Treehorn: It’s been a long time. Quo vadis, School Learning?

Aussie Friends of Treehorn
encouraging adults to think sensitively, to care for kids, to make wise choices….with their hearts in gear, their pens active and their votes available .
It’s NAPLAN MEASURING WEEK..time for the pundits to write their editorials and letters to the editor with advices on how to improve NAPLAN  scores.
NAPLAN has nothing to do with learning. It has nothing to do with teaching. It has nothing to do with real schooling. It has to do with finding fault and making money. It’s an ineffective, unreliable and invalid device that makes the most of young children’s vulnerability and it deliberately threatens their cognitive development and emotional stability for the sake of a score. 

Treehorn – Still Going?

It’s been a long while since Allan Alach and I issued the first email copy of The Treehorn Express on in July 2011 to combat the stupidity of NAPLAN and its like being imported from New York..  Multi-talented former N.Z. primary principal Allan’s regular Friday readings are now extremely popular around the globe and we also have tried to give inspiration to primary and other teachers through regular and irregular email comments. We’ve been appealing to the hearts of adults. Here are some short extracts from those early days.

Alfie Kohn, widely respected author and educational commentator was asked what he thought of kleinism [fear-based learning]. Part of his response was…

We are living through what future historians will surely describe as one of the darkest in education history– a time when teachers, as well as the very idea of democratic public education, came under attack; when carrots and sticks tied to results on terrible tests were sold to the public as bold “reform”; when politicians who understand nothing about learning relied uncritically on corporate models and metaphors to set education policy; when the goal of schooling was as misconceived as the methods, framed not in terms of what children need but in terms of “global competitiveness” – so that large corporations can triumph.

There will come a time when people will look back on this era and ask “How the hell did they let this happen?” By speaking out, we’re saying that we need to act before we lose an extra generation to this insanity. The corporate-style school reformers don’t have the research on their side. All they have is the power to impose their ignorance through legislation. We must now make sure that the conversation about the how’s and why’s of education are driven by real educators.

In short, we [schoolies] have to take back our schools.”

A march on the capital was being planned at the time. Thousands of teachers and parents then marched on the capital, led by the likes of the Optout Association, NY Professor Diane Ravitch, Matt Damon [actor] and others. They were met by White House officials…all to no avail. The child-bashing, money-grabbing counter-forces are far too powerful up over….and they control us just as efficiently, down under.

At about the same time, Treehorn reported:

“Our Australian PM, when she was Minister, wanted to gain kudos for  her education efforts. Education is always a soft target,especially when one mentions ‘basics’,  ‘failure’. ‘kids on the check-out-counter’, ‘can’t spell’, ‘bullying’….all junk terminologies used by the uninformed. Off to the U.S. for answers she went. At her first cocktail party, she happened to speak to a New Yorker who ran a fear-driven school district that, he claimed was a successful school district. She fell for it.  Her collaborator claimed that the district was better-off because he was there; and that he really enjoyed running tests and scaring the pants off teachers. A very boastful chappie, he was, and, as she was, totally disrespectful of children’s feelings, parents’ concern and teachers’ ethics. Julia bought his scheme.  [We should have sent Bronny. She’d have cost less. All told, Julia is still costing us billions and billions in a lost future of sparkling cognition, creativity,  initiative and financial development]. She became quite determined and, subsequently,  introduced the Klein system of schooling to Australia without any meaningful consultation with Aussie Schoolies. With Aussie Bankers, yes. They paid his way down under. Joel Klein knows best, she claimed! He now proudly boasts of having introduced a “…hard data system into Australia. Come and talk to me about it.”  It’s his. [This is a direct quote. He proudly claims ownership of the Australian system of schooling….and…  NAPLAN operatives can now claim to be devotees or followers, at least,  of the Joel Klein mode of schooling. ]  

Academic measurer Barry McGaw put the scheme together for Julia and measurers continue to run the show.  Collegial, experienced, studious, child-conscious schoolies were not head-hunted nor were consulted. Parents are not allowed a choice in the present scheme of things.  They might prefer their kids to be taught instead of measured.

* Who’s Joel Klein”? He’s a lawyer who likes money. He later left the NY school district [in some chaos] and took a job with Rupert Murdoch. Worth $4.5m a year to Joel. His task is to run a recent acquisition of Rupert’s, the Wireless Generation.

* What’s Wireless Generation? This is a New York company that produces software that  “…tracks student test scores amongst other things.” The  ‘other things’ included digital instruction.  Rupert has said that he can see this investment as a move into “…a $500billion sector in the US alone.”  Yep.

“Kleinism” is the best description for Australia’s present system of schooling. This kind of mechanical, instrumental  schooling is now well on the way in the US and in Australia and, oh, how the money rolls in………to pockets in New York.  We seem to have plenty of money to throw around. Education is now a big business enterprise without any altruistic purpose whatsoever..

That means a very sad future for those who live down under. Just how ridiculously heartless can Aussie adults get?  Nobody cares except, perhaps a million or two Mums and Dads [the opt-out thinkers]  who won’t have a bar of hard data abuse-based testing in schools and are refusing to have their children contest the mechanical tests. They are opting out in droves.  Bully for them. But….there are too many Mums and Dads not caring either whether “the cat calves or the cow die’’, so to speak.

Well over 1200 Treehorn Express copies have been emailed over the past few years…… no avail. Unable to be read in government schools and deliberately rebuffed by red-necked testucating advocates,  some folk like them, just the same. We are proud that the testucators are afraid of them and will not discuss ‘child learning in schools’ openly. . 

Our efforts were directed to changing the hearts of adults towards children. That’s why the communication  was named after ‘Treehorn”.  Poor lad failed to get the attention of adults, even those who were important to him…. despite his obvious need for help. We just wanted adults to think seriously about the world of children and to try to improve their social and emotional condition because NAPLAN is, plainly,  an instrument of child abuse.  No luck. The story of Treehorn became just another children’s story. We overlooked the fact that adults are too busy or too something  to take notice of the social condition of school children. We have failed to this point…as Treehorn had.  Tough. 

Did we think that adults in the antipodes had softer hearts than those who lived in northern climes?  I reckon we did.  But…we were wrong….the contrary prevails.

Allan Alach  is one of  three great musketeers fighting relentlessly for the enhancement of public education in the South Pacific. Bruce Hammonds and Kelvin Smythe  are his companions..  There are few people in the world who go to such great lengths and spend so much time working for children as this trio. Unfortunately for them, the most school-knowledgeable politician in New Zealand is the child-oriented shadow Minister for Education who is in opposition. He  is quite different from Australian politicians. When it comes to schooling and child learning, he knows what he is talking about.  If Chris Hipkins ever becomes part of the NZ government benches, one can confidently predict that  NZ will develop a home-grown system of schooling that would leave the rest of the world in its wake. For sure. 

Australian adults seem too afraid to try to help our kids at school in need of encouragement, not condemnation. . They find other ways of dodging the issue. Our kids can cop it better and sweeter, we big people think. “We had to go through this stuff at school” , so why  shouldn’t they? . Yes. That’s the main excuse. We tend to bash the emotions and dignity of our children around  harder than most because that’s supposed to be good for them. The fact that most of the test-takers will be emotionally and cognitively crippled for life, doesn’t matter. They’ll be tough. 

As radical as it might seem to us down-under bogans, I believe that the following is possible.

1. Each Australian state can create an education system that is unique and productive. The myth of federalism has shown what can happen when one misguided viewpoint [e.g. Kleinism] can control a whole country. Every citizen’s future is in now in jeopardy. It’s very, very serious.

2. Lessons can be learned from other countries whose hearts are with children and with their learning abilities.  e.g. Finland treats its primary teachers, because they supervise the most critical aspects of human development,  as professionally superior to members of the medical and other ‘recognised’  professions. They  train them beyond Masters Degree status and pay them accordingly. There is a climate of progressive learning.

3. We just need a bit of fair-dinkum Aussie spunk to get rid of the stupid bloody nonsense asap.


       Phil Cullen  41 Cominan Avenue  Banora Point  Australia 2486  07 5524 6443              


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