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.

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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…..

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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?



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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

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