The Treehorn Express
Testing Teacher Professionalism
About 5 years ago [10 Jan.2010] I wrote an article called TESTING TEACHER PROFESSIONALISM. http://primaryschooling.net/?page_id=1045
Its revised version is offered below. The article, universally ignored by those ‘on the job’ at the time, is presented to you again with the comment that I do not enjoy being so prophetic. The teaching profession, by its feline obeisance to a crazed political obsession, itself driven by an ideological allegiance to the money-hungry neocons at the big-end of town, seems to have lost its way.
When the USA Joint Chiefs of Staff gather for formal occasions, their chests are covered with medals for killing people. Susan Ohanian an American author and teacher suggests that teachers should be awarded similar medals for killing children. She says, “If testing takes over your school, demand similar medals for killing children.” Susan O is a fierce advocate for the abolition of National Testing in the U.S. She is referring, of course, to the killing of children’s learning spirit, because that is what happens when such blanket testing controls each school’s curriculum. As a member of a caring profession, she is concerned about the influence of non-caring politicians in the U.S. on hers.
Are you a member of this caring profession? Used to be? What is your view of your ‘job’?
Australia introduced national blanket testing in 2008 in a ‘ruddy blush’ with malice-before-thought. Following advice from a New York legal eagle, who has little-to-zero school experience, Federal politicians, educrats, pundicrats and arithmetical academics started telling Australian members of the teaching profession how they must teach by setting tests that determine certain styles of instruction and gave their blessing to the corruption of the school curriculum. . The year 2008 needs special mention in history books. It’s a first. 2008 – Australian introduced schooling system based on fear. [Refer: Nelson, Gillard, Klein, Pyne, Murdoch]
There is a difference between the ethical standards of each profession, of course. Soldiering follows the business of killing. The gentlest of soldiers are provided with sophisticated weapons and are trained to kill and destroy. As a rule, they remain loyal to the more regal aspects of their profession. Members of the teaching profession are trained to accept each pupil’s natural desire to learn and to develop each one’s learnacy potential at the same time as each one accumulates knowledge. There is no greater kind of care; no greater profession.
There is no greater professional ambition. But we know that we have been turned around. We are under instruction to ignore the best-known teaching techniques and to use “the soft bigotry of low expectations” [Newkirk] caused by judgemental tests..
A profession is defined as “…A disciplined group of individuals who adhere to high ethical standards and uphold themselves to, and are accepted by, the public as possessing special knowledge and skills in a widely recognised, organised body of learning derived from education and training at a high level, and who are prepared to exercise this knowledge and these skills in the interests of others.
Inherent is this definition is the concept that the responsibility for the welfare, health and safety of the community shall take precedence over other considerations.” [Australian Council of Professions}
The imposition of immoral [yes], high-stakes devices on law-abiding, institutionalised pupil-citizens, by politicians and efficacy hawks, challenges the professional attitudes of Australian teachers in a way that the profession has never before been challenged. Never, in Australia’s history of schooling, have totalitarian methods been used to demand compliance on such a wide scale. Political intolerance for views from the professionals at the chalk-face has seldom been expressed so dictatorially by any Australian government, with the exception of the Bjelke-Petersen regime in Queensland, way back when. Naomi Wolf describes such a movement as a ‘fascist shift’ from democratic ideals.
Teachers have endured some pandemic curriculum assaults in times past, such as the minimal competency movements of the 1980s, but none as potentially destructive as this present one, nor as other-controlled.
Testing in various formative and summative forms is part of the everyday evaluation of pupil progress organised by each school, shared on a pupil-personal level so that parents can also share at the grass-roots and in step with their child’s level of competence at the time. Each head teacher aka principal is an expert at evaluation techniques that embed challenge with process. It’s each pupil’s personal business to evaluate progress…more than the business of anyone else; and each can be taught to share self progress with its parents and teachers. Shared evaluation and sensible curriculum time-limits ensures no ceiling to standards and achievements. It enlivens the ‘hunger for knowledge, insistence on excellence and reverence for language, science and math.” [Obama] and excellence in other learning areas as well. When tyrannical testing controls the curriculum, as it now does, it is dangerous and evil and, according to Martin Luther King, “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetuate it.” Teaching’s professional ethics and the exercise of protection for their clients in the face of heavy fire-power is presently being tested as never before.
This puts our present-day teachers in a position that older colleagues have never had to face. Teachers usually do as they are told and try to ‘do the right thing’ by covering an enormous range of learnings through their day-to-day activities. They are usually the busiest of the caring professions. Susan O suggests that they are placid and complacent because they come from a culture of people-pleasers who are always trying-to-be-agreeable. They need to overcome this disposition towards conciliation and compromise. “They must learn to refuse.” she says.
If they do not, they can be accused of gross passivity or creeping Eichmannism, named after the gent who organised the Holocaust because he was told to do so. There’s a similarity. . It’s a truly worrying professional ethics dilemma. There needs to be determined support from much bigger and ‘higher’ professional power-sources to support the true blue; perhaps some professional organisations and subject associations that truly believe in their own ethical circumstances, and are prepared to shout loudly and exercise some political clout.
During 2009, in Australia, the notion of classrooms as sparkling learning centres was neutered. There is already abundant evidence that testing factories will soon dominate the landscape. Sadly it seems the only way to go while the various professional organisations remain timid and compliant, and the fourth estate exercises its selective scrutiny and preference for controversy.
While the press ignored the visit of Finland’s Professor Jouri Vaijari to Australia and the outcomes of the world’s most comprehensive report the world has seen on contemporary primary schooling for four decades: the Cambridge Primary Review, in October, there was a glimmer of hope in a November 2009 publication of the Queensland Teachers’ Union. Its magazine ‘Professional Magazine’ was a stand-out and provided sufficient detailed, definitive evidence for each professional organisation, Principals’ Association, and Teachers’ Union to tell the federal Minister for Education to desist….to jump in the lake. . If she wants to produce standard-setting tests, then she should send them to schools to use as they see fit or sell them to testucators on the street corner. They are a waste of money.
The evidence fell flat on its face. Nobody noticed. Nobody was told.The bozone layer was too thick.
When the various Principals’ Associations have had high level conferences with ‘world’s best’ speakers over the past decade, their advices have been totally ignored by the Australian media. The public has been mushroomed. It should be expected that such Principals’ Associations would have provided the most dominant leadership roles until now, because they are closer to the action and should know, more than most, the effects of rearranged school time just to cater for coercive accumulation of bits of static knowledge. When the Minister met with 150 Primary Principal representatives on 10-11 November,2009 our puppeteer controlled them with a simple buz-baz conferencing technique. She was good. Like Charlie Chaplin in ‘Modern Times’, the principals’ associations got caught in the big wheel and became part of the machinery. Patient and passive, almost fawning, they joined the powerful sciolistic number crunchers in maintaining rational order for the purveyance of political quackery; arranged so that any resistance by them from then-on would be regarded as wilfulness. Under instruction, they are now forced to ignore any advice from any true professionals like Pasi Sahlberg, Sir Ken Robinson, Marion Brady, Kelvin Smythe, thousands of other true-blue professional; and even close their eyes to the use of underhand means for preventing little Treehorn to talk to his tormentors.
A general educational apostasy is a probable outcome. It’s on the way.
Being professional should not be such a heavy burden. Principals of this decade, at all levels of schooling, face a dilemma of extraordinary proportions. They know of the outcomes of the damage being perpetrated on people who are forced to attend school, and they have a special duty-of-care towards them because of their detention centre circumstances. Principals as head teachers have always claimed top-billing amongst the caring professions, but their attitude towards caring is now under scrutiny. Ever cautious of doubting the intentions of those on whom they rely for organisational advice, for financial and technical support, for employment and placement and usually dutiful to a fault, they are slower to refuse or to question directions than most other professional people. Politicians and non-teaching-professional folk are now talking down to them; ordering them to interfere with healthy child development. That is profoundly clear. So, the principals of those schools that conduct blanket national testing for politically-based publication or for boasting purposes are in a real maelstrom between a rock and a hard place. The betting is that their associations will freeze their professional ethics as they search for a reasonable escape or excuse…..or capitualtion.
It’s a shame.
The children have no advocates of any consequence. While the present school day remains overcrowded with some non-essential chic subjects and some that could be left to un-trained teachers in non-school time; while the curriculum is based on whim and the latest fashion; and while governments refuse to standardise age-years and the number of years of schooling throughout Australia and an Explicit Instruction cult has started to infiltrate, the pupils will have to get used to this kind of attack on their natural love for learning, forget about learning how to learn more, and, as they have done in ages well past, continue to consume large doses of educational baked beans. Professional ethics are being held in abeyance while dictatorial ministers and their eminence grise tell the-once-upon-a-time great, ethical teaching profession what to do and how to do it..
As a profession, teaching is on its last legs. Teaching is changing rapidly into being just a job, a well-controlled occupation. Being told what to do and how to do it[by one person only – the federal minister for education – it must be noted], requires little reference to “high ethical standards….accepted by the public as possessing special knowledge and skills in a widely recognised, organised body of learning derived from education and training at a high level, and who are prepared to exercise this knowledge and to use these skills in the interests of others.” [See above]…. Its demise is devastating.
I repeat. School children in Australia have no advocates. The professional ethics of teachers were their best chance. Gone.
Phil Cullen […….sad, very sad] 41 Cominan Avenue Banora Point Australia 2486 07 5524 6443 firstname.lastname@example.org