The Moral Crisis

The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of moral crisis, maintain their neutrality. [Dante]

The Moral Crisis

How do we treat our children?

My twilight years are fading and my preciously held dreams of a schooling system where children will love learning for its own sake and be anxious to get to a school each day because of the wonderful, happy, play-ridden and challenging activities that the school provides, and that they would exit school with much more enthusiasm for learning than they did when they started, seem to have disappeared. Their teachers, I had foreseen, which we already have, will form a warm bond of cooperative learning, that is embedded in the true meaning of PUPIL, with each child anxious to learn because of the special bond with a person anxious to teach them. There would be no fear of learning, no restrictions on the limits, no stress that might effect anyone’s attitude to learning each and every day. Teachers would be trusted to teach in their own way and each school would be free to do the sorts of things it wanted. There would be ‘Freedom to Learn’

I had hoped to leave the place in better condition than when I entered it, but, bugger, the Australian system of schooling is declining rapidly….and it doesn’t give a fig about the way it treats its children. I’m truly saddened by what I see and hear. Its nasty, politically-driven way of ordering schools around is perilous. NAPLAN’s corruption of all the goodness in the curriculum is grossly immoral because it deliberately threatens the mental health of millions of young Australians. Recent extensions of testucation to the very young, to graduands and beginning teachers are ludicrous and downright stupid. They grow every year, madly uncontrolled.

The morality of the way our politicians tell schools how to treat children is gross. We must free our kids.
Our pollies can re-set the course tomorrow if we tell them to do so.
They need to cancel NAPLAN as a first step only.

We have the children and the teachers who want to share happy, effective learning experiences. They are there now in happy groups ready to GO; and they try hard despite the commands of those who still live in the dark ages, who prefer emetic methods of instruction and ‘tough love’ exchanges…all so that each ‘student’ [vis-a-vis ‘pupil’] can reach a mediocre standard in selected topics that are easily measureable. Data. Data. Data. That’s what teachers are expected to do these days…..generally, doing as they are told….. by the politico-corporate duopoly whose intentions have been suspect since the Testing Industry, as a separate entity from the Schooling Industry, assumed power over schooling processes in a number of western countries. Pollies have selected testucation over education.

The Testing Industry established itself in Australia in 2008 as a serious business enterprise, after Joel Klein, the New York lawyer who invented fear-based Kleinism, visited Australia as a guest of the banking industry. [Yes, the same big four!] Banks want to employ geniuses on their counters, not those from the lower base of the bell-shaped curve. Since they are stuck with selections from the honest school plodders, they applaud the use of crash-bang-wallop techniques in schools to force-feed higher measureable scores in numeracy…in the manner that Klein advocated. That kind of force, added to the Rudd-Gillard press for a new election trick, was exerted on the standard timidity of the teaching profession which succumbed very quckly. They produced NAPLAN…. a blunt weapon of the testucrats and their ‘godfathers’. To the ‘ho-hum’ of historians, they dug-up the old reliable tormentor: ‘Back to Basic Standards”, with a new face : More fear. Cunning parental deceit. Slick rhetoric. Cooperative media. Deafening media silence on important topics. Sham professional groups selling their souls for sponsorship. Unlimited public money for testing. Moral degeneracy was in the very air.

While ‘Back to Basics’ lobbies emerge every few years, this one is lasting much longer than usual….much longer than it should. I had thought that School principal groups and professional associations would have refused to have anything to do with it on ethical grounds from Day One – the maltreatment of children – and, having had a trial, the force of ethical opinion would cause NAPLAN to disappear at least by 2010. I was wrong….very, very, disappointingly wrong. The style of ‘client capture’ by managerialists had been refined; and some groups now remain hard-wired to willing corporate sponsors. Kids don’t matter any more.

[When I first heard of the NAPLAN requirements I suggested to the President of APPA that he should have said at the outset, “No way, Julia. We don’t do that sort of thing to children.” Great bloke. He had an answer, but …….]

The biggest effects of the GERM movement have been on child welfare. Never before, in modern times, have children been so maltreated by governments. Illness, depression, bullying, suicides, family disruption, diminishing family coffers…. all part of the 2016 school landscape, thanks to NAPLAN. The increase in the timidity of those who should be most concerned is mind-blowing; and the scandal that it is more than basic timidity, is mind-blowing.

The willy-nilly use of fear-based standardised testing – on 5-year olds in Year 1, 7 year-olds in Year 3, all pupils to Year 9, the linkage of Year 9 tests to Year 12 graduation; on neophyte teachers; on public money allocated to states……all in the interest of “getting more bang for the buck” [Bimingham] is a despicable, destructive way to conduct an education system.

WHEN WILL WE EVER THINK OF THE KIDS AND HOW THEY LEARN AND HOW THEY SHOULD BE TAUGHT…AND TALK ABOUT THESE THINGS WITHOUT FEAR … how happy they are at school, how much joy they find in learning, how ‘lasting’ their school experiences are, whether they leave school with much more interest and joy and zest for learning than they had when they started, whether the period leading up to and including NAPLAN week in May is as much learning-fun as the rest of the year. Schooling, after all, is about KIDS.

These are very serious issues.

Have you ever thought you would see the day when a mother would be so concerned about the effects that our test-crazy system of schooling was having on her child that she would do extensive research and probing and thinking and talking and pondering and then write a book about it? And that book would become a best seller? Even her article about the book received tens of thousands of ‘hits’ on Facebook. Yes, there have also been some stirring articles written in recent times by expert insider teachers that have drawn the attention of the public to the kind a schooling that has been introduced to Australia, but when have you ever read such a comprehensive description such as Lucy Clark’s on the experiences of her daughter? Its insight into schooling activities in this day and age is exceptional.

The public is awakening, Treehorn. Take heart.

Somebody cares.

The book, Beautiful Failures, is a classic. The author has remarkable insight into the subject of schooling. Some of her chapter headings are intriguing: Square Pegs, round holes. Darling, we just want to make you happy. Where’d I come from? The pressure pyramid. Adolescence, lost. Stealing childhood. A wedge between generations. What should education be? Welcome to Education Theory High. Because I say so. The mythical place down the road. Teachers, kindness and making time for compassion.

If you haven’t read it, do yourself a favour.

If, when you have finished it. and don’t think that we are on the edge of a deep national moral crisis, I despair totally.

_________________________________________________________________
Phil Cullen, 41 Cominan Avenue, Banora Point, Australia 2486
o7 5524 6443        0407865999
cphilcullen@bigpond.com
Refer: ‘Who’s Who in Australia’
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