A Principal’s Dilemma

A PRINCIPAL’S DILEMMA

Primary school principalship used to be the most caring, most ethical, most intellectually demanding, most exciting of all the caring professions

I was a proud primary school principal for quite a few years and, despite my later higher administrative duties, remained so until retirement.  I reckon that primary school principalship was the most caring, most professional, most difficult, most intellectually demanding of all the caring professions.  Its dignity and esoteric nature set it apart. I loved the role. I retired from the rituals of bureaucracy, confident that, despite the impact of managerialism, dedicated primary principals would ensure that the new century would see schools loaded with love for learning, playing and learning, finding the beauty in all school subjects, but especially in the fundamental ones. Achievements in all subjects would have no ceiling. Love of learning would the catch-cry

Now, principals have had a testing program forced on their schools in police-state circumstances by crazed politicians, ordered to do so be the big end of town and supported by a press much more silent than it was in 1942-3 concerning Darwin [ 2 reports on 62 raids] which, they all know,  is causing enormous damage to their administrative professionalism and to  kids’ progress ; but they are told that they must comply. They all do.  The brown-nosed ones say that they don’t mind because the tests are diagnostic….as diagnostic as a kick in the crotch reveals how degenerate one’s macula is. Dedication to test scores has become the catch-cry.

There is hope in the younger generation of principals. There has to be. They seem to understand better[we all hope] what primary schooling is, what it is for; that it is about pupilling, a notion that most seem to understand and want to share with kids;  and that inspirational challenge by pupils requires evaluation of progress and encouragement at the learning-point,  not months later.  I have met many who seem to understand clearly the a-about-f turmoil of NAPLAN-directed bang-crash kind of instruction and would love to see it go away..

Frighten – mentally abuse – cause anxiety – test – practise – practise – practise -homework- homework- homework – test – test -test – abuse – punish – create fear – frighten……. They know what NAPLAN does to kids.

If the present tests had any diagnostic element, schools should be able to request the new one for the year at any time to fit in with the school’s own evaluation program, if the school principal deems its use necessary. The only thing sacred about the first week in May, is that it suits the testucrats.

If accountability is an issue, then consideration must be given to the use of true-blue, well-experienced, former principal experts checking out each and every school for all phases of school operations as regularly as possible. It’s been tried and it’s true blue. It keeps the system curriculum-connected, teacher-mentored, team-building, innovative  and responsible.

Disastrously, when kleinism was introduced into Australia in 2008 and the major body of principals [the APPA] preferred to support the ‘lawyers’ lore’ of schooling than to uphold  ‘principals’ principles’ of ethical delivery of learning services. It surrendered shamefully to its own political capture, allowed itself to be remodelled as an association in the likeness of eichmannism and, in doing so,  changed to being a deliverer of rigid, high stakes blanket testing , subservient for its upkeep and its opinions to disgusting forms of political thought-police control and to the dictates of ACARA, a pure-bred testing factory; …….THEN …. it adopted a casual indifference to the welfare of children and kept its distance from the concerns of parents. I lost my admiration for the present generation of principal organizational disposition when APPA told the governement in public that it supported NAPLAN. The political institutionalisation of its association’s activities belittles the profession of primary school principalship. It no longer has any importance in Australia.  AND….The overall health of schooling in Australia is not good while these circumstances prevail.

One notes that the ‘professional’ views of APPA and that of its state bodies are largely ignored when public discussion on a broad landscape are  held.  They are largely ignored and their opinions seldom requested.  Principals seem to have succumbed to their maverick  role as compliant agents of testucation and have totally lost the plot as far as child learning, mental health and professional dignity  are concerned. They no longer have the respect that forthright ethical bodies usually have. Believe me, it hurts …it hurts real bad to be a witness to this kind of degradation.

In this era of neo-liberal kleinist control of schools, I sometimes wonder how I would react as a principal of one of my old schools to the kind of irrational force now imposed on school leadership.

I do know that, as director of primary education there is no way in the world that I would have supported the  introduction of kleinism nor the Australian Primary Principals’ Association’s approval of NAPLAN testing.  Divorce proceedings with the state association  would have put in place post haste. The present APPA  attitude towards child welfare and schooling progress runs counter to the intellectual progress of children, to mental health issues and to the fundamental acquisition of knowledge.  As it is now proving, it is detrimental to child health [anxiety, sleeplessness, ADHD epidemic and suicide amongst its outcomes] and to the progress of a worthy, holistic curriculum for the nation’s children. As a true-blue primary teacher, I did not join the profession to treat children  in the way that the kleinist freaks and Naplan approvers [including APPA members] treat curriculum issues of such major importance do,  these days. It would not have been worth my job to have indulged in any sort of collusion with such a fear-based, anxiety-inducing Wall St.nooze-up’s hangover. I’d been through a similar unseemly politically threatening time during the M:ACOS era and the Standards Debate. With confidence, I reckon that I could ride the punches of this debacle or find a meaningful job of some kind.

As an operating primary school principal, however, I know that I would have tried, as some are doing, to subvert the process of learning-destruction.  I would have held a number of meetings of parents to try to persuade them not to give their permission for their children  to undertake the nonsense; tell them the truth that NAPLAN was not part of a normal school curriculum. It was a booze-inspired foreigner dumped on schools without any prior check. Teaching is better-off without it.  I’d try to beat the for-and-against NAPLAN score of Kimberley College near Brisbane. 300 parents againstNAPLAN; 6 for.  Great. [These days, if the Kimberley spirit was alive in every school, it means that the odds of NAPLAN lasting much longer in a proper school are 50 to 1.  I’d like some of that.]  Learning seems to have a higher priority than testing at Kimberley and brooks no interference.

That attitude would probably get me into trouble with authorities, these days, as it does at Kimberley College . So what!

At local Union meetings and at principals’ meetings I would propose that parents be given the choice at an appropriate time….say first Monday in May  each year – to express a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ – to exercise their  democratic right to participate .  Only ‘Yes’ respondents would do the test. The non-test pupils would be learning. See http://huff.to/2nFzqMA

Of course there would be no special kinds of test-prep, like practising previous tests, special kinds of homework that usurp learning time. The maintenance of love for subjects of the NAPLAN kind would continue, and this, of itself, would probably produce superior results at test time. So what! That’s just what happens when kids like learning and like the subjects that they do, They’d have Maths., science and literature amongst their favourite subjects, and give raspberries to test-freak modes of teaching..

I would indicate to my superiors in a humble letter that I seriously oppose NAPLAN…just to clear the air with them. I’m a professional principal. They have to earn the right to try to bully me in the same way that they want their teachers to bully children.

I would remind them that I am the principal head teacher at my school.

Finally, there is music in the air. I feel that the the younger generation of principals are much more alert than the older, that their crap-detectors are fully charged, that  they are more conscious of the unlimited outcomes that originate from fair-dinkum pupilling of children and realise the value of sharing progress with their pupils as they ‘learn along’.  They openly condemn the immorality of sharing a pupil’s personal achievements with anyone beyond the school precincts. I reckon that, very soon,  they’ll tell their political masters what to do with their shameful abuse of children.

000ooo000ooo000ooo

What do you think?

As has long been recognized by students, parents and educators, the essence of test-based education policy is not accountability but punishment. Punishment is about control, about regulation; the right to punish is a police power. The governance of education increasingly takes the form of policing. More and more, school is about compliance, and more and more, this compliance is organized via tests (and “data”) of some kind.    Mark J. Garrison: ‘A Measure of Failure – The Political Origin of Standardised Testing’  http://bit.ly/2ncI3CE

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Phil Cullen 
41 Cominan Avenue   Banora Point 2486   
07 5524 6443   0407865999 
cphilcullen@bigpond.com
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