The politics of testing.

Oh, what a tangled web we weave

When first we practise to deceive.
         [Sir Walter Scott]

It’s NAPLAN season

The longer Australia persists with the notion that we send children to school to pass tests and public examinations, the worse things will get.

The result of using the NAPLAN system of testing within the Klein system of execrable schooling, imported from the United States in a most deceitful manner, has resulted  in a structured climate of threats to the mental health of Australian children and has exposed the dangerous prejudices and misologies of our political masters, notably Gillard, Rudd, Pyne and Birmingham.  It has failed.  The killer DNA within the tests themselves that forces children to dislike school learning,  has proved to be  degrading to our beautiful children and unworthy of its proponents and users. It has retarded the progress of Australian schooling very seriously.

Since such a system threatens the health and well-being of Australian citizens, shouldn’t it be incumbent on a federal minister who initiates such changes,  and on those who, following a change of government, continue with the unwarranted crudity, to demonstrate unequivocally to colleague ministers in the states, from whom the right to conduct such tests has been captured, that the new system is superior to any other? What hard evidence or indisputable empirical evidence do testucators have that would convince normal concerned citizens to support the continuation of this toxic device?  Forget the boganaire view that children will learn after teachers ‘Diagnose’ and “Remediate.” That went out with slate pencils. We’re talking about teaching and learning, about being happy and determined and confident while at school.  Diagnosis is part of the teaching/learning component…not something that is done to children some months later.

It is incumbent on our politicians occupying education portfolios to prove, beyond doubt, that this mode of schooling to which they expose  our children is far superior to any other kind……that NAPLAN works and how it does…..if it does. The patriachal control of education by the Institute of Public Affairs and the Australian Bankers Association is not helpful. The public must be told why our schooling relies so heavily on NAPLAN tests. The serious crushing results in the international PISA results and the TIMSS international  tests last year confirmed children’s and teachers’ extreme animus with anything Naplannish. Pupils flat- lined these local results, having already flopped the international ones, because the tests themselves contain HATE and DESPAIR and UNNECESSARY TENSION .  So, what do adults do? With casual disregard for children’s rights and with Treehorn-type negligence, they,  just as casually, dismiss all interest and allow the torturers to turn up the heat and keep trying old ways .. fiddling with test processes and modes of testing…not better learning habits….to get better scores. It’s not fair to kids. You know what, honourable members of IPA and ABA….and your political flunkies?  Kids hate having  to test swot and to sit tests. THEY PREFERLEARNING.

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“When the affective is secure, the cognitive is inevitable”  was the way that John Settledge described this basic teaching/learning dilemma.

Here’s a certainty. Drop NAPLAN. Just drop it, encourage school-based evaluation techniques; and watch PISA & TIMSS test results increase.

An alternatuve is to dumb-down the tests themselves – as is being widely predicted – so that public confidence is restored. That can work, but it will not remove the tension and fear of that testing moment and the damage that it does .

Message received, Mr. B ?  When will we ever get to talk about learning?……about schooling?….about pupilling?

No. You will keep subjecting our kids to the terrors of NAPLAN  again this year…….9 -11May……unless someone does somethings about it.

We know that NAPLAN is nasty, cruel, unnecessary, immoral, expensive, abusive, mentally crippling operation and a big waste of time.  It’s genesis is in the search for someone to blame for children’s lack of enthusiasm for being pushed around by your mob.

Most Australian parents and almost all Australian teachers dislike, even  hate the whole business, but feel that they have to ‘go with the flow’.  No political party is brave enough to mention it.  School principals dislike it, except for those who see a quid in it or believe that better scores provide better promotional opportunities.  If there was a public rally arranged to march on federal parliament to “STOP NAPLAN”, Canberra would not be big enough to contain the numbers.  Of course this wont happen while our indifference to the way kids learn remains at such a high level; and while greedy corporations maintain their control over the politics of testing.

Only passionate individuals and groups that worry about the way kids are treated, are prepared to stick up for them. “Nuggets’ was a once famous nickname for the meek, but that’s unkind. There are very few  groups of game, knowledgeable nitty-gritty teachers and parents in Australia who are prepared to stand up and keep pushing.  Too few,   Members of so-called learned groups like the Australia Primary Principals which was captured early in the piece,  enwrapped now in an impenetrable bozone layer that prevents individual members from speaking out or organising the parents of their school to refuse en bloc to do the tests or even to tell them of their rights. It’s understandable. It’s what Dan Kahan calls the Identity Protective Cognition : “As a way of avoiding dissonance and estrangement from valued groups, individuals subconsciously resist information that threatens their defining values.”  It then becomes easier to parrot the words of the controllers than to espouse ethical principles out loud.

While NAPLAN may not be a top issue on the usual election calendar because things are arranged to keep it so, it still remains a significant part of  each electorate’s disenchantment with the major parties. As quiet as it remains, any party that calls for its abandonment is on a winner.

Far too many Australians believe that we send children to school to pass tests and examinations in Maths, Science, Grammar and anything that is measurable.  What would happen, do you think, if authorities insisted that our kids be taught to like learning Maths and Science and  anything else that their school does for them…..presuming that the school knows what it is doing, of course; and that our authorities remain in that totalitarian neo-Fascist frame of mind to demand it. That Finnish Maths teacher, whom you saw on the Michael Moore clip, said that his pupils have to be “happy with Maths”.  Australian pollies don’t like that sort of thing.

Our schooling system is arse-about-face. Totally arse-about-face. Predicated on the belief that school kids will do better in life when they are threatened with failure and tested and tutored and ‘homeworked’ as much as possible, the system is just not working. There is no evidence anywhere in the history of the world that any fear-based system has ever worked for too long. Stagnation is the best outcome that fear can promote. Sure we all try harder when we are scared but the end-point varies.This descriptive crudity [a-about-f] of it clearly expresses our rear-vision predilection [‘worked for me’ sort of thing] that can only assure us of mediocrity and further failure. It is soooo arse-about-face. Amen. A more moderate description might be: ‘a dog’s breakfast’.

Put even more gently, it is at the wrong end of the effective-teaching-strategy continuum that ranges from pedantry to maieutic. 

Although many of our most efficient and dedicated teachers have left the profession because of the crudities of NAPLAN, there are sufficient left who make sure that children enjoy the curriculum left-overs – those aspects that can’t be measured.  We cannot rely on this state of affairs forever. Besides, the unknown future keeps reminding us that we need citizens who are adventurous in their learning habits, inquisitive, forward-thinking, innovative, zestful, excited by learning , compassionate, electronically charged,  tolerant, but we Australians are unconcerned about the future nor what is imperative for our schools to do.   How can Naplannic test-freaks help children to prepare for these essential requirements?   Teachers can, and oft-times do teach these developmental enhancers and produce true scholars, as part of their natural teaching genius,  but the system presently prohibits any emphasis on them.  Measurers focus on robotic test responses and do not see the yen to learn  as being of any use. The ‘yen to learn’ compnents of schooing have to be  caught not taught. Our masters believe that as much time as possible must be spent on test preparation for NAPLAN, HSCs and other learning inhibitors. Practice. Practice. Practice. It’s all so robotic and nasty and mediocre and negligent….and wasteful.

The Frankenstein monster has had its head inserted back to front.

YES! It’s all so back-to-front. so S-A-F.  The trend must be stopped. Progress in Australia’s ability to think laterally and innovatively is absolutely essential for its survival and progress. We need to pupil pupils so that they will like learning forever.

Why don’t we try?

______________________________________________________________________

Phil Cullen  41 Comnan Avenue  Banora Point 2486 Australia  07 5524 6443   07865999  cphilcullen@bigpond.com 

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