Somewhere between Rejection and Enthusiasm

Is there any great enthusiasm for the use of NAPLAN testing in Australian classrooms? It’s called a WOMBAT [Waste Of Money, Brains And Time] by most adults because it is such an enormous Waste. All schools are obliged to use it and some have to parrot the reasons to enquirers, since no sensible ones exist. They have to mention words like ‘diagnostic, accountable,and levels” and other managerial terms laid out for them.

[Last week’s reaction by parents of Kimberley College, however, where they prefer that their children spend this  time of the year learning, instead of preparing for tests, hit the ‘testacrats’ fan. The mums and dads have said NO… as is their democratic right.  If all schools were autonomous units, free to exercise their own  ways of using curriculum advice, there would be no need for dismay at this turn of events. Enthusiasm for the act of learning would be standard practice and paramount in daily activities. It has priority at Kimberley.]

Test-prep is now paramount at this time of the year in schools. Some of the stories of test-prep are horrid. There is no known enthusiasm for its use except by low-level schools whose respect for children is of the ACARA kind.

As it is, ACARA data-collection central claims that it is the only unit in Australia that knows what learning is all about; and it, therefore,  has the political power to force schools to do what ACARA wants them to do. These data-miners do great damages because they actually have little knowledge of classroom outcomes of fear-based standardised testing.   Such ignorance is overtaken by their arrogance.  It is patently obvious that ACARA believes that children learn best when they are frightened and fearful and emotionally abused and cognitively confused. That’s the way the whole system is arranged these days. Protection for vulnerable kids is being abused. ACARA still imposes its will on schools. It and its state departmental representatives forbid principals to tell parents that they have a choice. The truth is deliberately hidden from the wiser parents who would prefer that the tests did not exist – as the Kimberley College did. It openly told the parents that they could say ’no’ if they wanted to. Parents thought about the options and said NO.  What research will reveal is a startling rise in the number of parents around Australia, who are saying ‘no’; and a steep rise during the last month in attendance of 7 and 8 year-olds at psychiatrist and psychologists’ clinics seeking assistance for the children’s bed-wetting, sleeplessness, vomiting and other forms of distress. Other children are turning to bullying to express their feelings of frustration.  They have to ‘kick the cat’. NAPLAN is very unhealthy in so many ways.

Australia has a really crazy system of schooling.  In a nutshell : The belief that fear-driven tests improve learning at the Year 3,5,7,9 levels has seeped through the rest of the school curriculum. Vital learning opportunities are being dropped from school calendars. There is little enthusiasm for improving the art of teaching. Quality  teachers are leaving in droves. Recruitment does not attract child-focussed, smart applicants. Why should it?  Schools are reverting to being formal and functional organisations that children attend and learn enough to satisfy the indifferent.

There is no real leadership……..unless one calls the politically established ACARA’s testing and the Gillard-Pyne-Birmingham maintenance of the ‘robust’ features of NAPLAN: leadership. When NAPLAN was invented and ACARA established to force it on schools, no consideration of any kind was given to its effects on reactions in the work-force. The imbedded humanity of the teaching act was totally disregarded.  “Do as you are told or suffer the consequences” was the style.

In educational institutions, leaders are, mostly, appointed by someone higher up the chain of command.  It isn’t easy for the leader or the follower, having to adjust to the requirements of either role under the circumstances. While the appointed leader might want to establish a climate of enthusiasm, the reactions to the kind of control system that he or she uses can vary.  I have been extremely fortunate to have witnessed educational leadership of the ENTHUSIASTIC kind, on a large scale and I’d like to share their names.  For instance: Sir Alex Clegg [West Riding of Yorkshire]; Alby Jones [South Australia]; Hedley Beare [A.C.T.] ; Georg Iannacone [Vernon School District, NJ]. Almost every teacher in each school in each of these authorities that I spoke with,  proudly extolled the schooling beliefs of their chief officer. That’s enthusiasm.  Compare Australia 2009-16 under the control of  ACARA and its Wombat, Naplan, waiting to be rejected; as it should…  asap.

ACARA and its Ministers and political advocates have clearly flopped…..and they don’t care about the consequences, as long as the tests continue.

There is a Zone of Acceptance, applied to Leadership styles,  that ranges from Rejection to Enthusiasm. For heuristic purposes, let’s look at major levels of acceptance.

Screen Shot 2016-02-28 at 3.51.03 PM

The arrangement is self-explanatory.  Leadership skills are tested by the level of response from followers.   No matter what kind of organisation it is, a serious leader tries to have everyone enthusiastic about a special project or about ordinary operations.  The ultimate is reached when followers anticipate his or her approval and exert initiatives, knowing that what they are doing is what their leader would want them to do.

The use of NAPLAN  clearly indicates that the response to the present Australian Education System leadership style causes more ENNUI and REJECTION than any other kind of response, because it was established by folk whose orientation was test-based and ignored the human element and it doesn’t give a hoot as to how the work-force reacts, as long as the tests are done and the data collected.. Many quality operators have already claimed ‘Rejection’ status; and Australia is poorer for every enthusiastic teacher it loses. We can do better than what we are doing.

Most  schools now perform at a formal or functional stance……going through the motions….devoid of enthusiasm….. doing no more than what is expected of them. They have a formal appearance of being ‘goody-goody’ and things seem to be stable. With little heart in what is expected of them, they are due to head towards the rejection end of the vertical continuum as professionalism and ethical considerations sink in to the profession at large.

NAPLAN must be rejected before it is too late.  It will certainly happen, but Australia cannot wait too long.  The data-miners’, who run the show, using raw numbers to describe the humanity of classroom interaction and school performance have too much control and they only know how to use the inhumane elements of leadership. The whole shop needs t be closed.

How did Australia get to this state of affairs : not giving much of a damn about how our kids fare at school?  Well! Kevin 07, feeling powerful,  was told by his friends and advisers at the BCA, that some of their young employees were  in no great shape at addition or spelling or grammar. That was enough for Kevin. Who needs reliable empirical evidence? It wasn’t true, but he still instructed his trusty off-sider Julia that he wanted the whole education system reformed so that his friends in the Business Council and banking fraternity would be pleased with him. She felt the same way. Teachers were doing a bad job, so she headed off to see what the Supreme Commander in New York had to say. Coincidentally, she walked straight into a cocktail party being held by the Carnegie Foundation where Rupert introduced her to Joel Klein, a co-lawyer of renown, known for reforming/ruining New York schools by intense bullying, later to join Rupert’s organisation as head sherang.

Julia warmed to his ideas. AUSTRALIA IMMEDIATELY HAD A NEW EDUCATION SYSTEM……within minutes.  It was August 12, 2008. Foundation Day for Australia’s new brand of schooling….Kleinism.

Upon her return, out came the whip and she used the only bases of powers that she knew,  the lower-level force and fear levels ……she exerted her control through reward and coercion processes, later copied by fellow neoliberalist, Christopher Pyne when he wore the jersey.  Being Ministers for Education, both used only their hierarchical position to force others to follow. .  They Milgrammed quite a lot. She was particularly good at it.  Some teacher organisations [e.g. APPA]  followed her as quickly as Eichmann had followed his boss; but there was no way in the world would she be able to find an educational expert/leader who would or could endorse the use of fear as a motivational  teaching device.  There just aren’t any. No  Alby Jones or Hedley Beare these days.  She gladly turned to measurers to control her empire. She established ACARA, a measurers temple.

At this level of operation, we have to refer to the French and Raven’s use of power bases that are used to get people to do what you want them to do.  Let’s  arrange these in an hierarchical order of effectiveness.







Her personal leadership style was of the lower-level bases.  A known bully, she told state ministers of all political persuasions,  that they must introduce NAPLAN at the risk of losing considerable federal funding. They agreed. She bullied and coerced. They meekly responded

She knew that Principals Associations and other professional organisations always did as they were told. without question, and they did. Teachers did as Principals required, so everything was put in place, almost in a wink.  It was a piece of cake.  NAPLAN was the new system, almost overnight… fast, one has to wonder what was in the cocktail. No academic discussion, no research into Kleinism, no query about possible outcomes, no study into its effects on teaching and learning, no opposition tolerated, no real parental discussion, no deep thought, no nothing.

Ennui, lack of enthusiasm and rejection are standard responses to the use of fearful force and job threats, no matter what the circumstances. Ennui moved in and stayed.

A system gets what it deserves in terms of the way it operates.  If a leader exerts coercion and reward power and nothing else, his or her ‘reform’ will be close to rejection. [All Hail to those Mums and Schools currently rejecting the NAPLAN system]. It can be stated quite confidently that the Australian system of schooling  now lacks Spirit, Enthusiasm, Professional Daring and  Innovation,  because of these practices. It’s dead, dull and New Yorkish. It’s in a state of ENNUI….a state of listlessness and disillusion and uncertainty. It’s a dangerous place to be.

The origins are in the kind of political authority used by the powerful when they try to provoke change. Political ideologies range from Fascism through Neoliberalism to Capitalism, Liberalism, Socialism, Egalitarianism, Idealism to Anarchy and these beliefs can be aligned with the kinds of policies that the powerful develop to support their right to force people to do as required: Totalitarianism, Authoritarianism, Coercion, Despotism, Conservatism, Individuality, Disorder, Chaos.  Clearly, present-day neoliberalism, as expounded by the coalition of the Australian Liberal and Labor Parties with the Business Council of Australia, uses Totalitarian tactics in preference to any democratic form of Control. It cunningly delegates the responsibility to those who just have to carry the can : State Ministers, State Departmental Officers and Public School  principals none of whom has never been known to whimper.  Push overs. We are stuck. We need to do something as a matter of urgency.  If we don’t…….

Australia is highly likely to remain in a state of ENNUI  for decades.  We are stuck with it while  sciolists remain in charge and work with test-crazed politicians and school-clueless  data-miners trying to tell teachers HOW to teach and keep spending  precious dollars just gathering scores.

It is very clear that any sparkle in the present system is maintained only by the enthusiasm of its teachers for the act of teaching in test-free classrooms during non-naplan-prep. This is maintained at a high level despite the low-level wild-dog forms of control exerted by naplannic educrats and testucating politicians.

Repeat : The Australian system of schooling is maintained only by the enthusiasm of its teachers for the act of teaching.  Too many great ones are leaving, or haven’t you noticed, Simon?

Governments, that care about children, need to learn more about the magic of those classrooms where enthusiastic teachers are located,  teaching learnacy;  and they should try to establish a 100% work force that loves the job….and PAY THEM WELL.  Governments  need to spread the magic of learnacy, not just create and maintain  targets of naplannic melancholy mediocrity. Good teachers have a gift for providing the self-esteem, friendship, fun-learning and security, those basic needs that are necessary before any worthwhile learning can progress, as Maslow once told us.  Our Kleinism deliberately targets self-esteem and security, to destroy them. It’s quite crazy that this should be part of any education system. It’s tragic that Australia adheres so tightly to the Klein manifesto of fear.  It’s so strange that it is tolerated. It is natural for children to like learning. There’s no need to  scare kids deliberately. Any teacher who has to teach towards the test to get better scores should not be allowed near any school that boasts of its learning program. 

Extending their learning desires in ways that complement the needs of parents and of society in right and proper ways is an extremely difficult task.  It certainly is not achieved by the bang, crash, wallop techniques of Gillard and Klein’s satanic, naplannic, ‘educratic’ notions.. 

Let’s reflect. This letter was written to the Courier mail on 31 October, 2008 [the sad year] by Catriona James-McGovern of Bundaberg to mark Teachers Day in those pre-Naplannic days.

“I’m a primary teacher. As well as teaching children English, which includes reading, writing, spelling, punctuation, phonics, grammar, handwriting, spelling and listening, I teach maths, SOSE [social studies] , science, art, health and technology.

I teach children to sing, dance and act as part of a school musical. I teach children about healthy eating and the need to exercise.

I teach children to communicate and get along with others, to value their opinions, to treat others as they would like to be treated, to use good manners, to respect the property of others and to be fair. I teach children to cross the road safely, to ride their bikes safely, to walk safely on the cement. I teach them to wash their hands, to blow their noses, to wear hats in the sun and to sit on their chairs safely.

I teach children to want to come to school, to want to learn and to develop a love for learning. The children I teach know that I will do my best for each one of them, that I like them, that I value their opinions, that I want each of them to succeed and that I am proud of their achievements.

Who am I? Just an ordinary teacher. There are thousand of others teachers just like me out there.  Thousands also pick up the newspapers or turn on the television daily to be told what a bad job they are doing.

I love my job. I love the children; I love the buzz I get when they make me proud and I love the noise of 52 of them beating down my classroom door at 8.15 am every day.

That’s what will get me through the turbulent times ahead [NAPLAN was starting at this time].

I hope that all of those teachers just like me get through them too. Have a great Teachers Day today.”

How many decision makers have ever spent quality time in the classroom of a person like Catriona, observing for a day or more all the little movements, phrases of encouragement [“Good John. That word belongs to YOU now.”], group settings, child politics, the nodding,  smiling,  praising, scolding, hinting,  nudging,  encouraging,  disapproving, approving,  playing,  patting, winking….the thousands of meaningful exchanges between a pupil and a teacher each day. The face of a good teacher, for one, does a helluva lot of work while pupilling his or her fond learners during the course of a day and will provoke much more  effective learning than, say, doing some old test papers in school time. [That’s teaching?]

An active, learning classroom is a truly magical place, there’s no doubt.

No test-prone educrat of the NAPLAN-hugging kind will ever understand. They just don’t understand such classrooms. A Naplanner does not seem to know what pupilling means….he and she seem to believe that teaching is a simple sermonising, didactic, direct talk-chalk form of instruction, followed by a test. This brain-destroying  ACARA type  has been in vogue for 8 long, long years now. The belief that primary school children are ‘students’ to be talked-at and  chalked-at and then tested, is absurd.  They are PUPILS, for God’s sake. They are human-beings.

We use the term ‘student’ much too carelessly.

NAPLAN is a Political Device used on behalf of greedy profiteers. Sadly, the Australian system’s use of fear, coercion and deception to operate its schools has deep ideological roots. The authoritarian and totalitarian policies of all of our major political parties [Greens included] reflect their deep seated belief in the power [if not the ideology] of neoliberalism and fascism and,  in particular, the use of low-level forces of the French & Raven kind, that such beliefs inspire operatives to use to control people. While their public-persona philosophy may not reflect fascism nor neoliberalism, our major political parties are not backward in using their tools of trade. Our present political state of anomie disallows decent interaction between a child and its social surroundings. It seems to be part of our ingrained capitalistic DNA that we ordinary citizens allow this; and we can’t shake it loose….even for kids.  Adults are not allowed to treat children with love or self-esteem, it would seem.. Dump them at any school or pay big bickies for someone else in another kind of school to smarten them up for you. …the results are the same…mediocrity,  slow intellectual and emotional development, cognitive damage. If anything the public system is a far superior system because of its long, deep-seated history and wealth of expertise. No Mr. Gradgrinds .

So many adults do not think seriously enough about the future of Australia through the quality of its citizenry. They remain politically pompous and turgid and politically distant because of their deep-seated beliefs. Who would want to stick-up for kids?

Ideological belief systems, through various forms of social intercourse, become political parties and pressure groups so that they can  exert authority over others. They write policies that provide a pretence for their control over the electorate, establish a network of control and decide how they will treat the plebs. The kind of control system that they establish through their wired-on party policies is crucial to the state of a nation. Fear and coercion have never formed part of a liberal conscience, nor that of a worker-reform  conscience but both so-called Liberal and Labor parties in Australia exert them on the defenceless. A big question is whether present day parties, in fact, observe their own ideological base? No matter. Unless politicians live up to basic social responsibilities and take a good hard look at their control mechanisms, our school system will continue to reflect a lack of educative spirit, an absence of true enthusiasm;  and mid-level or worse standards of achievement. And the fault lies in the silence of your local member.

Here’s another self-explanatory design…..

Screen Shot 2016-02-28 at 3.45.10 PM


That’s Australian schooling in a nutshell. Grossly undemocratic. Grossly undermining a great future.

In summary…

NAPLAN, according to these basics, is a device that originates from an extreme neoliberalist/corporate base using low level control systems  to induce fear in all Australian school personnel, especially in children. Lack of classroom knowledge means an absence of educative leadership, which in turn, leaves only coercive, bullying and deceptive forms of management. That’s Australia now.  Then…. Malcolm spoke of all the grand things that Australia needed – INNOVATION, for instance.  Innovative practices are impossible in a country where there is no freedom to learn.  Things started to look good for kids when he said what he said. NAPLAN would just have to go. Even he would know of its evil outcomes when one has to consider creativity, thinking, zest for learning as components of Innovation.  The anticipated new-Malcolm democratic rhetoric would hopefully re-energise the professionalism within the classroom force; and the time now given to NAPLAN-prep will be replaced by productive teaching, supported by genuine professional ethics. Some of us thought that he might declare an end to NAPLAN and other inhibiting forms of teaching and learning as a ‘captain’s call’.  Some hope now! It has been such a sad few weeks.

What happened ?

Have you ever dreamed of a national system where every neighbourhood school is a test-free, inviting, non-threatening happy place loaded with the kinds of teachers described above, treating each child as a person/pupil [not as a student],  where teachers have been enabled and empowered [Theory Y style liberation],where parents are involved and trusted to make decisions about their own children; and where progress to teen-age subject-oriented learning is as seamless as possible?

Wouldn’t you like to talk with some of the political decision-makers about these sorts of thing ? What do the candidates now being chosen by the Lib.-BCA-Lab coalition think. Will they be brave enough? What do they think about our present standard of schooling, about our teachers, about professionalism, about ethics, about cognitive abuse., about teaching techniques, about testing and public examinations, about kids?  Do they care? Do you?



Screen Shot 2016-02-28 at 3.52.31 PM


CRUNCH POINT is within the Control  System… the operational centre, now matter what its orientation,  uses its source of power . 

There is no direct connection between terms  horizontally.  However, there is some sort of connection and I have used arrows, for my own convenience,  to indicate a Treehorn point of view of the present Klein schooling aka Corporate Education… emphasise that neoliberal corporations are using totalitarian  policies to create fear and concern through state and national governments by  the use of coercive devices, because they know no other way of doing things. It’s not that they are fascist. They just like to use fascist devices to get their way.  Connect your own pathway if you see some other pathway to the zone of acceptance. One can hardly deny that ENNUI [listlessness, disinterest, languor] is the most accurate description for present day schooling in Australia.

Please make sure that you read the paper immediately following by Kelvin Smythe, Kiwi primary school educator, who says that “ Some terrible things have been perpetrated – close to evil.” 

Phil Cullen  41 Cominan Avenue  Banora Point  Australia 2486  07 5524 6443           
07 5524 6443          0407865999

Kelvin Smythe: “Some terrible things have been perpetrated – close to evil.”

I have tried to point out that the prevailing neoliberal political climate in Australia induces our elected ‘masters’ to use totalitarian methods based on fear and coercion to try to force others to do as they want them to do, without reason. Some terrible things have been perpetrated.  Teachers, parents and school pupils appear to suffer the indignities calmly, but all is not well. As a reaction to this quasi-fascist political  mind-set, they is no spirit at the chalk face and everybody suffers….kids, parents, teachers.  The reaction to such low-level, fear-based managerial tactics is such that absolute rejection of high-stakes testing is on the cards. Ethical professionals can only tolerate  so much.
Fellow primary school advocate,  Kelvin Smythe, highly respected Kiwi commentator and former Chief Inspector, had written  “Some Terrible Things That Have Been Perpetrated – Close to Evil’  about  New Zealand circumstances that closely resemble what is happening in its ANZAC cobber. 
With his permission, I have adapted his germane paper to apply directly to Australian conditions. I have merely changed any NZ references to Aussie ones. It suits neatly; and since he is much more erudite that I am, I strongly commend your close and critical attention to his advices.  Interested educators can compare his original paper with what I have done to it to suit Australian conditions.
Some terrible things have been perpetrated – close to evil
Kelvin Smythe
If the media and the Australian people were able to comprehend the terrible things that have been perpetrated on their primary teachers they would be taken aback. And now it is coming to a head. 
If school education is not run in good faith between teachers and politicians then school education will fail – and is failing. Teachers will never be in a position to counter the simplistic, bad faith, distorted arguments of politicians bent on implementing secret agendas. The policies imposed on teachers, when they fail, as is inevitable, will soon see politicians frenetically hide the failures: hermetically sealing off education with propaganda, statistical corruption, and a ruthless programme of Kafkan fear. But because the agendas are so ideologically embedded, further policies from these are reflexively returned to. These will be characterised by more hierarchy, more imposition (only minor details up for discussion), and more levels of bureaucracy.  This is the way we are, as is what follows.
Teachers in the interests of children and their professional integrity are committed to an open-minded consideration of education issues. That means any engagement with politicians  working from a secret agenda, will fail. Teachers will make no headway against the full propaganda weight of the politicians who deal in simplistic messages expressed in abstract nonsenses, lies, distortions, non sequiturs, and evasions. Words have flowed in a near impenetrable disgorgement of arrogance-laden toxicity; their arguments dependent on a fantastically protected ignorance and an unrelentingly calculated slantedness.
Above all, almost all politicians in Australia have protected themselves from any recognition of the holistic in education. The holistic is detested and feared by the current crop of bureaucrats and politicians because it is based on variety, the free exchange of ideas, and democratic processes. It is also detested and feared because teachers following the holistic do not see children’s learning in the basics as mutually exclusive of getting children to think flexibly and imaginatively. The holistic would turn primary education away from ghettoising less able children to an exclusive basics’ curriculum, and what is not generally appreciated, restricting the more able children to largely the same.
If written at a certain level, in describing and accounting for this, few references to education need be made, the issues involved being central to the functioning of all societies: the nature of power and democracy, authority, authoritarianism. (Note: authority is used for the combination of political and bureaucratic power.) In relation to primary school education, power is increasingly being exercised as an end, not for the declared beneficial purposes; authority as an end with other considerations secondary; authority degenerating into authoritarianism using the cover of acting in the public good.
This is necessarily a judgement because authority has, of course, presented what they were doing as intended to meet the declared beneficial purposes. However, the real but undeclared purpose by those currently wielding authority is that power needs to be increased not only for the declared beneficial purposes but also for future unspecified ‘beneficial’ use. This is a formula for degeneration into authoritarianism encouraging authority to play a cunning short game in the interests of an unrelenting long one. The cunning short game providing an excuse for those who want to yield to authority.  
Authority has the power to lie, distort, and propagandise with impunity; to promote delusion based on a default desire to trust authority for the comfort of conforming and thoughtlessness; and to promote delusion relying on ignorance or lack of imagination.
This I suggest has occurred to a devastating extent.
The leaders of groups appointed to be voices for the people, including political parties, are not immune to this process, many becoming oppressors of the people they were put there to represent.
This I suggest has occurred to a devastating extent.
 Authority, through propaganda and status, is able to control the collective will and use it as a blanketing sanction. And as authority gains dominance, and the democratic means to oppose reduced accordingly – easily observable expressions of force diminish, and voluntary compliance to meet authority goals takes their place. Fear of authority is sublimated to allow constructed compliance even co-operation. Moral and ethical challenges, as a result, are no longer posed, conformity to authority entrenched, and democracy cast as inefficient.
This I suggest has occurred to a devastating extent.
Bureaucracies or quasi bureaucratic adjuncts (privatised entities) are the instruments for applying authoritarian sanctions, being able to retreat into themselves to become impenetrable for anyone seeking redress and impersonal for anyone seeking explanation. As well, no bureaucracy has ever abolished itself, only transformed itself, to avoid the heat or to take an even more dangerous form. 
This I suggest has occurred to a devastating extent. 
Primary education is so complex, far more than secondary, that to explain it satisfactorily needs time and a willingness in the listener to genuinely listen. Primary education has the answers to the questions being asked but neither authority nor the media is listening because to listen would give respect and a degree of power to teachers. Authority is also not listening because it is intent on scapegoating teachers so that it can impose its own ideologically-based ‘answers’ for power and ideological advantage.
For curriculum change to succeed there needs to be the opportunity for a free exchange of curriculum ideas and the freedom for teachers to colonise the curriculum – but teachers do not feel free to exchange ideas or colonise curricula, they are made to follow rigidly the official standardised line. A stern eye is kept out for deviancy. There is now, no official national curriculum only national standards. There is only one way to teach, that is in measurable fragments with fiddly objectives of various nomenclatures attached.
NAPLAN’s control of the curriculum brings children’s learning down to a level politicians and bureaucrats  can understand, and provides them with the perfect blunt instrument to control schools and trivialise the curriculum.
And what is an explanation of the holistic?
The holistic curriculum is about a combination of knowledges – teacher and academic; about the interaction of the affective and cognitive; about teaching and learning being organised by broad aims (assisted by criteria that can be considered converted objectives); about those broad aims being an expression of the essence of curriculum areas; about a broadly-based curriculum encompassing the wide range of human experience; about learning being meaningful, exploratory, and challenging (hence the attention to discovery learning and problem solving); about learning being open to the transformational and sensitive to the immanent; about learning being coherent and organic not fragmented and desultory; about teachers having considerable individuality of response within the broad school aims; about children having significant control over what and how they learn; about evaluation practices being proportionate to that which is educationally important (to the holistic); about all learning being quality learning; about attending to individual needs through a combination of class learning set up for individuality of response and one-to-one teaching; about class and school practices, for instance, evaluation, and group learning being learning enhancing (hence the emphasis on observational evaluation and group learning being mainly mixed ability); and about protecting and enhancing the crucial bond and trust between classroom teacher and child.
What parent wouldn’t want this kind of education for their children?
The NAPLAN-based curriculum in being about the measurable, does not fit with the affective; the holistic curriculum in being expansive fits with it perfectly. The NAPLAN-controlled curriculum is instrumental; the holistic curriculum is democratic and participatory. The NAPLAN-controlled curriculum implies certainty and someone who knows; the holistic curriculum implies openness and collective exploration about what is known. The test-based  curriculum because it implies certainty and someone who knows leads to a hermetic system based on fear and dependence; the holistic curriculum because it implies openness leads to continuous exploration based on trust and independence. The NAPLAN curriculum is hierarchical and standardising; the holistic curriculum is democratic and characterised by variety.
Because NAPLAN is about hierarchy, certainty, and standardising – it means no variance and it means compulsion. Because the holistic is about valuing variety, about democratic, participatory relationships – the holistic means the freedom to be holistic not the requirement to be so.
The managerialist restructuring of primary education based on the national standards curriculum is about hierarchy of the sort that functions on the belief it knows; it knows how education works, how it can be organised and standardised into unproblematic and manageable parts, made utterly assured in its mission by the ideas of quantitative academics who also know. A holistic restructuring of education based on teacher knowledge, on commonsense through informed experience, on the value of variety in education, on education as part of life in a social democracy, on identifying the essences of curriculum areas (guided by the competencies), on a commitment to abroad-based curriculum, and on teaching and leadership being significantly an art.
Dominating the current education system is the neo-liberal concept of the need to avoid provider capture. This concept, developed from the ideas of Ayn Rand, interprets human behaviour as based on the pursuit of self-advantage and society being the better for it. The effect has been to hand school education over to those with little or no experience in school education and to make the education system authoritarian by design – power forever shifting upwards. Education is certainly not the better for it.
 These new people are doing terrible things to primary school education, their consciences protected by their ignorance and that ignorance by their arrogance. What use to talk of the holistic to these people, of the subtleties, for instance, of bringing early readers along? They no doubt think we are talking gibberish. Their confidence in their understanding of education – always narrow, fragmented, and constructed for measurement – bolstered by quantitative academics flown in for the purpose. The effect has been the process described by Orwell: the past bad-mouthed, neglected, pushed aside, verboten, and forgotten – to the devastation of the present; and hopelessness of the future.
In what other major agency of state, as a matter of policy, would there be a concerted effort to appoint people to high position with little or no knowledge or experience of that agency’s central function. 
What I want to ask these people is, as parents, would you want your children to attend primary schools as they are presently functioning or to go to schools that are holistically based? Are you so caught up in the bureaucratic madness that you lost your moral bearings? (I suggest you google: Vanessa Redgrave and violin.)
The following long paragraph is an example of the toxic combination of lies, false statistics, and secret agenda referred to. The length of the paragraph is figurative for the growing stain of evil and corruption spreading throughout primary education.
There is the intense political pressure for results encouraging secondary schools to advise children to move into less challenging units; also to use internal exams in a way that virtually excludes failure. And one of the reasons many children can’t do challenging units is because for the last two decades flexible thinking has virtually been excluded from the primary curriculum. There is the intense pressure on primary schools via league tables for ever-improving results which encourages a very liberal interpretation of children’s test performances; there being no moderation policies in place. In other words, the system is set up for corrupted results.This leads on to charter schools producing corrupted results by the same process but even worse because there is no supervision at all by official agencies, just a group appointed by ministry with, of course, no interest in probing rigorously. This corruption of results has a sinister purpose because charter schools are being set up as a platform to denigrate public schools with a view to eventual privatisation of public education expected . As for primary charter schools, they are being set up as lavishly funded private public schools, an oasis of privilege, in a desert of poverty. These charter schools will be able to attract certain children, while being able to exclude others. Some public schools have a 100% turnover of children every three years or even less. Such children will not be accepted into charter schools even in the unlikely circumstance of them applying. The charter schools will have much lower teacher to children ratios and more funding for computers and other resources placing the local public schools at a further disadvantage. The huge unfairness of attracting likely better children to charter schools will have the effect of ghettoising the public schools leaving them shorn of the better performing ones. The role of the government is not to privilege some publically funded schools to the disadvantage of others. This is unfair and morally bankrupt. But calumny on calumny, the corrupted results from the charter schools will then be used to cast a slur on all public schools, to demoralising effect.
The present system is held together by fear and a world view of education based on lies and false statistics. Everything (New Zealand Minister of Education Hekia Parata says is a lie except when she uses the truth to help in the formation of one.

NAPLAN and political parties


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 .

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 emotional and cognitive development.


NAPLAN and Political Parties

The ALP played its cards first. Bad move, Bill.  Your statements showed your party’s enormous disregard  for what goes on in Australian schools. You didn’t mention NAPLAN at all…don’t give a fig? [Did ACARA prepare your paper?]

Your twin neo-con party, the Liberals, followed the Gillard line and all that it has to say about NAPLAN is that the results should be returned to schools within 12 weeks, instead of the present four or five months….as if they were of some use.

The Greens are usually much more realistic, even though they don’t dare to make esoteric statements  They like starting inquiries so that the esoters can fight each other and schooling  never gets anywhere. Their only comment on NAPLAN is that the tests should be conducted at the start of the year. Quite profound for a party that stands a real chance.

If an Independent says that he or she will get rid of NAPLAN, he or she is on a winner. No doubt. They’ll get a job. Mums and dads will make sure.

So……. if the parents of this great [Education] country want some betterment to the system […since NAPLAN controls it], we must

Ignore the effects of NAPLAN on schooling [ALP]

Run the tests at the beginning of the year. [Green]

Get the [useless] results back within 12 weeks. [LNP]

That’s school improvement 2016 style!!

That’s real thinking about how well our kids are treated at school!!

That’s what happens when politics rules a schooling system!!!

Quality teachers will agree with the definition of a test score as provided by Professor John Settledge:

A NAPLAN result is an inadequate judgement by a biased and variable data-miner, of the extent to which an undefined level of mastery of unknown proportions of an inadequate amount of material has been completed on time. It is operated by a New Mafia, more engrossed in the accumulation of dollars and cents than in concern for child welfare and progress. Its Frankenstein outcomes, the creation of a monster that destroys everything around it, has no boundaries within the curriculum. 

It is the product of a cane-toad ‘intellectual’ persuasion,  Just as scientists were told that some Hawaiian toads ate beetles, without reference to any other sidelights [such as how high they could jump or how high beetles could fly or what else toads ate.], NAPLAN  was introduced because some bankers thought that fear was the best way to make young children learn. No further thought. Politicians then took over.

Now. Our kids need help. Politicians can get rid of the menace. Ironic, isn’t it?

Let’s see how fair dinkum they are when they talk about kids and NAPLAN during the electioneering.

Phil Cullen  41 Cominan Avenue  Banora Point  Australia 2486  07 5524 6443              
07 5524 6443          0407865999

Burn-out and Disillusionment

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.

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.

Just because certain politicians and educrats don’t like kids, there’s no need for all of them to be so nasty!

2016 – The Year to get Rid of NAPLAN – The Great Year for Kids. A Great year for Australia’s progress. Let’s vote for kids!!


Burn-out and Disillusionment

Kathy Margolis says:

The letter below appeared on Facebook a few days ago and seems to have gone viral. It mirrors a similar letter printed on The Treehorn Express  from Gabriel Stroud on 3 February. See:  There are far too many such letters in existence.  Australia cannot afford such a brain=drain..

The Facebook letter became the subject of a chat session conducted by Steve Austin  on 612 4QR, Brisbane. on 5 February.  Listen to a replay if you get the chance. even if you find it as distressing as I did.  It can be googled easily. The examples cited were, for me, quite chilling and disappointing to listen to. It would appear that some parents believe that the naplan-inspired national curriculum has replaced love for learning and the enjoyment of teaching,  as a casual wander through will demonstrate. They have reason to worry.

NAPLANITIS is a school-borne disease that  dehumanises the relationships between a pupil and a teacher; and destroys the positiveness of the learning contract that pupilling entails. It spreads through each school from the excessive demands placed on Years 3,5,7,9 pupils reacting as data-robots in their attempts to record what they know as answers to obtuse questions that have little to do with real-life situations.  It has spread through the Australian school system and is destroying the enthusiasm for learning. It is even reported as being serious, indeed quite learning-destructive, data-demanding,   at the preparatory level of schooling…..from when children starte school!!

NAPLAN testing, the rotten GERM from which NAPLANITIS emerges,  has altered schooling in Australia more than any other device in the past eighty years.  Nothing has worried parents more for many years.  They have  become extremely concerned about what is going on at school.  Nothing has caused pupils to dislike particular subjects and schooling more. Nothing has caused the exit from the profession of so many high-quality teachers who are just so burnt-out and disillusioned. Then there are issues of the use of fear of failure as a teaching device, cheating, reliance on invalid and unreliable results, after-school tuition, use of performance-enhancing vitamins, abuse of child emotions, destruction of a child’s emerging cognitive development, exacting and lengthy homework, reliance of private schools on faulty results, inability of all schools to accept learners as unique human beings, controlled silence of the press, supressing of the costs to government and payments to suppliers, deliberate avoidance and down-sizing  of professional ethics. It must be recorded in history as the greatest schooling disaster ever. IT stinks!

Kathy Margolis

February 2 at 10:27am ·

To all my teaching buddies and all my friends with school age kids, I’ve written a letter on your behalf to the editor of the Courier Mail:

Education in Australian schools is in crisis and someone has to listen to those who are game enough to speak up. I have been a primary school teacher in Brisbane schools for over 30 years. This year, after much thought, I have decided to look for another job, not easy for a woman in her 50s. I cannot continue to do a job that requires me to do what is fundamentally against my philosophy of how it should be done. I love my students and they love me. I know how to engage children in learning and how to make it fun. It’s what I do best. 
Teachers have very little professional autonomy anymore. We are told what to do, how to do it and when it has to be done by. Never have I experienced a time in my profession where teachers are this stressed and in real fear for the mental health of not only themselves, but the children that they teach. The pressures are enormous. And before we get the people who rabbit on about our 9 to 3 day and all the holidays we get, let’s get some things straight. No teacher works from 9 until 3. We are with the students during those hours. We go on camps, we man stalls at fetes, we conduct parents/teacher interviews, we coach sporting teams and we supervise discos. And of course there is the lesson preparation, the marking, the report cards. Full time teachers are paid 25 hours a week. Yes you read that correctly, 25 paid hours a week. In any other job that would be considered part time. So now that I have justified our holidays, many of which are spent doing the above, let’s talk about what is going on in classrooms across this great nation of ours.
Classrooms are overcrowded, filled with individuals with all sorts of needs both educational and social. Teachers are told we must differentiate and cater to each individual. Good teachers try desperately to do that but it is near impossible and we feel guilty that we are not doing enough to help the children in our care.
The curriculum is so overcrowded. Prep teachers who used to run lovely play based programs (which might I add work beautifully) are teaching children sight words and how to read and write alongside subjects like history and geography. As a teacher and a mother of 3 sons, this scares the proverbial out of me. We all know that boys this age need to be moving around doing things that interest them, not sitting at desks. And what about the notion of readiness? I fear those little ones who are not ready are going to be left behind. And here’s the problem with our crowded curriculum. There is not enough time to consolidate the basics. Every teacher on this earth will tell you that the early years should be about the 3 R’s. My own children went off to year one after having had a lovely, enriching play based year of learning back in the days of pre-school. They didn’t know any sight words; they could write maybe a few letters and guess what? They learnt to read and write without being pushed at such an early age.

In my teaching career I have never seen so many children suffering from stress and anxiety. It saddens me greatly. Teaching at the moment is data driven. We are testing them and assessing them and pushing them so hard. I get that teachers need to be accountable and of course we need assessment but teachers have an innate ability to know what kids need. A lot of it is data for data’s sake. Don’t even get me started on NAPLAN. Teachers wouldn’t have a problem with NAPLAN if it wasn’t made out to be such a big deal by the powers that be, the press and parents. It has turned into something bigger than Ben Hur.
So why am I writing this? I’m writing this because teachers need to speak up but we are often afraid of retribution. We need to claim back our profession but we are powerless. Teachers teach because we love children and are passionate about education. Our young teaching graduates enter the profession bright eyed and bushy tailed, energetic and enthusiastic, ready to make a difference. So why I ask are they only staying for an average of 5 years? Of course that question is rhetorical. I know the answer. They are burnt out and disillusioned. Older teachers like me have seen better days in the classroom so in a way it’s harder for us to see all the joy slowly being sucked out of learning. But we also have a wealth of experience to draw from and we know which hoops you don’t necessarily need to jump through. We occasionally speak out. We are not as easy to “control”. But we are tired and also burning out with disillusionment.
I write this in the hope that we can spark a public discussion. We need the support of parents, who I know agree with us. I write this because I love children and I can’t bear to see what we are doing to them. Last year, as I apologised once again to my class for pushing them so hard and for the constant barrage of assessment, one child asked me “if you don’t like the things you have to do then why are you still a teacher?” That question got me to thinking long and hard. I had no answer except that I truly loved kids and it was with a heavy heart that I realised that wasn’t enough anymore.


With sincere thanks to Les O”Gorman, Bruce Jones and Allan Alach.
Phil Cullen  41 Cominan Avenue  Banora Point  Australia 2486  07 5524 6443              
07 5524 6443          0407865999

What’s going on with Australian schooling?

CARE FOR KIDS                        IS YOUR VOTE AVAILABLE?        

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 .

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 emotional and cognitive development.

  2016 – The Real Big Year for KIDS?



When the Australian education system was hoodwinked into copying the New York testing-based system in 2008, it did not know what it was letting itself in for.  Our leading politicians at the time,  Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard and their neo-con. followers just accepted the word of a New York lawyer who assured them that fear-based techniques in schools worked best. He, Joel Klein, and his wife were staked to a travel down under by Australia’s  banking and large corporate high flyers to persuade  other high flyers and their attendant politicians that his ideas worked. Politicians dared not question.

Put simply, his scheme was based on tests of those parts of the school curriculum that are easy to test.  It had no legitimate educational, learning nor teaching basis beyond the ancient British Grammar School cum Gradgrind bang-crash-wallop gathering of data in a way that is sometimes described as ‘instruction’.  There would be punishments for those teachers, principals and schools who did not measure up . The NY organisational set-up made it easier for the fear-based-mode to work  in that city,  than the system did in Australia; that’s why Mr. Klein could sweet-talk our Minister so easily. It also meant that the Murdoch press, and his ambitious neo-con politicians and hybrid testucators had to plan and scheme cautiously for Australian conditions. There was a risk at the time of introduction to Australia that the ethical members of the teaching profession would come out fighting with good old-fashioned Aussie spirit, but ‘client capture’ worked well on them. They were a push-over.

There was no protection for the full holistic curriculum, the life-sustaining, aesthetic, creative, mental and physical-based subjects. They are now ignored or down-played from January to May each year.

Things have worked well on all fronts for these Gordon Gekkos of the world. The raison d’etre for the system was that the sales of computers, testing papers, routine test-passing procedures, test-practising booklets and well as copious allied curriculum material would be on sale far beyond Manhattan. NAPLAN testing has nothing to do with school reform nor improvement nor does it have an Aussie teaching flavour of the kind recently described by quality teachers such as Kathy Margolis and Beatrice Stroud on recent talk-back shows.  It is purely a money-making system, now kindly described in current literature as corporate education.  Many people believed that it was a good way to smarten-up the system as it was; and would make schools and teachers work harder and become more accountable.

It is doing its job well on behalf of its owners, particularly Rupert Murdoch, who hired the founder of the New York and Australian systems of schooling, Joel Klein, to take over the running of his test publishing empire called Amplify. [His salary: $2.4 m p.a.] It has made billions of dollars for his organisation since it was incorporated, but cracks are starting to appear and there will be ramifications for Australia. Make sure you read this blog. or google “Bloomberg Klein”

The expected New York collapse of its fear-based schooling could have a positive impact on Australia as it should now no longer restrain News Corp outlets in Australia from printing the whole truth nor prevent its journalists and commentators from speaking out. This mushroom strategy has worked well for businesses like Amplify and Pearson, up until now.  The absence of views expressed by dominant educators and learned societies from all over the world has, up until now,  allowed the hundreds of paid lobbyists in Canberra to tell politicians whatever they like;  and to leave the general public uninformed. The lack of media comment on the ‘virtues’ of NAPLAN has been noticeable. For instance, at no stage has the press informed parents that they have a choice. Principals of schools are under orders not to do so; and even the scandal of this kind of administrative misbehaviour  has not received a mention. The press have clearly  supported the lie that the Tests were ‘expected’ to be done and that they were part of school routine, when, in fact, they were rudely dumped on schools by arrogant politicians. Very few present day parents know that they have a choice. As well, the media have been slow to lead discussion on  the credentials of computers, said to be introduced  to increase the speed of data processing. Someone might ask the cost; whether the money was a waste.

The ‘controlled silence’ has not encouraged the kind of debate which must occur before any further genuine learning-inspired steps are made.

Some genuine teachers have been shaking the captive chains. Unions and ‘professional’ groups are too frightened.  Quality teachers, such as Kathy Margolis and Gabriel Stroud each with a strong professional conscience are coming out and expressing their ethical feelings.  Now, the public might start taking an interest in the Treehorns of this world whose condition is ignored by Australian adults.

It’s a good time for parents and teachers to have their say. It’s election year . Politicians who ignore the present condition of children at school should start looking for another job.  If they are not interested nor vocal about Australia’s future …its children…they should not have any such decision-making role.

 Phil Cullen  41 Cominan Avenue  Banora Point  Australia 2486              
07 5524 6443          0407865999

Coward’s Way



Aussie Friends of Treehorn

The Cowardly Way

If some vile creature made its way into our classrooms, and threatened the 7 year-olds so much that they cried and felt cowered, we’d either destroy the menace or contact the police.

If we welcomed such a monstrosity in human form, helped ‘it’ to arrange for intense discomfort and distress to very young children;  and then kept hidden the hidden agenda for treating them this way ; and then told them  that  their new-learning condition and their deep-seated emotional wounds didn’t matter; and that they should just shut up and do as they were told  in order to supply the information required …and we, as ethical professionals, didn’t do anything about it, then we should be destroyed or reported to the police. Okay?

Grab the phone. It’s urgent.  That’s what we do to kids.

NAPLAN is a cowardly form of child abuse. It leaves deep permanent scars on almost every child’s mental condition  that will certainly last a lifetime.   Can’t you see this, you useless excuses for educators?   The crippled emotions, depression and social attitudes can have the most serious consequences for the child in later life… because some cowardly clot like you wants to gather data for your greedy boss.

That’s what we do to children in schools in Australia.  The medical profession does not do this.  It stands up for kids……like the scalded child whom they won’t release from hospital in Brisbane because a return to its hostile environment on Manus Island would not be good for him. Only one child , but the significance is considerable. It cares for kids.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every single teacher was so emotionally concerned about professional ethics that it adopted the same attitude to children….and protected them from further certain harm ?

At the present time we turn every single school in Australia to a hostile environment for kids for three days every May.  It is thoroughly shameful behaviour, worthy of three days incarceration in the same place for every one who has anything to do with testing procedures…..from the postman to the minister.  Do we consider the plight of young-uns the way the medicos do?

Let’s imagine a parallel in an Australian school and the reaction from teachers.  The children are seated at desks  in a very clinical, threatening environment  – a dull school hall. No talk. No singing or whistling. No smiling. No winking. The teacher is not allowed to respond to any appeal for help.  Have you ever looked into the eyes of a child, pleading only with their eyes for their loving teacher for help;  and then, coldly avoided them? Not easy. They want to learn. You have to test.  The atmosphere is tense, but the invigilators, those guards hired to watch out for non-approved behaviour, dare not relax nor offer comfort to those obviously distressed. Their eichmannized supervisors have issued instructions!     Try to imagine it.           You can cut the hostile, dirty, nasty atmosphere in the test-room with a knife.

Those sensitive children, who have already been scalded emotionally  during the test-prep period and who cry or vomit or both or are obviously distressed must not be treated humanely, according to test instructions. Verboten!

test_cartoonIt’s a nasty business and abusive to children.  So.  Three days of intense child abuse. Shouldn’t the police be contacted?

I can hear the cynic say that the police would remove the teacher who reported the incident, even though the treatment being inflicted on the child is cruel and somebody has to take responsibility.

The evil geniuses behind the maintenance of this kind of cruelty, the politicians and their political parties, not only allow this kind of cruelty to be used in their schools, all encourage it. Ask any politician or political party if they approve of NAPLAN and if they will discuss their attitude openly. These jelly-spined, depraved ‘representatives’  play their nasty games at children’s expense and they know that such totalitarian-operated abuse is happening around the country.. They  repeat it year after year. They won’t do anything.

You cannot find a political party at the present time who will even comment on NAPLAN.  Brutish dingoes. May every politician of the present era lose his or her job…..unless they reform and advocate NAPLAN banning. It’s evil and inhumane but they just don’t give a damn. It’s much worse than the cane or the strap, familiar to many politicians who must have needed it when they were at school, because their intellectual capacity couldn’t cope.

This dirty, rotten, destructive, inhumane testing device has to go. The longer it continues, the more it threatens Australia’s future.

While parents who allow their children to endure this kind of callous torture, do not speak out or withdraw their children in larger numbers, they have an excuse.  The cowardly government does not want parents to know that they can say ‘NO’, so they have passed the buck to school principals who are not allowed to release publically  this information and are discouraged from discussing issues of choice or issues concerning NAPLAN in the open. Their philosophical leader is known as Adolf Eichmann. He now operates from ANCARA….principals will do as they are told and shut up. Shame.


Our pollies play really dirty with our children’s lives…….that’s for sure.

Try calling in on your local politician’s office and ask for a copy of their party’s view of NAPLAN.  I have. Two. Labor & National. Nice people. No opinion. No decent policy nor opinion on classroom learning. Just the usual claptrap, that escapes the serious issues, adorns the walls.

Try asking your candidate why children are forced to go to school.  If they included the word ‘learning’ in their response, then ask what NAPLAN has to do with anything related to learning.

You will have noticed that Julia has re-entered the cess-pit with enlightening congratulations to herselfNews_of_day_10_480w and her Klein system.

From deep beneath the bozone layer, which, defined by the Washington Post Mensa Invitational as

“The thickness that prevents wisdom from penetrating the intellect of those people who don’t know what they are talking about”, she speaks NAPLANese!  Jump, teachers,  as you were forced to do in 2008. She is about to say or make sure that her co-neo-con Simon Birmingham says it for her! JUMP! On command! She’s been our cloistered ‘senior fellow’ of NAPLAN since she left the mess to us, hiding somewhere, ready to pounce.

 Phil Cullen  41 Cominan Avenue  Banora Point  Australia 2486  07 5524 6443              
07 5524 6443          0407865999

What’s important about 2016 and NAPLAN?

Please make sure that every political candidate sees this.

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.

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.

Do the Lib-Lab. and Green Parties know this?

Just because politicians don’t like kids, there’s no need for them to be as nasty and crafty as they have been for the last eight years..

Treehorn – 2016 – NAPLAN

You might be wondering what Treehorn is up-to during 2016.  Here we are

2016 is CRUNCH-TIME. NAPLAN has to go. This year!  Its existence is indefensible. It ruins teaching. It ruins learning. It ruins Gonski. It causes bullying and school hate. It is useless. It is all of the above. It was Not asked for. It wasn’t needed. It was forced labour. Why Australia persists with it can best be answered by Rupert Murdoch and his data-junkies in the Business Council of Australia which controls the silly sorts of things that our pollies tend to do.    If you support NAPLAN, you’re a political waster. Just because you don’t like kids and don’t worry about how they feel, there has been no need for the excesses and abuse that you have imposed on them and kept going with, even though you know of the enormous harm that NAPLAN has caused…you Lib-Lab neo-cons. 

This has to be  the year to tidy up the mess.

Treehorn is looking for a political party ….any one whose members believe in democracy…. to adopt the motto : “Ban NAPLAN” and encourage the millions of mums and dads, teachers, political and educational observers to grasp the nettle;  and vote for that party despite previous allegiances or job requirements [e.g.working for a News Ltd. newspaper or teaching in a test-fixated school]

Here’s the policy statement from the NZ Labour Party :

  •  Scrap National Standards testing and return schools’ focus back to teaching the full breadth of New Zealand’s Internationally acclaimed curriculum.
  •  Redirect resources spent forcing ‘National Standards’ on schools into teacher professional development programmes to assist children who are underachieving.
  •   We will repeal charter school legislation and no more charter schools will be created under Labour.

While our Politicians try to look like stunned mullets when asked, “What is happening to NAPLAN ?”, there needs to be a determined call to them to get rid of it.

It’s a tough call. Political allegiances are part of the DNA of some voters. Even those with hearts of gold, who love kids dearly and weep at the way that they are being treated in schools by Naplanners, who can see that the country’s future can only continue to deteriorate the longer that such fear-based schooling exists, who know that bullying will keep increasing at an alarming rate, who think seriously about their vote and – when they get to the ballot box in the classroom of the local school or wherever – don’t desert these mature, thought-based feelings;  and vote for the party that have always voted for.  It happens. Let’s try to minimise the chance that numbers of those party-faithfuls who allow the vision of the future to disappear too easily at the ballot box,  will vote for child freedom to learn.

The issue of NAPLAN-use needs Vital Discussion.

While schooling remains under the control of the triangular neo-con. political coalition of Labor-BCA-Liberal, the education climate reflects the neo-conservative ideologies of those in charge and of the parties that enforce such changes to the status quo. So, we are stuck with schools operating under a neo-conservative ideological regime..

NAPLAN is an enemy of child-welfare but not enough adults care.  It’s an immoral, abusive, destructive,  useless and alien form of schooling, that is not to the credit of those who support it or the control systems that they use to condone their views. Naplanners mandated its use in schools in 2008 without any consultations with parents or teachers or principals. Many casual observers now  think that it is  ‘just one of those things that children are required to do in schools.’ What’s the problem?    Democratic educational rights are the problem. There is none.

So, while it seems a waste of time to try to convince those whose belief system is owned by one party, Treehorn wants to keep trying. Not all adults can be so uncaring. The swinging voter, as usual, should be the target. It is the group that puts a party in power.  Thoughtless party faithfuls are  waste paper….as a rule.  They have a neo-religious commitment to follow their party. Their belief system is an outcome of family, church and collegial indoctrination during their social development. 

We need to get them thinking.

Treehorn is trying to convince all political candidates, including rusted-on party faithfuls to make loud noises in the party meetings to try to persuade their party to develop a child welfare policy. No party has endorsed such an autonomous candidate yet.

Thinking adults will have to pretend that the candidates are made of knotty granite and need a lot of work to make an impression. It can be done.

So Treehorn wants to see….

  1. Intelligent political candidates include “Ban NAPLAN” on their political statements.
  2. Intelligent political candidates  force their party to include “Ban NAPLAN” on their political statements.

There will be lobbies that want to  treat  it with put offs …..

[a] Maybe publish the fact that children do not have to contest NAPLAN. Parents can just say ‘No.’ at any time in any manner. Nothing else.

 [b] Call for a review by every-day classroom personnel on what is happening as a consequence of its introduction. 

Great ideas. Too much time wasted. We know that NAPLAN sinks.

If NAPLAN is banned asap, there will not be a need for any delaying tactics.

The anguish, the child stress, the bed-wetting, the bullying, the self-harm, the vomiting, the crying, all directly caused by NAPLAN testing, will disappear and schools can get on with teaching and learning.

It’s 2016, a chance for democratic politicians to prove themselves.

2016 – the year that Australian reinvented itself

 Phil Cullen  41 Cominan Avenue  Banora Point  Australia 2486  07 5524 6443              
07 5524 6443          0407865999

What a wonderful month.



Treehorn sends a……

Message from Kids to Political Candidates

February – What a Wonderful Month

I knew it as soon as I was born into it!  That was a while ago. This year though,  February started with all the chatter in the press about the two quality teachers who had resigned because of the evil effects that NAPLAN testing is having on Australian schooling. Caught in the cogs of negative gearing and other monumental issues of state, of concern to the BCA – not the future of our country  – politicians ignored the comments about schooling, as usual, which went feral for those interested in kids and in the prosperity of Australia. Their comments should have been etched in the forecourt of parliament house. Check them out again:  , ( ) for Kathryn’s  and for Gabbie’s comments.

I still hope that the Minister, Mr. Simon Birmingham invites these two teachers into writing a “Review of the Effects of NAPLAN Testing on Classroom Operations”.   NAPLAN effects, so obviously, have been monumental and have altered,  completely, the course of Australian education….it needs documenting by those who know the classroom best.

The changes to Australian schooling have shifted so far that it needs re-inventing.    AND  then I was introduced to the Australian Education Reinventors.

More good news! I was directed to the most outstanding website in relation to Australian schooling that I have even seen, compiled by  Amy and Chris Cox.  Any person with even the slightest interest in school kids should take a half-hour and explore the wonderful assortment of  wise observations and comments. It’s so easy to read, all parents and teachers will enjoy it enormously, I betcha. Click on anything you see. There’s a treasure trove of information.

I was introduced by a most  enthusiastic activist for kids’ learning, Jonathan Anstock whose own zest for children to become enthusiastic, happy learners is superlative. His book, Teach The Children Well – A Spiritual Investment seems an useful addition to the library.  His website is first rate.  Aussie kids need movers like Jonathan

Then, this week opened with comments by Mr. Thomson, principal of Kimberley College where NAPLAN testing is anathema, who  maintains that it is a form of government-sanctioned child abuse.  We all know that it is; even those that allow their children to do it. It’s phenomenological that this happens, but it does.   As well, some parents don’t know that they can say no to NAPLAN, as the wise parents at Kimberley College do.  Some parents and even some teachers think that it is a part of school routine. It isn’t. It was dumped on schools because Brenden Nelson, Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard and Chris Pyne don’t like teachers.They favoured ‘Robustness’ in teaching – political twaddle for abuse. …and tried to impose it so that we would blame teachers for something. NAPLAN results went down hill as did our PISA results which proved that even test scores were higher when teachers were in charge than when ACARA was. What a shambles!

Your scheming didn’t work, Julia!

There is a close relationship between this form of child abuse, of which Mr. Thomson speaks,  and UNESCO’s Rights of the Child and a teacher’s Code of Ethics.  Children at school are long-suffering victims of  a form of educratic robust control that the world has never experienced before.  Australia, desirous of a high place in the PISA data-gathering competition and because of this misguided desire,  without any doubt,  is about the best in the world at administrative child abuse.  It infringes the rights of the child abominably and forces teachers to do the dirty work for them. It needs to be tested in a court of law; for if it continues much longer the worse-off things are going to get. The emotional scars and cognitive wounds need examination.

Politicians! Where are you?

I wrote to the Courier Mail in support of Kimberley College. Once again, my letter wasn’t printed, as they do,  but there were two more interesting ones from the work-face. [I don’t think the CM likes me. It must be something I said that deserved to be Murdoch-proofed. Sorry CM].

That’s probably the end of the excitement attached to schooling for the month.     BUT

Things might be looking up, Kids. One day! One day, Australian children will have the chance to learn everything they want to learn; and to be happy.  They will learn to laugh and play and dance and achieve at a level never heard of before; and to evaluate their own progress as they go through learning experiences with a real [ not testucating] teacher in every classroom.  Fear of failure, the basis for our present system of schooling, will be replaced by the joy of learning,  the thrill of achieving, and having fun with it. Your zest for knowledge will be insatiable. You’ll ignore the cynics and despicable data gatherers. The world is yours and your teachers will help you to make the most of it. Your school will be an attractive place of learning, not an assembly-line testing factory; attractive in the sense that you will be drawn to its magic learning as a magnet attracts iron filings. Your needs will be the curriculum. It will be about you. Neighbourhood schools will be places of learning and fun for all the community to share the learnings with you.

It’s possible. It’s probable. We were once on the way to wonderful schooling opportunities……THEN….ignorant, stupid politiciansoutsourced  schooling to the BCA and to Murdoch, Klein, Gates!

Don’t be too sad, kids.  More and more adults seem to be sticking up for you.  Trust the pollies at your peril.

 Phil Cullen  41 Cominan Avenue  Banora Point  Australia 2486 
07 5524 6443  0407865999               

Education Readings February 26th

By Allan Alach

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at

Four neuromyths that are still prevalent in schools – debunked

I’d suggest that the so-called education reform movement is the biggest source of learning myths.

“Many “neuromyths” are rampant in our classrooms, and research suggests that people are often seduced by neuroscientific explanations, even if these are not accurate or even relevant. Research also shows that explanations accompanied by images of the brain also persuade people to believe in their validity, however random the illustration.”

6 Ways To Make Learning Visible

“How do we distinguish knowledge, skills, and thinking from….learning? How do we make learning visible, so that we might surface and document powerful discoveries about the influence of our teaching on learners?”

7 things Blended Learning is NOT

“What has ‘Blended Learning’ done for the world of learning? It had the promise to shake us out of the ‘classroom/lecture-obsessed’ straightjacket into a fully developed, new paradigm, where online, social, informal and many other forms of learning could be considered and implemented. This needed an analytic approach to developing and designing blended learning solutions. So what happened?”

Why England is in the ‘guard’s van’ of school reform

Andy Hargreaves contrasting Scotland and England school systems – one of these is failing. There are lessons for many other countries here.

“England no longer values these things. About half of its schools are now outside local authority control. England offers a business capital model that invests in education to yield short-term profits and keep down costs through shorter training, weakened security and tenure, and keeping salaries low by letting people go before they cost too much.”

‘Like a horror show: It is difficult to comprehend the government’s stupidity over testing in schools’

Another article looking at the dire situation in England, especially the move to test school entrants.

“It is not just the age of the children that makes baseline assessment so problematic, it is also its format: a series of yes/no statements which fail to capture the complexity of the learning process or the child’s developmental stage. Can it really be possible to judge, on the basis of observation in the first six weeks of children starting a new school, whether they are or are not “risk taking”, whether they have or do not have “curiosity” and “persistence”?”

Take exams early in the morning to get a higher score

Ponder on the implications of this:

Hans Henrik Sievertsen from the Danish National Centre for Social Research in Copenhagen and his team have looked at 2 million standardised test scores from Danish children aged between 8 and 15. Starting from 8 am, for every hour later that a test was taken, scores declined by an amount equivalent to the effect of missing 10 days of school. Children who were performing worse at school seemed most affected by the time they sat the exam.

Against the Sticker Chart

An article for parents that has implications for the classroom.

“The problem with sticker charts and similar reward systems is not that they don’t work. Rather, they can work too well, creating significant negative and unintended long-term consequences for both the kids and their families. Sticker charts are powerful psychological tools, and they can go beyond affecting children’s motivation to influence their mindset and even affect their relationship with parents.”

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

Why Ability Grouping Doesn’t Work

While schools implement ability grouping, streaming or class cross grouping there is conflict with modern approaches to teaching and learning.

“In the ‘Pygmalion Study'(Rosenthal and Jacobson 1968) elementary teachers were told that the lowest achieving students were actually the highest and vice versa.  Simply because of this information and teachers’ subsequent expectations, the low achieving students showed significantly higher gains in their scores. Thus labelling or grouping students not only has a negative impact on their self-efficacy, but on teacher expectation.”

Innovate Like Sherlock Holmes

The power of observation – elementary my dear Watson

Watson: When I hear you give your reasons, the thing always appears to me to be so ridiculously simple that I could easily do it myself, though at each successive instance of your reasoning I am baffled until you explain your process. And yet I believe that my eyes are as good as yours.

Holmes: Quite so. You see, but you do not observe. The distinction is clear.”

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

This thing called reading.

If you have never read Frank Smith then you need to rectify this asap.

“Frank Smith believes that children do not need to be taught to read instead teachers need to create the conditions for them to want to. If reading is active process, that respects their ideas and worlds, they will want to join the reading club.”

Lester Flockton.Nothing wrong with being critical!

New Zealand respected educationalist Lester Flockton encourages principals to be critical.

“Lester Flockton encourages principals to develop critical reflective thinking about what is ‘put before them from on high, or the latest offering from theorists, researchers, policy pushers, advisers, consultants, programme package purveyors and the like’. ‘Such people’, Lester reminds us, ‘often have claims that are incomplete in their perspectives and insights about the working of schools and classrooms.”

More Zen – less zest!

“Hare Brain and Tortoise Mind – think less! Guy Claxton is a thinker after my own heart. While everyone else is rushing around introducing rational thinking skills he is pushing the ‘slower’ idea of developing intuition, hence the title of his book ‘Hare Brain Tortoise Mind – how to increase your intelligence by thinking less’.Claxton is about valuing patience and confusion which he believes are the precursors of real wisdom rather than the current emphasis on rigor and certainty. It is by digging into this ‘under mind’ of our unconscious that Claxton believes creativity resides.”

Education Readings February 19th

By Allan Alach

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at

Why Social and Emotional Learning Is Essential for Students

“Research shows that SEL not only improves achievement by an average of 11 percentile points, but it also increases prosocial behaviors (such as kindness, sharing, and empathy), improves student attitudes toward school, and reduces depression and stress among students.”

How Music Education Can Lighten Kids’ Lives And Improve Learning Outcomes

Not at all surprised by this. I’ve observed the benefits to children from learning to play the drums.

“The symphony pays for professional musician-educators to teach a focused curriculum throughout the year, from music fundamentals to individual and group cello and violin.

So far it has paid off: Participants are testing higher in math and reading than students who aren’t in the program. But Sound Minds, its creators say, also promotes music’s intrinsic power to uplift, inspire and challenge.”

Good Vibrations: The Role Of Music In Einstein’s Thinking

Following on…

“Looking at the role of music in Einstein’s thinking sheds some light on how he shaped his most profound scientific ideas. His example suggests that in being intimately involved with the scientific complexity of music, he was able to bring a uniquely aesthetic quality to his theories. He wanted his science to be unified, harmonious, expressed simply, and to convey a sense of beauty of form.”

Teaching: Just Like Performing Magic

Interesting observations from a magician…

“Education, at its most engaging, is performance art. From the moment a teacher steps into the classroom, students look to him or her to set the tone and course of study for everyone, from the most enthusiastic to the most apathetic students. Even teachers who have moved away from the traditional lecture format, toward more learner autonomy-supportive approaches such as project-based and peer-to-peer learning, still need to engage students in the process, and serve as a vital conduit between learner and subject matter.”

School Choice Fails to Make a Difference

“This outcome flies in the face of the predictions of many economists, who often tout school choice as a way to improve the U.S. educational system while also increasing equality of opportunity. Economists typically assume that people are rational and well-informed, and will make decisions that benefit them. If giving students and their parents more school choice hurts the students academically, then something is seriously wrong with the theory.”

The Global Search for Education: What’s Really Worth Learning?

“I watched David Perkins’ presentation on this timely topic at the IB Heads World Conference this year and I am delighted to welcome him today to The Global Search for Education. David is interested in how we ought to adapt our curriculums in light of an ever-changing world. He asserts that what is conventionally taught in our schools is not necessarily meant to produce the kinds of community members we want and need. Perkins believes that only by reimagining what we teach our children can we lead students down the road to learning that results in a flourishing life.”

The problem with evidence based practice

“So, what is the problem with evidence? After all, evidence is proof, confirmation, verification, substantiation, corroboration, affirmation, authentication, attestation, documentation; support for, backing for, reinforcement for, grounds for. Nothing wrong with that. Or is there? Actually, in education, there is.”

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

For creativity over conformity in classrooms

“Do schools kill creativity, asks Ken Robinson in the much-watched TED talk. I am inclined to say, they do. Of course, educational systems do notwork in a vacuum, but are a reflection of the society they function in.”

How To Kill Creativity (And How To Rebuild It)

“Many of our organisations, without realising it, act as inhibitors of innovation.Rules and protocols are put in place — often for very good reasons — that preserve the status quo. Over time, organisations develop a set of social norms — ‘the way we do things around here’ designed to protect the business from failure.One of the biggest inhibitors of innovation is part of human nature itself — the fear of losing what we’ve got.”

Where Did The Joy Of Learning Go?

“Help your child regain the kindergarten passion of embracing learning with joy. When school stops being fun, all too frequently, learning stops. Help your child retain that kindergarten enthusiasm of embracing each day with the joy of learning. Connect your children to what they learn at school through their interests and past positive experiences so they will WANT to learn …”

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Asking questions is my business

Keeping alive the laser like curiosity of the young

“Curiosity and creativity are the basis of all learning. If they are lost education soon turns into ‘schooling’ and students in begin to ‘turn off’ and they wish they were elsewhere. Their ‘voice’, their identity as a learner, their questions, their queries and their theories, it seems, are no longer required.Lively curiosity is turned into dull compliance.”

Back to the future?

Good pedagogy is nothing new it seems

“Mark Twain once said that he could live for a month on one compliment so it was great to receive an e-mail, from a student teacher from Glasgow University who said, after reading a newsletter I wrote on Teaching and Learning Strategies in 2002, that it ‘completely changed my view of education and teaching’.I couldn’t resist re-reading what I had written in 2002 and was pleasantly surprised to see how relevant what I had written is to today’s challenges.”

And now it is 2016!