriculum”

“I recently came across an extract from an article called ‘Children are Scientists’ written in 1947 by Herbert Zim. That we haven’t yet created schools based on assisting students research their own questions and concerns just goes to show how much ‘our’ curriculums, what ‘we’ think is important for them to learn, has ignored the source of real motivation for students to learn.”


More ‘Magic’ of Teaching

Bruce: “Evolution of computer use in classrooms by a creative South Island principal”

“It would seem to me that if we want to develop a creative education system, able to develop the talents of all students, then we need to listen more to those teachers who have gifts they could share with others. All too often ‘we’ think that all good ideas come from ‘on high’ but hopefully this myth is losing its power as current curriculums are being found wanting – ironically by the very people who introduced them.”


The killing of creativity by the technocrats.

In this posting Bruce references an article by Kelvin Smythe about “St” John Hattie.  This is a must read, as Hattie and others of his ilk threaten true holistic child centred education.

“As I visit classrooms I have become increasingly concerned about the use of a number of strategies as defined by John Hattie and promulgated by the contracted advisers spreading the word about his ‘best practices’. Somehow, just because Hattie has amalgamated every piece of ‘school effectiveness’ research available ( mainly it seems from the USA) his findings, it seems, ought to be taken for read. The opposite ought to be the case – we need to be very wary of such so called ‘meta research.’. More worrying however is that the approaches he is peddling is pushing into the background the home grown innovative creative learning centred philosophy that was once an important element in many classrooms. Overseas experts aways seem to know best – or those that return with their carpet bag full of snake oil.”


This week’s contributions from Phil Cullen

Want to improve teaching? Ask a teacher

“The media has been full of complaints about poor-quality teachers. But does the answer really lie in choosing teachers with better academic marks? Teacher Chris Fotinopoulos is not convinced.”


There are many ways of being smart… Headteacher writes to pupils saying not to worry about exams.

“You might hope that every school would want pupils to work their very hardest – and pass any exams with flying colours.

But one primary head has decided there is more to life than educational achievements, and has written to her final-year pupils to tell them not to worry about their results.

Headmistress Rachel Tomlinson and her head of year six, Amy Birkett, told children that there are ‘many ways of being smart’ in the message, which was included with their Key Stage Two results.

They asked the 11-year-old pupils to remember that the scores ‘will tell you something, but they will not tell you everything’.”