What is Naplanitis?

NAPLANITIS is a psycho-socio-politico-neurological condition, spread by corporatised murdochean politicians in a vain attempt to increase scores of Australian school children in the biennial international PISA tests of a few selected fundamental parts of a normal school curriculum. It is sure to be listed, one day, on the ‘danger list’ of mental health conditions.

The cold administrative forms of mass-measurement, designed for Australian conditions for the use of high-stakes NAPLAN testing…as part of the PISA plot… manifests itself in a genuine dislike even hatred by pupils for the subjects selected  and for schooling itself.   All school children in Australia suffer from some measure of it; and its results in measurement terms have seen its PISA results diminish spectacularly; and its NAPLAN scores stagnate. .

Now endemic to Australian schooling systems, its eradication can be started only by serious public discussion and focused parliamentary attention to the worth of such externally imposed, politically based, extra-curricular forms of schooling. Who will stand up first?

Based on the black pedagogy of fear and the creation of anxiety at crucial learning stages in a child’s development, it attempts to dispel the notion that learning can be a pleasurable and worthy  undertaking. NAPLAN adherents believe that  high achievements are created only in an atmosphere of neurological discomfort.

The logic of NAPLAN is centered in the belief that intense testing of children between the ages of seven years and fourteen years, and occasional high-stakes side tests, spiced with a surfeit of practice testing,  will produce scholars who will depart from the regular schooling system with  previously unknown levels of competency.  Didactic jug-to-mug forms of instruction, that do not require profound nor esoteric forms of professional preparation at tertiary level of education, have precedence in financial governmental support and encouragement;  while developmental, child-centred maieutic styles that produce higher quality outcomes, including higher levels of achievement,  are ignored.

Discussion on whether the teaching profession can be allowed to exercise its own kind of professionalism and its own setting of  ethical behaviour or whether Australia continues to conduct its schooling according to instructions from political ghettos, based on lawyers’ lore and unethical political pollution…… using totalitarian modes of control, is an urgent imperative.

NAPLANITIS has  replaced the Australian ‘CARE FOR KIDS’ attitude with a vengeance.

  Despite its historical penchant for examination and testing routines, Australia just cannot continue with a schooling system in the manner that it does, using a curriculum so explicitly controlled by an unreliable , immoral, ineffective, heavy piles of tests dumped on schools and their kids for three days every year ,as well as seriously interrupting carefully considered school routines that the school considers to be important, in terms of an holistic curriculum.

NAPLANITIS as a medical term is not used. Lacking dopamine, child despair and stress and anxiety morphs into a serious mentally abused attitude that stays with them for the rest of their lives. It is serious mental health  stuff, usually lasting a life-time.

,At the same time, the increasing numbers of children being sent to school counsellors and psychologists with various disorders at Naplan time, is of concern; and the literature on ‘test stress’ is growing rapidly.  The use of TEST STRESS in the teaching of NAPLAN-passing is actually counter productive. Each tests contains its own flop-gene.  Check this :

http://brainconnection.brainhq.com/2000/07/12/tests-stress-problems-for-students/]  and

https://thepsychologist.bps.org.uk/volume-21/edition-12/examination-stress-and-test-anxiety

We tolerate all this nonsense.  We’re a pretty silly lot of people, aren’t we?

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

What happened next?

Treehorn Memories.

News  Item – 2010 -We’ve been waiting ever since.

A Red-Letter Day – 19 January 2010

Once We Were Strong. What Happened Next?

Today, Tuesday 19 January, 2010 is a redletter day. Teacher members of the Australian Education Union voted unanimously to boycott national literacy and numeracy tests in May, in protest against the creation of school league tables. President Angelo Gavrielatos wrote to Federal Minister Julia Gillard indicating that publication of the tables was “…one of the greatest threats to the provision of quality education in the History of Australia.”  Ms Gillard ruled out any possibility of giving way, “The My School website will go live on January 28 and it will give Australians rich performance information about schools, including their results in the last two yars of national testing.”

NSW Greens MP, Dr. John Kaye said that league tables would stigmatise schools. “Australia is fortunate that is prepared to save this nation from the mistakes that are crippling school education in England and the USA.”

Phil Cullen, former Director of Primary Education for Queensland said, “Fancy timid, compliant teachers challenging a dictatorial minister over a professional, non-industrial issue.  Mary McKillop must have had something to do with it; and did not need to be asked. A teacher, she loved children and respected their parents. I did not think this would happen so soon. It’s a miracle!”

The fun-crazed year with HSC & NAPLAN

The Union of HSC and Naplan

An unhappy affair.


As the corporate giants [like Amplify, the Education Unit of News Corp., run by Joel Klein; and Enhanced EText owned by Pearson, previous owner of Amplify] rub their greedy hands together with happy feverishness, NAPLAN will come into its own this year, with the chance of eventually replacing the HSC in NSW,…..as one of our teacher-readers suggests.  She  was discussing the ‘merits’ of NAPLAN, describing it as robotised testicular mayhem, constructed and supported by neo-liberal scio-testucrats. She doesn’t seem to like it.

As an unwanted and unusual appendage to the HSC examinations in NSW, it will certainly provide an anxious year for Year 9 pupils culminating with a long lasting anti-subject syndrome being fostered for a further three years; set to last forever…..no second chance……despite any post-test gimmicks masked as supplementary. Check it out…..

http://www.smh.com.au/national/education/naplan-half-of-nsw-students-would-fail-first-hsc-test-20161209-gt7tix.html

SO. Machiavelli is alive and well.  Fear is  scripted as an endemic part of naplan-style schooling  for ever.   The creation of FEAR and ANXIETY is already written into the Code of Conduct for Naplanners as an essential component of the instructional process.

There is really no need to go to such lengths at the Year 9 level to ensure that children will leave school with a lasting distaste and hatred for Maths, Science and Literature.  Years 3,5,7 tests are ensuring this already , very effectively.  HATING SUBJECTS 101 starts at seven years of age. Get ’em early….and we are good at promoting it, as PISA results demonstrate.

http://www.smh.com.au/national/education/a-dire-lack-of-interest-in-students-wanting-to-pursue-maths-careers-20170330-gv9pwa.html

YES. Pupils must achieve scores at Band 8 level in NAPLAN 2017or it’s ‘OUT!” for HSC 2020….. as if they were competing in the ABC ‘s ‘Hard Quiz’.  [NAPLAN is  fast  becoming  useless junk and a pedagogical joke. It’s only achievement so far is the creation of anxiety in kids.]

Aussie kids, as bright as any on the planet, have shown their displeasure for these weird tactics by adopting a revolutionary stance. It’s the Aussie Kids’ Eureka Stockade, reacting to nasty control. They react, naturally, to the force-fed nature of preparing for the tests and the stand-over tactics of the Wallopers, by disliking  certain subjects so much that it eventually turns to hate for these subjects and, of course, they express this by doing poorly on the NAPLAN and PISA tests……those things that testucratic wallopers  pretend will reveal useful information. The kids have no other forum to express their feelings. This weird example of standardised blanket testing is certainly bruising their mental health. It  has been a monumental sham for ten years and it is time for it to finish.

While this kind of reaction is not deliberate, the subliminal effects are profound.  Disliking targeted subjects is the kids’ only way to react against the pathological compulsion of testucators to assault children’s mental strength during instruction in those essential school subjects. Potential scholars may be quiet and respectful at test-prep time, but still waters can run very, very deep.  School pupils have no advocates in any political party where the buck is supposed to stop, and they are ‘treehorned’ by the general public. They’re completely on their own. Even though we adults don’t take much notice, we are being told in so many ways…and…despite the message that our schooling system is going down the gurgler accompanying  those PISA results, we prefer not to notice.  Bye, bye, future.
The Aussie Kids’ Eureka Stockade needs more adults, using their votes at the barricades. First, we need to refuse to have the kids do the Year 9 NAPLAN tests; and then make sure that the whole silly testing business is tidied up. Then, at the ballot box, we need to consider the disposition of all candidates in their attitude to and treatment of kids at school.

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

For 2017, there is only one recourse for the wallopers, but it is not appropriate to mention it. Even if they make tests easier, the scores might improve but the psychological damage will not go away.

NAPLAN, Mental Health and Dopamine.

NAPLAN, Mental Health and Dopamine

The psychological, sociological and now neurological effects of sytemic naplan abuse  can be very serious.

Loss of the natural, basic ‘yen to learn’ has serious consequences.

Much has been made of the abusive nature of NAPLAN testing.   News Ltd’s Guru, Joel Klein made the most of what he saw as testing’s most effective modus operandi – fear and threats – [love of subject and pupil care :OUT!] …..as did the Australian, Ms. Gillard,  whom he met at a Rockefeller booze-up near Wall st., New York in 2008, where, there and then,  she decided that the Australian education system should be based on kleinism. He openly championed FEAR in the Learning process. ….as did Ms. Gillard, her mentor Mr. Rudd,  and its later disciples Messrs Pyne and Birmingham….splendid examples of child-caring citizens. May the outcomes of government-sponsored child abuse and the destruction of the ‘yen to learn’  be on their hands.

Fear of failing and losing your job are now seen as motivators of great importance in the hunt for better scores for school children when they contest  standardised blanket tests that are  part of a scato-meme called GERM [Geopolitical Emetic Retard Meme].  Australia adopted it, without any kind of  examination and at enormous cost, and installed one of the most successful child-scare systems the world has ever seen.  Called NAPLAN, it has since failed because a neurological catastrophe was inbuilt into its nerve-system, and, for suspicious reasons, it  is being maintained.  While the financial costs are extremely burdensome, the costs to  mental health are much, much larger than any educator or testucator had ever anticipated.

Observers of the tragedy are now concerned about the dopamine effects on growing children. Neurologists, sociologists and serious educators tell us that dopamine, an organic chemical,  is a neurotransmitter that sends brain signals from one set of nerve cells to another.  This is very serious stuff. These messages can be quite dysfunctional during  anxious moments  [NAPLAN?] or periods of worry [NAPLAN test-prep?].  Outside the central nervous system, it assists in transporting some bodily operations to another.  Vomiting, sleeplessness, crying, anti-social behaviour, anti-subject and anti-school feelings and other degenerative conditions are outcomes of a lack of support and encouragement at crucial times.  The supply and maintenance of dopamine is central to positive learning; and fear-based, anxiety-promoted learning cuts off the supply. Encouragement  plays an important role in brain and body connectiveness.

Parkinsons Disease is ‘a degenerative condition …caused by a loss of dopamine-secreting neurons in the area of the mid-brain.’ … … ‘Restless legs and ADHD  – Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder are associated with decreased dopamine activity.‘ [Google : Dopamine] and there has been a startling increase in diagnosed ADHD in Australia since the introduction of NAPLAN

Suicide in GERM countries, including Australia, as an outcome of the lack of dopamine maintenance in our young learners, is amongst us

While social workers concerned by the present fixation on the use of digitised hand-held devices,  have raised serious ‘alert’ signals on the lack of dopamine in the public arena, Australian ‘educators’ have completely ignored discussion on the nasty things that NAPLAN ,the biggest monster of all, does to children…..and  we all seem to remain indifferent….cowed by political dictators and their henchmen!

Through their attitude and reactions to the NAPLAN tests, called ‘failure’, school children are pleading with Australian adults to treat them with humanity and help them to learn better and learn more.  Why do we treat them as we do?

With the shenanagans of on-line or paper tests and the movement to ‘opt-out’, we can be pretty sure that ‘adjustments’ will be made for the 2017 tests.

WON’T SOMEONE TRY TO GET RID OF IT!!!!????   WHAT MORE EVIDENCE DO YOU WANT, Mr or Ms Politician? WHERE ARE OUR ELITE SCHOOL PRACTITIONERS?

Sadly…..with Australia’s  inbuilt casual indifference to child welfare, aided and abetted by the silence of the press and the open support of so-called educators’ organisations, you can still lay ‘London to a brick’, that nothing will be done before May 9 .

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

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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

Treehorn: Does NAPLAN work?

Treehorn Message.

When NAPLAN was introduced in 2008, Julia Gillard seemed ecstatic with anticipated higher results on PISA international tests by Australian school children. Her enthusiasm knew no bounds. State governments were ‘persuaded’ to join in the surge to exceptional improvement, Principal Associations were captured, media comment controlled and ACARA established at a cost of millions and millions. After all, Joel Klein knew what he was doing. She did so well in persuasion tactics, that, to the present day, nobody dares question its operations. It keeps on and on and on, ruining the academic and creative dreams of millions of kids. Some of don’t like it and question the motives of those who allow it to continue.

Officialese says:-

“NAPLAN was introduced in 2008. ACARA has managed the tests from 2010 onwards.[2] The tests are designed to determine if Australian students are achieving outcomes.[2] There has been a great deal of contention in the educational community as to whether the tests are appropriate, whether teachers are teaching as they normally would or teaching to the test, and what the results of the test are being used for. The data obtained from the NAPLAN tests are collated and used to show all schools’ average performance against other schools in the country on the Government My School website.[3]

The tests are also designed to be carried out on the same days all across Australia in any given year. Parents are able to decide whether their children take the test or not.[4] The vast majority of Year 3, 5, 7 and 9 students participate.[5]”  [Source: Google ;NAPLAN]

ACARA tells us….

‘NAPLAN, which is a part of the National Assessment Program (NAP), is how governments, education authorities and schools can determine whether young Australians are reaching important educational goals.’  {See ‘ACARA’

This question was posed by Treehorn recently and Bill Brown respected teacher, counsellor, commentator answered……
It’s been ten years now, so the question has to be asked……Is NAPLAN doing what it is supposed to do?

Bill Brown, noted teacher, consultant, commentator responds……

MY ANSWER   A resounding YES!!!  If you believe in standards based reform ‘-I  don’t and nor does Andy Hargreaves

Standardized educational reform is as valuable for a vigorous knowledge economy and a strong civil society as locusts are for a cornfield

  December 2002  Teaching in the Knowledge Society Professor Andy Hargreaves

BUT

further strategic questions may be Who contributes to this ” success”?

Specifically, self-expression values promote liberal political institutions through two mechanisms.

First, to the extent that there is incongruence between cultural ‘demand’ for liberal institutions and political ‘supply’ of liberal institutions, individuals are more or less prone to elite-challenging activity.

The consequences and form of elite challenging activity (i.e., both violent and non-violent) has been discussed at length in the literature (c.f., Gurr 1970; Eckstein & Gurr 1975

  • The silent majority “The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.” – Dante Alighieri.

AND

Who benefits ? NOT KIDS

I’m about halfway through mapping all of the so called “representatives” that sit on The education council  etc below So far 91 members with some with multiple connections representing 53 institutions  ( not many qld but a lot of VICks ( a cure for the virus  ???”?

Messy as all get out without any measures of connectivity that I will apply to get to the ” core connectors ” in this “coalition of the willing ”

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Will you answer? Trying

Should we do something about it? Hell yes

I am putting forward a proposal to the newly formed  Council of Parents Families Carers and will see what happens 

Kind regards 

Bill Brown 

The battering of schools by a mega-meme.

“The Plowden Report was an official study, not a brain-fart exchange by two testucating child-mind-bashers at a booze-up in New York.”

“Joel Klein and Julia Gillard would have been tarred and feathered and rail-roaded out of town if they had tried their fear-based stunts then.

Mega Meme-Storm Continues

Devastating Damage

A meme is a vogue-word that covers the description of  an idea or a movement or a behaviour or a style that seems to have come from nowhere, but establishes itself in a culture, then self-perpetuates or mutates or adjusts. Some are strange. Some last longer than others. Think of torn jeans, tattoes, rock music, rap, bad language, school examinations, standardised testing’.  Someone starts something somewhere and it spreads.

Education systems get more than their fair share of memes that are sometimes called ‘fads’. Their origins can be traced and their upkeep can be followed but, in the worst cases, their obliteration can be slow. Others, like zest for learning, mini-skirts, good manners and child-centred learning disappear too fast!

A time line of useful and destructive educational memes can be drawn by any enthusiastic historian, which I am not. I have lived through some extreme ones and they were devastating. Within the limits of my experience – the post-war period to this point  in time-  a little over 70 years – this latest destructive Meme – NAPLANISING – for want of a better term,  has been the worst and most destructive, by a long shot. Why?  Because it aims directly at the mental health of children in a very deliberate way to try to force them to engage in robotic swotting behaviour of the most damaging kind.  It’s also a serious threat to responsible government, because it is killing the magic of learning and potential leadership of international negotiations.

The best meme in this  70 year period was described as ‘child-centred schooling’ or ‘open learning’ or ‘freedom to learn”.   It’s disappeared now, but when it was in vogue, the times were just wonderful and the school atmosphere was magic.

MEME-STORMS,

This is a short personal story about welcomed and unwelcome memes that would be of little interest to present day testucators. The oldies, the has-been educators,  might find something of interest. Let me start at the beginning. I was the most test-focussed primary school principal the world had ever known, and I would never have taken much notice of the crack-pots of the time who were talking about ‘freedom to learn’, ‘integrated days’, ‘alternative schools’, ‘subversive teaching’, allowing children to talk to each other in class, to think beyond the set syllabus, to enjoy learning, even to enjoy school…and all that nonsense of the post-war fifties.  Apart from monthly and terms tests I held tests of Arithmetic [Tables, Mental, Notation, Sums and Problems – as they were called] every Friday and I was working on some Grammar tests when I joined ‘them’.  I ‘heard’ spelling of every child in the school each day, over the intercom.  I was ‘test crazy’….until a little girl cried in front of me, when her main academic rival beat her on one of my monthly tests. I woke up there and then.  I hadn’t joined the teaching profession to make children cry; and I  realised that I must have been upsetting the real learning of hundreds of others in the scramble for better test scores.   Even though my inspectors liked what I was doing and I kept getting promoted, I knew that there was something better that I should be doing, but, despite duodinal ulcers, Bells Palsy and the rest, I couldn’t figure it all out.

I was born at the right time, as it turned out.  It was, almost suddenly,  the sixties; and I was right age to sort myself out. I was in the mood; and the books of the era were the most thought provoking ever. I read voraciously as did my divergent mentor and neighbour, principal Oscar Bell.  Miss Walker, owner of the largest bookstore in Cairns said that we were her best customers,  Cuisennaire was in vogue as was ‘individualisation’, structured reading using S.R.A. packaged reading kits [Shhh!], Reading in Colours, Reading for Understanding [a divergent thought at the time]. Piaget’s theory of social development was No.1 on the charts and  was even discussed at those inservice gatherings at the pub each Friday. He was a hero. Classrooms started to become ‘child-centred’ rather than ‘subject-centred’.  It was the sexy sixties.  Things were changing.  Joel Klein and Julia Gillard would have been tarred and feathered and rail-roaded  out of town if they had tried their fear-based stunts then.

Then came 1967 – The Plowden Report. It’s Golden Jubilee year this year.  50 years. Things started looking up. It was the time when “the hot knowledge of the practitioner and the practical administrator were put into practice”. Its messages are still ignored by testucators even though it was the best thing to hit England since the railway.  It was an official study, led by Lady Plowden, not the outcome of a brain-fart exchange by two testucating child-mind-bashers at a booze-up in New York. Child-centred education looked like being here to stay, putting into  practice what the war and  post-war experiences had taught those at the chalk-face.    I managed to visit the more notable LEAs in England…Bristol, Hertsfordshire and the West Riding of Yorkshire. Oh, what a feeling! The zest for learning was incredible. Sir Alec Clegg [https://alecclegg.com/plowden/and Eric Hake were absolute masters of the craft, sharing their experiences with a former test-freak from down under!  Magic.  It was 1970 and Australia was already opening its doors to welcome better ways of doing things in the classroom.  South Australia, the A.C.T. and W.A.  were quick off the mark and went so far as to completely alter the architecture of their classrooms to allow for more activity, more cooperative teaching, more opportunities to use the full range of strategies between the didactic to the maieutic that teachers used, to suit the subject and the pupils.

Children were treated as pupils not students.  Openness started to become a state of mind and not just an architectural term. Teaching and learning hugged each other in meaningful progress. What a wonderful period for a teacher to have lived. Wonderful. Wonderful to be a teacher in such times, under such circumstances.

Then came a severe questioning of what was going on in schools in ‘back to basic ‘terms, led by the fake press [especially The Bully in Australia], in the late 70s. It was mischief-making by casual observers of classrooms where children could wander around, talk to each other and share.  The uninitiated thought that it was chaos, because the children were not spending the day, sitting in their seats looking towards the chalkboard and reciting things. This meme-storm, originating  from a low-level series of  academic ‘Black Papers’ [1]in England that hit our shores with the intensity of a Category 5 cyclone. The press made the most of it with special magazine issues, nation-wide TV debates, public meetings, government inquiries and the like. Queensland was a special hot-spot because of its maverick style of governance. The unease was tactile until a special government committee [Ahern 1978-80] tidied up the mess and substantiated the kind of progress being made in teaching and learning terms.  Teachers , in those days, stuck to their guns when their professional ethics were threatened. Despite the appearance of classrooms, they knew what real learning was.

If school leaders of 2008 had remembered any part of this Back-to-Basics Super-Meme, they would never had allowed NAPLAN anywhere near the front gate of their school when it was proposed. .

The ease of influencing political decision, however,  as crazy as they were in the pre-Ahern period, gave heart to groups of moral crusaders who had been hanging around on the sidelines, waiting to clean out the teaching profession  of social justice adherents,  child-centred advocates, readers of subversive books and viewers of doubtful films. All of these atrocities were caused by state school teachers. Schools were promoting immorality. This gross meme had its origins in the U.S. in a large numbers of ‘Southern Baptist’ type institutions but especially the John Birch Society, a bulwark of conservatism and the the Moral Morality, run by Jerry Falwell[whose son is now an advisor to Donald T], a moneyed-up,  extreme right wing group that had established clones in Australia {Committee Against Regressive Education, Society to Outlaw Pornography, Council for Community Standards, Community Morals in Education, Campaign for Responsible Education, Conservative Club, Evolution Protest Committee  were some]. In Queensland, moral crusader Rona Joyner took command of schooling and of the cabinet and managed to ban M:ACOS, a social science program for primary schools and a commonwealth-sponsored social education project,  SEMP, in secondary schools. The teaching profession was a close-knit ethical unit in Australia at the time and the agitation disappeared…as did the Queensland dystopic government.

Then the smarties from the emerging discipline of business administration thought that they knew more about the various kinds of administration, even schooling, than those who’d practised it for ever and had excelled at the academic pursuit of the specialty. These managerialists were allowed to take over the band-wagon.  While it is said that everyone has the right to be stupid, but politicians abuse the privilege. Ours got it all a-about-f and played havoc with the basic principles of organisational structure. They tried to stick square pegs in round holes. Didn’t work, but, as usual, they kept it up. They appointed sciolists and pretenders into important positions and they  buggered things up, big time. The managerialists thought that the possession of a degree meant that the possessor knew more about everything than anybody without one. They thought that a well-prepared CV was a form guide and that the thespian skills demonstrated at interview time meant that he applicant could do anything.  Plumbers were put in charge of nurseries and, worst of all, testucating measurement freaks were put in charge of schooling. The managerial movement of the 80s and 90s was a calamity for Australian education. It was a meme-storm  of hurricane proportions. ‘Debbie’ would be a puff of wind by comparison. We have yet to recover. Maybe never. But. One day, after the cyclonic damage is being tidied up,  in the long distant future ,there is a slight chance that we will have education departments run by the teaching fraternity with curriculums and curricula  knowledge based on children’s needs. One day.

MEME-STORM. CAT.5

We couldn’t stop the Cat.5 meme-storm of 2008. It’s still raging.  Its destructiveness is legendary.

In political terms, what sort of government spends millions of dollars on an abject failure and then spends millions more to continue it?  Our political representatives surely test the standards of stupidity with casual indifference.

  

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1. All five Black Papers – supported by the right-wing press – attacked the concepts of comprehensive education, egalitarianism and progressive teaching methods. They deplored the lack of discipline in schools and blamed comprehensivisation for preventing ‘academic’ students from obtaining good examination results. ‘Education in England: a brief history‘ by Derek Gillard.