“The 2008 shot-gun wedding of testucators and politicians, paid for by big business, needs an early, clean, decisive divorce. Let the testucators continue with the weighing of pigs to see if the measuring helps the pigs to gain weight and the politician continue kissing the backsides of the rich and powerful. Stay away from our kids! School education needs to be returned to a more humane pedagogy in the hands of school professionals who know what they are doing, who will not tolerate school invasions of the klein kind nor the child-abusive violence of the NAPLAN kind. Australia has the capacity to show the world what school learning is all about, but not while this domineering politicised husbandry of teaching remains. For the present, we are heading the wrong way. Lost. Schooling by test scores is not schooling.”
THINKING OF KIDS
AUSSIE FRIENDS OF TREEHORN
“Treehorn sighed. ‘I don’t think I’ll tell anyone.’ he thought to himself. “If I don’t say anything, they won’t notice.’”
Inanity & Despair
It gets hot in the tropics as many will know. One day, while my friend Oscar was teaching at McDonnells Creek, 30 kms. from Cairns, the temperature rose and his Head Teacher said to him, “I don’t think the Department would mind if we removed our waistcoats today.” Yes. It was a fair while ago. The Department. It ruled. It controlled our lives, how we dressed, what we thought. More than just an employer, it was something like a vocational idol, established for adoration purposes only. Maurie Kelly, first President of APPA, recalls that, while teaching at Kajabbi in the remote far north-west of Queensland, closer to the Arafura Sea than to the Pacific Ocean, he always kept a sports coat hanging on a nail behind the door in case someone from the Department should call. We all did such things, many ridiculous. It wasn’t out of respect for the Departmental representative or the office itself. It was fear of being thought unworthy in the eyes of those who controlled our salary.
A large organisation like a state department can be riddled by inanities of many kinds.
EICHMANNISM Many readers of this article will know of similar stories. Those of us who have been around for a while have an endless number of them, perhaps well described as ‘eichmannism taking over from plain common sense’. The cause, too frequently, is that we teachers, well known for giving-in easily, as a rule, and behaving in a way that we think we are expected to behave, do as we are told too easily. The introduction of NAPLAN represents an instance of inanity taking over from professionalism and teaching ethics…and taking possession of the curriculum because our teachers knew what was expected of them[in the eyes of our politicians]; that is to be nice, compliant, obedient people and not be the rigorous, firm, fearless kind of professional that marks a proud species. We are not known for being brave, in any professional or ethical sense.
Obedience, born of the kind of coercive control that always threatens independent democratic progress and does not expect high levels of enthusiasm or progressive initiative, has maintained itself through the ages. When NAPLAN was introduced by the new managerialists and ill-informed politicians , who ignored the basic elements of liberal democracy and …used totalitarian coercion to force easy-to-tests on the school curriculum, expecting only mediocre outcomes; …. hid the rights of parents to make a choice; and …. pretended that standardises basic testing was an acceptable routine curriculum activity, eichmannism seemed to be the only choice for school administrators. Principals observed tradition and were easy to ‘cattle pen’. They chorused, “Yes, Sir. How high?”
Although such cowering thoughtless obedience has been a trademark since children started to be prepared en masse for the mills of England, there was a time that one was fortunate enough to live through….the freedom years of the 1960s and 1970s. When ‘freedom to learn’ originating from the British primary school and the landmark Lady Plowden’s Report 1967, “Children and their primary schools” http://www.educationengland.org.uk/documents/plowden/plowden1967-1.htmlrplowden/plowden1967-1.htmlr gained traction for over a decade or so in the 60s and 70s and the world progressed and produced lateral thinkers who are now providing the social goodies that we are enjoying now, it was so delightful. Principals themselves controlled their individual curriculum activities. Teachers were in control of the teaching/learning act and classrooms became exciting learning centres. It was a wonderful period of exciting school learning and It gave us a taste of the possible. Red-necked traditionalist found the times uncomfortable but it made many others think about the art of teaching.
Then, when managerialism was released from the Harvard Business School, in the mid-80s, used and promoted by political wankers, identified by their brown noses, whose ambitions were bigger than their knowledge of organisational outcomes, leadership became confused. Plumbers started to repair automobiles. There were serious consequences for educational enterprises; and professionalism lost its way. Ignorant of the limits of the nitty-gritty of teaching and learning, politically-sponsored bureaucratic commands took control of our schools; ignorant of the effects of their directions on the learning chances of children, good teaching became identifiable only in the non-test-prep hours. The mediocre has now become the norm while the system fiddles with the gathering of useless data. After witnessing post-2008 organisational clownsmanship usurp a vision of what might have been, as part of 70 years of witnessing many different kinds of influences from many different sources and from many different observation posts, I now despair for our teachers and our kids of the present day. They’re getting it tough. School education is at the lowest point it has been in over half of a century.
Worse still, the future of Australia is in jeopardy and Its long term future cannot be secure while NAPLAN is around; and while politicians who consider themselves liberals and progressives are fans of such testing procedures. Because of the present approved nature of schooling and hounding of its professional staff, schools are prevented from producing the kind of brain-power that a country like ours needs.
Marion Brady makes this point in a recent [Aug.27] article in the Washington Post, “Why school is a confusing mental mish-mash for kids.”
Brady notes, as all reasonable educators do, that “Learners discover and deepen their understanding of relationships [between and among aspects of reality] by inferring, hypothesizing, predicting, sequencing, extrapolating, valuing, generalising and so on – thought processes too complex and interwoven to be to be evaluated by standardised tests.” Billions of dollars, trillions of hours, and intellectual potential beyond measure are being wasted on tests that dumb kids down.”
If this kind of statement does not make sense to testucrats, nothing ever will!
Australia is succeeding in its effort to institute a mish-mash system that can only end in dumbing down the whole bloody country.
I don’t think I’d select teaching as a first-choice professional occupation as keenly as I did way back in my teen ages, when I dreamed of becoming a primary school teacher; and I certainly would think seriously about sending my child to a school that had allowed NAPLAN to enter its premises. The teaching profession has gone to the pack and the presence of NAPLAN says something about the school and its management that scares me.
Besides taking over our schools, eichmannist principles also apply to the teaching act itself. Our government seems to believe that didactic forms of teaching, supported by regular, compulsory, standardised tests of achievement is the way to run a classroom. OMG. Witness the allocation of many millions of dollars to packaged direct instruction merchandise. A show-off, loud-mouthed Gradgrind-follower Minister demanded its use; some teaching pretenders found comfort with the approach and then one group of victims revolted, having not learned anything to their parents’ satisfaction. It’s an example of how our system, on every measure possible, is heading downhill. It’s too obvious.
The most recent PISA results should surely persuade testucators of all kinds to consider professional hari kari and disembowel themselves of their nonsense.
It’s so easy for a Principals’ association of any kind to act professionally and tell its political masters that it can no longer tolerate the ideologies on which the present system is based. But they wont. Why don’t school principals do this ? Have they lost their way? Are they too busy with internal “club” activities to be bothered? What’s going on?
PRETENDERS When high level sciolists [of limited practical teaching knowledge] are placed in charge of an education system, they breed battalions of pretenders whose vanity disposes them to make statements about curriculum and its evaluation as if it was their own toothbrush. [Darwin said something like that in his discourse about some other peculiar species.] In Australia, some mechanical data-bound score-crazy accountants, able to enact their base prejudices and new-found influence, have claimed the field for neo-liberal purposes . Appointed to control a testing status quo in contravention of basic teaching and learning principles, they are measurement crazed and they are manipulated by forces whose purpose is rooted in politics and profit. Because they have a grit feeling that they may be right, despite the evidence to the contrary, they assume that they possess the definitive word about the learning habits of the young and what true-blue classroom teaching behaviour entails. The most recent PISA results have shown, in hard measurement terms, that this stance has failed. Will we be correcting the shemozzle any time soon? The kleinist, fear-based notions that support NAPLAN have not produced the goods, but now that our erstwhile so-called politico-education leaders, doyens of pretence, having eased themselves into an ideology of self-belief and control-power, they will persist with kleinism, simply because it exists. It has such base beginnings and built-in failure factors and they have flexed their big-business-based muscles so much that they must continue to force better test results rather than to use humanitarian forms of evaluation and accountability in the application of sustained learning. It won’t work, but it will be maintained for many years and become part of the framework of Australian schooling for another generation of unhappy kids.
Let me repeat : NAPLAN will continue its useless dumbing down of learning simply because the test itself exists.
How long will this mish-mash last?
NSW is about to introduce the branding of social status by using soft testing of Year 1s. It’s diagnostic of course, better than teacher opinion it is said, and it will help our leaders to see if the Year 2 and 3 teachers have done their job as adjudged when the cohort is naplaned in Year 3. Sarcasm aside, will arrangements be made for parents to express a choice ? Can parents be assured that the remediation processes are reliable? If the tests are one-on-one, it seems essential that teachers do them for their own pupils; but where do they get the time? Please explain.
Is this sort of thing an indication that our testing industry is too cocky and has gone crazy.. …that it doesn’t know what happens in classrooms? Don’t they know that children are pre-wired [Brady] to make sense of the world and to love learning and want to learn as much as they can? Why do our test-crazy monsters want to spoil their lives?
The 2008 shot-gun wedding of testucators and politicians, paid for by big business, needs an early, clean, decisive divorce. Let the testucators continue with the weighing of pigs to see if the measuring helps the pigs to gain weight and the politician continue kissing the backsides of the rich and powerful. Stay away from our kids! School education needs to be returned to a more humane pedagogy in the hands of school professionals who know what they are doing, who will not tolerate school invasions of the klein kind or child-abusive violence of the NAPLAN kind. Australia has the capacity to show the world what school learning is all about, but not while this domineering politicised husbandry of teaching remains. For the present, we are heading the wrong way. Lost. Schooling by test scores is not schooling.
Most advanced countries want an education system that will ensure its advancement…. not just its survival. We’re behind the times. We’re too confused.
INANITY The pursuit of this cane-toad-type project invented by a callous Big Apple lawyer, which was failing in its own paddock when it was borrowed, and then released before considering the future outcomes, is not exactly the mark of a wise government. Then, to hand the project over to a sciolist group of ardent testucators with authority to use as an integral part of a national curriculum is a cause for concern. Combine this with the promotion of tedious eichmannism amongst its educational pretenders and you have pure and simple inanity,
The vision of a country that provides neighbourhood schools where teachers are skilled at using a variety of strategies and techniques that range from the maieutic to the didactic, and who follow known learning principles to help children to extend themselves as far as they can and to enjoy a learning life in the happiest of circumstances is not beyond us.
Let’s take off our waist-coats and get into making kids lives better and more productive.
Please make sure that you read Marion Brady’s hot-off-the-press article.