February 2016 -Things Looked Good for a While

FEBRUARY 2016 saw the continuation of heavy NAPLAN-test-prep in those schools that have to rely on test results for their reputation. Holistic learning requirements , shared evaluation and real teaching were discussed and operated behind closed doors during this period, while regional officers in some states heavied [aka ‘mentored’] their teachers to be more naplanish and deliberately encouraged didactic modes of instruction among the unsure. Some even tried to ‘sell’ the ubiquitous direct de/instruction packages.These data-collectors can claim success. They have the naplan-based system firmly in their clutches.

The NAPLAN testing’s paranoia for the collection of scores was being properly defined : “ A NAPLAN score represents an inadequate judgement by a biased and variable testucator of the content to which an undefined level of mastery of unknown proportions of an inadequate amount of peculiar material has been completed on time. It is a device controlled by the New Mafia in the upper reaches of the banking and big corporate businesses, more engrossed in the accumulation of dollars and cents than in any concern. for child welfare or learning processes. It has the Frankenstein Effects of monstering as many learning abilities as it can, of abusing children’s mental health; and its control over decent curriculum and Australia’s intellectual future is extremely dangerous. As a mode of accountability and encouragement and system improvement, NAPLAN is pure crap.”

The importation of NAPLAN’s form of fear-based kleinism was, and remains an insult to the Aussie ‘way of life’. Instead of focusing on the basics of teaching, the importers’ fascist-inspired modes of teaching and learning turned our democratic options to a new low. The usual Aussie fair-play attitude to life actually contains the seeds of unrivaled achievement through a fair-play credo. We have neglected this attitude as it applies to school children for eight long years. It will have to be re-installed if we want to secure our future and a positive Aussie ‘way of life.’

The impact on political parties was varied at this time of 2016. An election year was coming up. Although the interest in schooling was minimal, each party hastily made up some quick policies. The Greens wanted the tests run at the beginning of the year. The LNP wanted better results within 12 weeks…forced, if necessary…May, of course! The ALP, it lay low. It, as usual, ignored the plight of kids under NAPLAN conditions and allowed their neo-con colleagues to have their way. The education policies of all parties and independent candidates demonstrated a clear disinterest in the guts of schooling. Independents and minor parties didn’t give two hoots. No political party or group indicated any interest in re-installing the high achieving, have-a-go, fair-dinkum, Aussie fair-crack-of-the-whip kind of education system we can have…if we want it. We seem to have lost the plot on the natural connection between fair-dinkum aussieness and productivity of school achievements. Our fixation with testing and data-collection, of New York origin, obscures the vision of Australia.s ability to becomeamongst the world’s most progressive countries. …depending on how well it treats its children.

OUR CANE-TOAD MENTALITY
Political parties’ attitude seemed to be based on a ‘cane toad’ mentality. THAT IS: Release an untested foreign ‘solution’ , without too much thought, to solve an invented problem and our school system will improve.{You will recall that the non-thinking scientists at the time of the cane-toad, overlooked the fact that toads could only leap so high and cane beetles flew higher.] .

Also… The New Mess, as the proposed use of computers for persuasive writing tests was called, hit the fan. The cane toad mentality was in full leap.

The concierge factions of each political party [the lobbyists, facilitators and door-openers] were busy , especially in the LNP, making sure that the candidates for the forthcoming elections were of the ‘right’ frame of mind. As it turned out, the electorate was starting to get sick of our pollies being controlled by the Gordon Gekkos of this world and turned to Pauline. She was chuffed and the longer neo-con un-seen operators control our politicians and systems, the happier she’ll be; the longer she’ll remain. The big Lib-Lab boys, probably paying for their sins of ignoring children, only have a slender lead over each other., now….and the more their indolence neglects the mental health of school children, the more slender any lead should become for the both parties.

During February, 2016

Concern was expressed by elite media commentators as to why states did not reclaim their control over schooling and treat children as human beings. Nothing happened.

The ALP started a peculiar petition for more resources in schools!!! It went flat.

THEN THINGS STARTED TO LOOK GOOD…..

A letter from Gabriel Stroud received resounding applause from real professionals and from the local media for a little while...” For many years I was privileged to be a teacher in primary schools. I knew I was a good teacher and my classroom was a place where pupils felt happy, confident, challenged and valued……But after 15 years of primary education in Australia I’ve had to admit defeat.” What a loss to the teaching profession. Nothing happened….except one other significant letter to the Courier Mail hit the fan.

Kathy Margolis wrote a letter that went viral. Kathy, who was a dedicated teacher for over 30 years was forced to seek another job. “Never have I experienced a time in my professional life where teachers are this stressed and in real fear for the mental health not only themselves, but the children that they teach…..I have never seen so many children suffering from stress and anxiety. It saddens me greatly. Teaching at the moment is data driven……I write this in the hope that we can spark a public discussion. We need the support of parents, who I know, agree with us. I love children and can’t bear to see what we are doing to them.”

A street march was held in Brisbane, and an interview with the state minister….then…zero activity.

The letters from Gabriel and Kathy …and Lucy Clark’s wonderful book….gave great heart to thousands of frustrated teachers wanting to teach their pupils to learn. For the first time since the measurement vandals started trespassing in classrooms of learning in 2008, someone was speaking out from where the action is! Enthusiasm was quickly quelled. Silence returned.

Treehorn wrote to Minister Birmingham suggesting that he initiate a study by a group of teachers such as Gabriel Stroud and Kathy Margolis of the effects of NAPLAN testing on the classroom atmosphere in Australian schools. He replied in April and referred to the fact that the new version of the Australian Curriculum “should assist teachers, thereby, improving morale.” !!! ‘Scuse me…..

He repeated what his dutiful officers had already told me as if I was a rookie or an impatient parent who needed reminding, that “….the purpose of NAPLAN tests is to help determine whether the students have the literacy and numeracy skills that provide the critical foundation for their learning.’

(“Ties and slurs It all sounds like…” ) Later in the year, the tests proved to the world that NAPLAN was not working…in fact, things were getting worse. The only conclusion to be reached was that the tests themselves were destroying the yen to do better. Kids how how they are being treated. It might have been a good idea to talk to the likes of Gabriel and Kathy, after all, to find out why this was so, instead of his making a unilateral decision to intimidate the states with threats of funding ‘arrangements’. if they didn’t exert more pressure on kids with more of the same. That’s what the poor fellow did! Too busy to think about schooling! He could even have checked how the original model was going in the USA [It has since collapsed] as any prudent assessor would do. He won’t believe that the fault is in the tests themselves. He doesn’t seem to like the Treehorn suggestion that children should be treated with dignity and care and develop a personal belief that they can achieve at the highest of levels, if they are taught to like Maths. Science, Literacy. He much prefers the state-threatened, fear-based, parent-deceited, press-silenced, teacher-timidified original Klein model. So, things remain the same. States were conned and still do as they are told. Teachers tolerate it. Kids suffer. Since our system’s aim is to pursue the mediocre through the continued use of fault-ridden tests, we will certainly continue as a flat-lined system on the way to nowhere.

It was in February that I had an accidental crew cut by the local hairdresser. She is still there, if you would like a crew cut. Just say: “NAPLAN.”

I was having a haircut and happened to mention ‘NAPLAN’ to the lady with the clippers.

The clipping speed increased rapidly. “That bloody thing! When my lad was in Grade 3, he didn’t sleep for weeks. He hated school and did not want to go. On the day, he threw up and I had to make him go.”

The clippers went into another gear, and hair flew off in my many shades of gray. “In Grade 5, same bloody thing.happened. He hated it and was really worried.”

Now, clip, clip. clip at breakneck speed. “He’s in Grade 7 now and I don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s on again now. Everyone is getting ready.”

Appeals to political candidates through The Treehorn Express to scrap NAPLAN based on UNESCO’s Rights of the Child, or on its inherent nastiness, and further pleas for them to think about their personal attitude to the purposes of schooling, and on the uselessness of the results, continued through February. The simple question was :”Why do we send children to school?” The unfortunate neo-con political robots were deaf or dyslexic. The month concluded with a clear expose from political science that countries get what they deserve from their attitude to the treatment of all human beings by their pollies. The neo-con attitude to getting what they want is to demand it. That’s the prevailing Australian attitude. The leaders of the Lib-Lab parties in particular, prefer to use coercion and reward power to get their way. I’m angry. Of course, I’m angry. I’m angry that no [political party in Australia cares enough about children to think about what they should be doing. I hate to see kids treated in the manner that our parliamentarians endorse.

Ideologies based on the yen for big money begets the use of reward and/or coercive powers to try to get people to do what they want. Such anxiety-driven, fear-based operations generally result in lower-level responses from the operatives at the work-face or chalk-face, ranging from rejection of the operation to enthusiasm for the enterprise. Australian schools are close to the rejection end, but not close enough. The problem is that the caring professions are more sensitive than others, trying to ride out the oppression but failing to stand up for the ideals and ethics of their work [which are shelved] because coercive activities are built into their chain of command…..as they are these days in Australian schooling. Fear and intimidation prevail.

NAPLAN testing can never rely on any enthusiasm from any dignified teaching service, for the task of blanket testing. It is bound to fail. Serious caring teachers can only take so much. The arrogant toxicity of the testing industry, in which love and care are denied to the humanity of the task, ignores the colleagueship between a teacher and a learner. Both teacher and learner know that NAPLAN is a very dangerous operation that should be dropped as soon as possible. Before the testing factories swing into action in February 2017, some wise politicians might anticipate parental and teacher revolt before reality hits and they might have to do something about it. People don’t like the suggestion that their schools are operated by fascist-oriented people, but it’s the truth. Schools can do without FEAR, ANXIETY, DECEIT and GREED. All four factors are too firmly embedded in the Australian system of schooling at present. ….and…..they can so easily be replaced by zest, enthusiasm, accomplishment and achievement. Just get rid of the menace that is holding Australia back.

That’s how we left February, 2016…..confused, battered, hopeful for a while thanks to Kathy and Gabriel, busily preparing for the May tests, imposing extra homework, enrolling at after-school NAPLAN-focused back-yard shops, not giving a tinkers about the mental health of our kids, knowing full-well that the emphasis on getting good test scores actually inhibits learning, hiding parental rights, infringing the Code of Moral Conduct https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Code_of_conduct , with our tongue in our cheek; and learning to say dutifully, with louder ‘test-speak’ that “we don’t like NAPLAN, but…..what can we do?”……

Why do some people and caring institutions, bother to write definitive Moral Codes, Rights of the Child, Freedom to Learn kind of documents?

As Aussie pollies and administrators we cannot be too proud of our timidity . Why can’t we do the job properly? Why don’t we CARE FOR KIDS ?


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