Ever Been Test- Stressed?

Treehorn: Why can’t we kids have a test-free, pupil-centred, achievement-oriented, holistic-learning-based-curriculum?
Testucator: Australia has a profit-based, stress-laden, teacher-squirming, unreliable test program, thanks to Murdoch & Klein piled on top of our 1880’s exam-based system We won’t change it. We aren’t allowed.
Treehorn: Why can’t you replace tension with challenge, fear with encouragement, ritual with creativity, teacher-bashing with professionalism, subject-hate with love-of-learning, time-wasting-tests with shared-evaluation ?
Testucator: Simply : We don’t know HOW.

The Treehorn Express

Mass Child Abuse

Testucators and other smart alecks know all about it . Pretend teachers will tell you that their Crying%20at%20test%20time[1]NAPLAN test centre doesn’t create it. “Our classroom is its usual calm self.” “We don’t worry much about NAPLAN.” The invigilating test expert will say, “Didn’t notice any tension.” Tough-guy dads will say, “Didn’t do me any harm! Toughens ‘em up. That’s life.“ The old-timers, ‘been teaching the same way for 20 years type’, will truthfully say, “If we have to do well at NAPLAN scores, we’ll do it. No airy-fairy nonsense for the next ten weeks. Practice. Homework, Practice. Test. Test Test”

All child-respectful teachers know, however, what the fear of failure or of not doing well in a high stakes test can do to a child’s emotions.

The creation of stress and fear is part and parcel of NAPLAN testing as “The NAPLAN Girl” to the right illustrates.

It’s the testing device’s essential element.

Psychologists can discuss its effects on our emotions and immune system in their fashion with precise clarity.
Though all lymphocytes have adrenergic receptors, differential density and sensitivity of adrenergic receptors on lymphocytes may affect responsiveness to stress among cell subsets. For example, natural killer cells have both high-density and high-affinity β2-adrenergic receptors, B cells have high density but lower affinity, and T cells have the lowest density (Anstead, Hunt, Carlson, & Burki, 1998; Landmann, 1992; Maisel, Fowler, Rearden, Motulsky, & Michel, 1989). Second, the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis, the sympathetic–adrenal–medullary axis, and the hypothalamic–pituitary–ovarian axis secrete the adrenal hormones epinephrine, norepinephrine, and cortisol; the pituitary hormones prolactin and growth hormone; and the brain peptides melatonin, β-endorphin, and enkephalin. These substances bind to specific receptors on white blood cells and have diverse regulatory effects on their distribution and function (Ader, Felten, & Cohen, 2001). Third, people’s efforts to manage the demands of stressful experience sometimes lead them to engage in behaviors—such as alcohol use or changes in sleeping patterns—that also could modify immune system processes (Kiecolt-Glaser & Glaser, 1988). Thus, behavior represents a potentially important pathway linking stress with the immune system.

Of course. You knew that. Stress makes you feel crook.

Normal mortals know that school leaders deliberately create a climate of fear and tension for a set propose; and that it is used by Colonel Klinks to create anxiety, nervousness and panic….to actually cause stress. Fear is a motivator. It’s a part of the mean side of life and it is unhealthy. It leaves a fingerprint on a child who doesn’t deserve it, that, most times, lasts a lifetime.

True believers in the teaching child-based fraternity do not like the way that tests are conducted to create distress and fear because, amongst other things….

  • Children cry, vomit, freeze and display all sorts of behaviours when confronted by this insidious enemy. [See NAPLAN’s emblematic child above right.]
  • It suppresses a child’s natural ability to want to learn.
  • Data collected under stressful conditions cannot be of any use.
  • It substitutes other cognitive behaviours, many of which are negative e.g. dislike for learning, hatred of particular subjects, bullying others..
  • Classroom learners cannot easily build up an immune system. It’s just too poisonous for those so young, some as young as 7 years of age..
  • It leads to different kinds of adaptive behaviour.

Biological responses to stressful circumstance are heavily dependent on a personal appraisal of what is going on, which determines the kind of cognitive and emotional responses that are needed to adjust. Each person is different.

I can assure you that the deliberate creation of emotional stress is a dirty, rotten thing to do to kids, and the Klein storm-troopers in Australia have been scaring kids for seven years now. A generation lost. To allow it to happen throughout a school system for any longer is mass child abuse.

Ever Been Test-Stressed?

Ever been in a deliberately created stress situation? I have. Recently. It’s bloody awful. Truly. Your worst enemy doesn’t deserve it; certainly not school children at any stage of their life.

Because of my age, I was told to report for a driver’s licence test. No sweat. I know that I’m one of the best drivers on the road. I’ve driven everywhere. While I do use ‘age’ as an excuse not to drive long distances, I do like driving. I use the rules on the road properly as others around me don’t seem to bother much. My test would be a piece of cake.

I was calm, full of confidence and chirpy as I reported to the local RTA, where a young examiner called my name.

The climate changed immediately. She was obliged to create an atmosphere of tension. She was determined to dominate and maintain impersonal exchanges. It was so obvious. Curt one-directional instructions only. None of the normal social graces were to be exchanged in case I was a marginal testee and personal feelings might enter the equation. You could cut the examination ‘air’ with a blunt knife. “Drive closer to the middle of the road.” “Both hands on the steering wheel.” Faults only. My silent internalised responses were as trite, “Shut up, you twit.” ‘What would you know?” “Get me out of here.”

It was to last less that half-an-hour, so the stern tester-testee atmosphere was tolerable. I kept calm and cool. I thought. I was the inferior being but I could drive efficiently, so I tolerated the inhumanity and looked forward to getting away from the place.

Then I had to sign my report. I could hardly write. My signature did not reflect any signature that I know of. The pen ran everywhere. I was amazed by this reaction. Me! Do that? Shaking?

I was stressed, good and proper….and only about a simple test.

I thought about Australian school children, who have to endure three days of this sort of tension. My heart really bled.


Meanwhile back at the school, NAPLAN teachers and supervisors try to make kids comfortable by giving advice to parents [“make sure they sleep well, give them a healthy breakfast, don’t create tension on test day etc”]. Some organise a class breakfast to ease the tension for an hour or so before the test bell rings; reward the kids after the test with a picnic, movie visit etc……

The Australian Psychological Society comments on these antics with a warning…
“While these physical changes help us try to meet the challenges of the stressful situation, they can cause other physical or psychological symptoms if the stress is ongoing and the physical changes don’t settle down. These symptoms can include:
• Headaches, other aches and pains
• Sleep disturbance, insomnia
• Upset stomach, indigestion, diarrhoea
• Anxiety
• Anger, irritability
• Depression
• Fatigue
• Feeling overwhelmed and out of control
• Feeling moody, tearful
• Difficulty concentrating
• Low self-esteem, lack of confidence
• High blood pressure
• Weakened immune system
• Heart disease.” [Australian Psychological Society]

Child abuse is part and parcel of Australian Schooling, 2015. Right ? Deny it, I dare you.


10995827_764657920269752_7980089748287217038_nWhat are we doing to children, without their   parent’s permission? It’s CHILD ABUSE – pure and simple.

Anyone who allows this kind of inhumanity to continue in an institution that is supposed to care for children, is a dirty rotten so-and-so. Tension is such a different feeling from other emotional encounters. It’s so ugly.

You side-line observers, who ignore NAPLAN issues, may know something about how to test. You know nothing about tension; about tension in the classroom. You know little about teaching properly and your knowledge of psychology is at the dumb level. You are emotionally sick.

Testucation is NOT a part of healthy schooling. Those who support it, even by their silence, should enrol in the Torture 101 course at their local state department test office and then find an occupation that suits that kind of mentality? They should not be anywhere near a school.

Don’t go near a classroom. Find victims elsewhere. [e.g.RTA]

Phil Cullen, 41 Cominan Avenue, Banora Point, Australia 2486 07 55245443 cphilcullen@bigpond.com

Final thoughts:

Will intergenerational discussion, sponsored by our friendly adviser Joe Hockey and various focus groups, include conversations about the abilities and attitudes of the kind of work force and business leadership required for tomorrow’s wonderful world ?

Do we need to keep producing bruised survivors of a bang-crash test system, concerned only with mining for data, that tries to produce graduates who have had a mediocre level of success in a few items of Literacy and Numeracy while other countries ,that teach Learnacy, are producing creative, high achieving, energised individuals whose cognitive abilities have not been impaired?

Why maintain this relic of 1800 British Grammar Schools as our modus operandli, when we have quality teachers who can transform a test-based curriculum into an holistic one with meaning for the future?


Treehorn is the young hero of a book called The Shrinking of Treehorn by Florence Parry Heidi. It’s about a small boy with enormous problems, who remained totally ignored by all adults, including his parents, teachers and principal during an important period in his life. Like all young school pupils, he came to learn that adults don’t take much notice of school kids, no matter how dire the circumstances. Children are left on their own to survive, despite the stress that some very cruel adults impose on them – like the operators and users of NAPLAN the Wombat tests. The Shrinking of Treehorn is a powerful story with a morally-stunning conclusion.

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