Preparing to give a talk.

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 .

‘Since 2008, the neoliberal corporate sector, using its own forms of unionism and exploiting the most powerful elements of New Public Management [Managerialism on steroids], has been very successful. As a first step it captured and corralled  the leaders of various professional groups and arranged for mass ethical  gelding. It then cloned and dominated these associations that once used to stand guard on professional ethics, when they had balls….. Such organisations could rescue Australian schooling from the present doldrums….now….tomorrow…., but their pride has been successfully neutered and muted.” 


I was recently asked to present a talk to a group of people who are very interested in the direction that Australia, especially the education of its young, is going.

I should like to share some thoughts with you as to what I planned to do. I wanted to remain optimistic about the possibility that Australia would, one day, think seriously about  its education system. Yes. There have been one or two attempts in the past, prominent amongst which was the establishment of a Schools Commission in 1973, with scholar Malcolm Skilbeck in charge….as you do {Google him]. His work in the U.K. since then in the development of school-based curriculum has been seminal. The likelihood of school-based development of anything to do with basic schooling  in Australia  seems quite remote. Schools are now controlled by a higher authority which treats schools as simply collection centres for useless data that testucating measurers like to play with.

Despite this, I wanted to remain optimistic.  NAPLAN will go. One day.  It’s too damaging to Australia’s future to last. Entrapped in a serious corporate desire to control schooling as the big-end-of-town sees fit, schools have been forced to tolerate too much dismemberment of children’s desire to learn. 

  1. Disinterested adults now ignore the wonder of childhood to such an extent that its very existence is not relevant. Children are regarded as hardened, little adult robots.
  2. The exercise of humane attitudes towards children is no longer discussed in the schooling context. Data matters, not kids.  [‘Homophobia’ or ‘Superannuation’ is a preferred public discussion point!]
  3. Respect for children’s modes of individual development is now being totally  ignored.
  4. The heart of a healthy, social, professionally ethical  and economically  secure learning environment for all has disappeared from our down-under island nation..

You might be able to see, from my notes [attached], why I maintain a little bit of hope, however.  Australia can only stand so much of NAPLAN-based  ennuic schools, just going through the motions…..the stage that is all too common at this time. While schools are encouraged to be just formal and functional, collecting heaps of data, there’s a bit of grit left at this ennui stage; and recovery is possible. Australia badly needs innovative schools with enthusiastic personnel, independent in curriculum interpretations, icons of professional ethics; and happy places for children to attend, because of all the wonderful learning enterprises that are offered there. But…

The Treehorn call over the years for adults to be conscious of the damage being done at present,  has fallen on deaf ears.

 Since 2008, the neoliberal corporate sector , using its own forms of unionism and exploiting the most powerful elements of New Pubic Management [Managerialism on steroids], has been quite successful.  As a first step it captured and corralled the leaders of  various professional groups and in the style of ‘lambs to the slaughter’, arranged for the mass gelding of professional ethics.  It then cloned and dominated the associations that used to stand guard on professionalism, when they had balls.The Australian Primary Principals Association gave way to the Australian Government Primary Principals Association, for instance. Both deknackered Associations approved of NAPLAN and continue to support its crude use. Once strong on ethical behaviour, the organisation and its network acquiesced in obscene haste. There has been no serious public discussion regarding testing and system evaluation since 2008.  Such organisations could rescue Australia from the present doldrums and positively alter the course of Australia’s future, but their pride has been neutered and muted.

State governments themselves had no choice. They were captured first.  A piece of cake, really. No testing; no money. They sold their respectability without a question. None seems to care much about kids.

Screen Shot 2016-07-22 at 9.48.33 AMSince 2008 Australia has used an education system controlled by fear-based standardised testing techniques. Once state responsibilities, Australian schools are, clearly, now run by ACARA, a politico- kleinist  organisation established by Julia Gillard and a group of testucators. Children have been exploited in the interests of a greedy testing industry whose profits rely on the neoliberal way of doing fearful things to children. Adults, in tune with the causal attitude  shown by school administrators,  don’t care much what happens to the kids..

I still wait for the teaching profession to grow in spunk terms and sternly exert its ethics based on the considerations of  effective teaching strategies, whose results would make Australia a proud nation.  It will happen. I’m optimistic.  Why am I so certain? I have never met a teacher who has joined the profession to be as nasty to our children as the present system demands…..and I’ve met a number who have left because of the lack of professional ethics. We have some strong, great teachers in Australia. No classroom teacher that I know, favours NAPLAN.  How many do you know?

That’s why. There will be a strong resurgence of professional ethics.  Compliancy and heresy [the belief that fear works best in the teaching act] need to be divorced.  Principals and school administrators need to come out and stamp their authority….before  any more NAPLAN tests are allowed into the learning processes. Schooling needs to be returned to schools.


Phil Cullen  41 Cominan Avenue  Banora Point  Australia 2486              


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