Infidelity to Truth: Education Malpractices in American Public Education: Chapter Two

By Duane Swacker

About Duane

Chapter 2

Fidelity to Truth in Educational Discourse

‘We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because the lie is more comfortable.’  Solzhenitzyn

In his book “Truth: A Guide” Simon Blackburn, editor of the “Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy,” concisely states that truth is “the control of belief by fact.”  Seems quite simple!  But in his book Blackburn outlines the many battles fought over what truth is over the course of at least the last two millennia by many philosophers, thinkers and writers.  Almost all the well-known names of the Western canon—Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Hume, Descartes, Nietzsche, Wittgenstein to name just a few, can be sorted into differing alethiological camps.  Anyone who has studied the subject soon understands that determining a final answer to the question “What is truth” more likely than not realizes that it is quite difficult to firmly answer (not counting those of a faith belief tradition who claim to have “The Truth”) and that perhaps the best way to address the subject is to just leave it alone (a minimalist position).

But just leaving truth alone is not feasible for a study such as this.  Far too many believe that they have truth, however they determine it, on their side. At the same time many mistake expediency for truth.  What happens when it is shown that their truths are actually falsehoods and their conclusions are invalid and that the results of their false beliefs and practices are unjust and harm the most innocent of society, the children?

Yes, truth matters!

Realizing that all truths are contextual not only in time, space and experience this study is limited to examining the veracity of claims of truth and validity (for how can something be truthful if it is not valid?) for the fundamental positions upon which educational practices of today are based.  The educational practices examined—grading, educational standards and standardized testing–in this study are found overall to be riddled with error therefore lacking in validity and truth.

The flip side of truth is error.  Truth implies that something is without error.  How does the concept of error play into the discussion of truth?  Noel Wilson elaborates: “Error is predicated on a notion of perfection; to allocate error is to imply what is without error; to know error it is necessary to determine what is true. And what is true is determined by what we define as true, theoretically by the assumptions of our epistemology, practically by the events and non-events, the discourses and silences, the world of surfaces and their interactions and interpretations; in short, the practices that permeate the field. . . Error is the uncertainty dimension of the statement; error is the band within which chaos reigns, in which anything can happen. Error comprises all of those eventful circumstances which make the assessment statement less than perfectly precise, the measure less than perfectly accurate, the rank order less than perfectly stable, the standard and its measurement less than absolute, and the communication of its truth less than impeccable.”  In other words all the logical errors involved in the aforementioned educational practices render any conclusions invalid.

Now, let’s delve into Comte-Sponville’s concept of “fidelity to truth.”  What is meant by fidelity to truth, that of being faithful/true to truth?  Preliminarily and primarily, Comte-Sponville states “All fidelity is—whether to a value or to a person—is fidelity to love and through love.”  Since he considers love to be the greatest and hardest to achieve virtue that statement rightly precedes all his other thoughts on the subject.  We can follow that up with the consideration that fidelity is the “will to remember” truthfully and that fidelity “resists forgetfulness, changing fashions and interests, the charms of the moment, the seductions of power.”  Fidelity to truth means “refusing to change one’s ideas in the absence of strong, valid reasons, and. . . it means holding as true. . . ideas whose truth has clearly and solidly established.”  At the same time fidelity to truth means rejecting discourse that has been shown to have errors, falsehoods and invalidities.  However, “Being faithful to one’s thoughts more than to truth would mean being unfaithful to thought and condemning oneself to sophistry.”  To be unfaithful to truth, to be in error, then is to reject that which makes honest communications, policies and practices cogent and a human good, a virtue.

The characteristics of truth in public educational discourse can be understood as encompassing fidelity to truth in the following:

  • Speech and/or writing accurately describes policies, practices and outcomes (discourse).
  • Using the correct/intended meaning of a word in light of the context.
  • Discourse serves to enlighten and not obscure meaning.
  • Discourse is free of contradictions, error and falsehoods.
  • The “control of belief by fact” (S. Blackburn).
  • Discourse is based in skeptical rationo-logical thought processes in which a “scientific attitude” holds sway.
  • Discourse based on/in faith conventions is eschewed and rejected outright due to separation of church and state constitutional concerns.
  • Discourse of expediency based on the rationalizations of “Everyone is doing this”, “It is dictated by the State Department of Education” or “NCLB mandates that we have to do this” is firmly and rightly rejected.

In rejecting expediency over truth as a guide to or rationale of instituting practices that are based on fundamental errors and falsehoods resulting in invalid conclusions that many times harm students, we should keep in mind Hanna Arendt’s concept of the “banality of evil.” She concluded that the Holocaust did not occur because of the monstrosity, the evil of the people involved but by the small everyday functioning of ordinary people, perhaps at best not knowing of or at worst of turning a willing blind eye to the results of their daily task along with the daily work of others that compounded into the atrocities of the Holocaust.  The vast majority of “Good Germans”, including Eichmann, believed that they were just following orders as they had been brought up (educated) to do.  Eichmann even believed that he was “saving” as many Jews as he could by instituting certain procedures.

Now, I am not suggesting that some of our current public education laws, policies and practices are the equivalent of the Holocaust.  What I am pointing out is that in order for everyday banal evils to occur, as with some public education practices that cause harm to innocents and that do not allow for students to enjoy their constitutional mandated benefits and rights in utilizing public education, are made possible by teachers, administrators, boards of education, state departments of education, the federal department of education, etc., many have to and have put expediency over truth.  And in putting expediency, especially expediency of self-interest, over truth we regrettably allow unjust practices to flourish and cause untold harm and psychological violence to be perpetrated against the students who have little means to refute and reject such malpractices.

As Comte-Sponville puts it:  “Should we therefore forgo our self-interest? Of course not. But it [self-interest] must be subordinate to justice, not the other way around. . . . To take advantage of a child’s naivete . . . in order to extract from them something [test scores, personal information] that is contrary to their interests, or intentions, without their knowledge [or consent of parents] or through coercion [state mandated testing], is always and everywhere unjust even if in some places and under certain circumstances it is not illegal. . . . Justice is superior to and more valuable than well-being or efficiency; it cannot be sacrificed to them, not even for the happiness of the greatest number [quoting Rawls]. To what could justice legitimately be sacrificed, since without justice there would be no legitimacy or illegitimacy? And in the name of what, since without justice even humanity, happiness and love could have no absolute value? . . .  Without justice, values would be nothing more than (self) interests or motives; they would cease to be values or would become values without worth.”  [my additions]

And in speaking of justice one must consider its various meanings and aspects and how it plays out in examining educational malpractices.  Which I shall begin in the following chapter. 

Infidelity to Truth: Education Malpractices in American Public Education: Chapter One

By Duane Swacker

About Duane

Chapter 1

The Purpose of Public Education

‘Honesty is the first chapter in wisdom’ Jefferson

Ask any teacher or administrator “What is the purpose of public education?” and more likely than not they will recite their district’s mission statement, perhaps one as succinct as the Nebo School District’s in Utah We engage, empower, and collaborate to ensure student success.”  Or perhaps it more typically reads like this one from a rural Missouri district “The mission of the Warren County R-III School District is to empower each child to fully reach his or her potential as a life-long learner, a responsible adult and a contributing member of a diverse society.”  Or it may even come with a disclaimer as this long mission statement from a Pennsylvania district:

Mission Statement

The Mission Statement, Beliefs, and Goals presented below are the result of work completed by Cumberland Valley School District’s Strategic Planning Steering Committee. These philosophy statements are not an attempt to state how things are, but rather are intended to give impetus and direction toward meeting the needs of all children who attend the schools of this district now and in the future.

Our Mission

The Cumberland Valley School District, in collaboration with students, educators, parents and the community, is committed to developing 21st century learning and thinking skills through a rigorous, relevant, and comprehensive curriculum, while preparing students to be innovative, productive citizens in an interconnected world. (italics in original)

Does each mission statement, being used as a proxy for the fundamental purpose of public education, help fulfill the fundamental purpose of public education?  What is that fundamental purpose and where can it usually be found?  Is there even a fundamental purpose?  To answer the last question first, it depends!  Well, what does it depend on then? In answering that question we also answer the where question—the constitution of each state.

But there’s a catch, not every state constitution gives a purpose for its authorization of public education.  It’s a 50/50 split with 25 states not giving any purpose such as West Virginia’s authorization “The Legislature shall provide, by general law, for a thorough and efficient system of free schools.” (Article XII, Sec. 12-1) and 25 states providing a rationale.

Those 25 rationales can be divided into three types.  Those that declare that the purpose of public education is to ensure that the state’s form of government will continue, such as South Dakota’s “The stability of a republican form of government depending on the morality and intelligence of the people, it shall be the duty of the Legislature to establish and maintain a general and uniform system of public schools. . . .” (Article VIII  § 1).  Those whose fundamental purpose focuses on the individual and his/her rights such as Missouri’s “A general diffusion of knowledge and intelligence being essential to the preservation of the rights and liberties of the people, the general assembly shall establish and maintain free public schools . . . .” (Article IX Sec. 1a)  And those that are a combination of both.  As it is, fifteen mainly focus on the benefits of public education to the individual citizen and the preservation of his/her rights, five on the benefit to the state and five that state both citizen and government benefits.

All together then, there are 25 states with no stated fundamental purpose, five with a purpose that extol the benefits of public education to the state, fifteen commending the benefits to the individual and five a combination of benefit to both state and individual, resulting in 80% of those with a stated purpose of having the benefits for the individual as the primary rationale.  Is it possible, then, to discern a fundamental purpose of public education?  Yes, I believe it can be ascertained, by starting with the fundamental purpose of government in this country as stated in each state’s constitution (sometimes as troublesome to recognize a stated purpose as that of public education).  Since public education is a function of each state and not the federal government we must begin at the state level to determine what the fundamental purpose of the state is.  In examining the constitutions one finds that there many and varied exhortations.

For example Alabama’s constitution states:  “Objective of government. That the sole object and only legitimate end of government is to protect the citizen in the enjoyment of life, liberty, and property, and when the government assumes other functions it is usurpation and oppression.” (Section 35)  Or this from Nebraska “All persons are by nature free and independent, and have certain inherent and inalienable rights; among these are life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and the right to keep and bear arms for security or defense of self, family, home, and others, and for lawful common defense, hunting, recreational use, and all other lawful purposes, and such rights shall not be denied or infringed by the state or any subdivision thereof. To secure these rights, and the protection of property, governments are instituted among people, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” (Art. I, sec. 1)

All well and good, eh!  Quite compelling is the Missouri constitution’s wording on the purpose of government:  “That all constitutional government is intended to promote the general welfare of the people; that all persons have a natural right to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and the enjoyment of the gains of their own industry; that all persons are created equal and are entitled to equal rights and opportunity under the law; that to give security to these things is the principal office of government, and that when government does not confer this security, it fails in its chief design.” (Article. II, Sec. 4. § 3.)

Tying together the aims of our constitutional government with the purpose of public education as stated in some of the state’s constitution allows us to propose a common fundamental statement of purpose. Since 20 of the 25 state constitutions give a reason attending to the rights and liberties of the individual through public education combined with the mandate of state constitutional government as reflected in Missouri’s constitutional language of “That all constitutional government is intended to promote the general welfare of the people; that all persons have a natural right to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and the enjoyment of the gains of their own industry. . .” it follows that the rights and liberties of the individual in being educated as each sees fit supersede those of supporting and maintaining the government.  And that one can logically conclude that if the educational wants and needs of the citizens obtain then those of the state will follow.  But without an educated citizenry who can promote their own interests, and who can understand and tolerate others thoughts, opinions and desires, the state would surely be subject to tyranny by those whose knowledge and wants exceeds most.

I propose, then, the following statement of the purpose of public education with which, hopefully, most in the United States could agree:

“The purpose of public education is to promote the welfare of the individual so that each person may savor the right to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and the fruits of their own industry.”

Any educational practice that is shown to hinder, block and/or otherwise cause an individual to not be able to indulge in any of aspect of his/her rights as stated has to be considered as harmful and unjust not only to the individual but also to society and therefore must rightly be condemned as educational malpractice and ought to be immediately discontinued.  Trampled rights are rights that are non-existent and the educational malpractice that tramples any right is unjust and as noted in Alabama’s constitution “is usurpation and oppression” and as Missouri’s declares “. . . when government does not confer this security, it fails in its chief design.

I contend that many of today’s federal and state mandates and even long standing educational practices are, indeed, malpractices that trample the rights of the most innocent in society, the children, the students of all ages attending public schools, in essence “it [public education] fails in its chief design.”  Should the government through the public schools be sorting, separating, ranking, and/or grading students through logically bankrupt invalid practices discriminating against some while rewarding others?  I contend it should not!  Where is the justice in discriminatory practices?  By evaluating those malpractices against the aforementioned purpose we will be able to ascertain whether or not they are just.

In what follows concepts of truth and Sponville’s “fidelity to truth” will be illuminated, justice concerns will be discussed, professional ethical issues delineated, and the error and falsehood filled conceptual bases of standards and measurement and grading as now used in public education will be elaborated.  It will be shown how using the epistemologically and ontologically bankrupt schemes of grading, educational standards and standardized testing come together in causing untold psychological harm to the students, discriminating against some students while rewarding others and begetting structural injustice causing public schools to “fail in their chief design.

Infidelity to Truth: Education Malpractices in American Public Education Introduction

By Duane Swacker

About Duane Swacker

Introduction

‘All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them.’ Galileo Galilei

The righter we do the wrong thing, the wronger we become. When we make a mistake doing the wrong thing and correct it, we become wronger. When we make a mistake doing the right thing and correct it, we become righter. Therefore, it is better to do the right thing wrong than the wrong thing right. This is very significant because almost every problem confronting our society is a result of the fact that our public [education] policy makers are doing the wrong things and are trying to do them righter” states systems theorist Russell Ackhoff.

Many longstanding practices in American public education are rightly described as “doing the wrong thing righter”.  The simplistic grading of students, rating and ranking schools as the US News and World Report does, believing that through using educational standards and its flip side standardized testing we can “measure” student learning and achievement, whatever that may mean, are just a few.

As noted by Ackhoff, doing the “wrong thing righter” is damaging enough to the bottom line in business but in the teaching and learning process it results in error, falsehoods and invalid conclusions about what a student has learned.  More than that, students internalize the labels that misleadingly describe a student resulting in multiple harms to many students, violating their personhood.  The tremendous waste of educational resources, time, energies and monies for practices that are harmful, epistemologically and ontologically bankrupt and that contravene the fundamental purpose of public education should give us pause.

“I’m an ‘A’ student” declares the bright fresh-faced student as she confidently walks into class the first day finding a seat next to her friends.  I hate to burst her bubble but little does she know, she isn’t.  The first few days of a new school year class time is spent going over the syllabus, rules and regulations, and how grades will be determined for the semester and year.  In discussing grades I had the students fill out a very brief survey:

I am a (n) _____student.

A

B

C

D

E (none of these)

F

Then I’d have one student read the answers aloud as another tallied up the various answers on the board.  Inevitably the majority of answers were either an A or B as in order to take Spanish the students had to have an A or B grade in their prior year’s Language Arts class.  Every now and then a C might appear, and never a D or F. (Why is it that in the grading scale the only letter with a word associated with it is F-fail?)  And out of every hundred or so students usually only one would get the correct answer E.  Why is it, that only one out of one hundred students would understand what was really being asked/demonstrated by the brief survey?

Why?  Because socially ingrained practices such as student grades, practices that have existed for generations, are usually accepted as right, good, valid and the way things are, even after they have been shown to be detrimental to students and contradict the fundamental purpose(s) of public education.  Breaking away from societal habits of long standing practices such as grades in schooling can be an almost impossible task, especially for students who don’t have enough life experience to question, counteract or refuse to accept them.  The vast majority, not only of students but also parents and teachers accept grades and standardized test scores as an acceptable practice.  “It’s how school works!”  In this book I will show why using educational standards and standardized test scores as assessment practices are invalid, harmful, unethical and unjust educational malpractices.

I explore the fundamental concepts underlying educational standards and standardized testing used as a basis to supposedly measure student learning to show that said practices which most accept as “the way things are” are based on logical errors and falsehoods that render the practices invalid.  And in being invalid those practices can only cause harm to many students as they are subjected to the many quirks and whims of practices based on false and invalid notions.  As any craftsman, artisan or gourmet chef knows; when one starts with inferior materials it is impossible to construct a high quality product.  It’s the old garbage in, garbage out to put it a bit more crudely.  How can we construct a high quality educational experience for students if we start with practices that are of the lowest intellectual quality and that lack validity?

Many current educational practices, start with and are based on inferior “materials”.  In the teaching and learning process, those deficient materials are the rationo-logically challenged conceptual foundations used to justify the malpractices of student grades, educational standards and standardized testing that cause much harm to each and every student, whether the ‘A student’ or the ‘failing student’.  I will show that those practices are, indeed, malpractices based on faulty logic and irrational thinking that render them invalid, harmful and unjust.

In order to do so, though, we must first explore some basic concerns that relate to the purpose of public education, to truth considerations and fidelity to truth in educational discourse, to justice concerns, to aesthetic matters of quality, to (mis)labeling and attachment issues in pinning names onto students in the sorting, separating and ranking involved in grades and standardized test scores, to Foucault’s “subjectivization” or “internalization”, to conceptual (epistemological and ontological) foundations of standards and measurements, to the misuse and bastardization of language that serves to obfuscate meaning for purposes other than to enhance just and ethical teaching and learning environments, to practical ethical concerns and, finally, to obtaining “fidelity to truth” in public education discourse and practices.

Most everyone believes they know the purpose of public education but few actually know where to find the fundamental purpose and what that purpose is.  In Chapter 1 I will explore what those purposes are and how they should serve as our fundamental criterion, the guiding spirit against which all public education practices should be judged.  A brief discussion of the purpose of government follows and what the effects of a government gone awry in its doings are.  Issues of personal liberty in relation to public schooling will also be discussed.

In Chapter 2 I explore what constitutes truth in its various manifestations and that without “fidelity to truth” in educational discourse and practices one can only end up with a logically compromised teaching and learning process that may serve certain political ends but doesn’t, can’t serve the students justly.

Following up on “fidelity to truth” and closely allied with it, in Chapter 3, I explore the nature of justice and how justice concerns, in light of the fundamental purpose of government and public schools, interact to either help or hinder individual student rights and liberties.

In Chapter 4 I will focus on the nature of assessment touching on issues of quality, assessing quality, objective vs subjective assessment and on Wilson’s four frame of references in the assessment process and how confusing and conflating the frames in our evaluation practices add another layer of invalidity.

The 13 logical errors identified by Noel Wilson in his 1997 treatise “Educational Standards and the Problem of Error” will be discussed in Chapter 5.  His never refuted nor rebutted definitive destruction of the concepts of educational standards and standardized testing are delineated and then discussed in relation to Foucault’s concept of subjectivization and its impact on students in relation to the stated purpose of public education.

In Chapter 6 I explore the conceptual foundations of measurements and standards as conceived by the major standard and measurement organizations.  It will be shown how the misuse of these terms and concepts lend a false sense of scientific veracity to the educational standards and standardized testing regime.  Also included is a brief discussion of the conceptual error and falsehoods of standardized testing as it is outlined in the testing bible “Standards of Educational and Psychological Testing.”

Professional ethical considerations are addressed in Chapter 7, first through the dictionary definitions of ethics and then through a brief discussion of various ethical codes of conduct from three organizations that are involved in education.  Commonalities found in the codes are identified and discussed in relation to considering whether the malpractices of educational standards and standardized testing in respect to fundamental student rights as outlined in our fundamental purpose of public education should be considered unethical.

In the Conclusion I ask a series of questions concerning how the malpractices of educational standards and standardized testing analyzed as malpractices through logical definition and thought can only result in massive amounts of errors, falsehoods and inaccurate categorizations of students which cause much harm to students, are unethical, fail to honor constitutional mandates and therefore should be rejected immediately and replaced with practices that are “faithful to truth”, help uplift the student to his/her potential in enjoying his/her constitutional rights and privileges in liberty.

Finally, in the Afterword I will present some thoughts on how to obtain “fidelity to truth” in educational practices so that we may break the cycle of educational malpractices in which we currently find ourselves.

‘Infidelity to Truth: Education Malpractices in American Public Education’

Something new on Treehorn Express:

Over coming weeks, the book ‘Infidelity to Truth: Education Malpractices in American Public Education’ by Duane Swacker will be serialised on Treehorn Express:


Duane has provided Treehorn with the following introduction:

 Duane Swacker is a retired public high school Spanish teacher of 21 years, now an education researcher/writer, and public school advocate.  I received a Masters degree in education administration, was certified to be an administrator and also did some doctoral work in education administration but didn’t complete the course of study.  I started teaching at 39 years of age, working many different jobs prior.  Over the years, I’ve worked in inventory control/purchasing, production scheduling and materials management, and customer service management.  I am also a master upholsterer but do not do hardly any upholstery now.  I’ve been an avid outdoorsman and sportsman all my life.  Health issues have curbed those activities greatly, so most of my time is spent doing educational policy research and writing and public school advocacy now.
 
“Infidelity to Truth. . . ” is the culmination of two decades of teaching and of thinking, reading and writing about the teaching and learning process.  That thinking, reading and writing have been greatly influenced by Noel Wilson’s seminal dissertation “Educational Standards and the Problem of Error”.  Much of what is being done currently in education is based on falsehood and error, guaranteeing that assessment practices are invalid and harm students.  I’ve exposed those errors and falsehoods that make up the onto-epistemological foundations of the educational malpractices that are educational standards and testing.  The abuse and misuse of the terms “measure” and “standards” are explored.  I discuss how those errors and falsehoods and the misusage of terminology, in consideration of the fundamental purpose of public education, and issues of truth, justice, and ethics all come together to show that the current mandated inanities of the teaching and learning process are malpractices that result in violations of student being/personhood.

Watch this space…

Bye Treehorn

I love primary education.  I love primary schooling. I love primary school kids.  When I left school in 1944, I just wanted to get amongst the whole mix of teaching and go bush to teach young kids. My big brother would bring home stories about the kids at Nogo River in rural Queensland and it all sounded so fascinating.   I eventually made it to Teachers College, and by 1947 I was the Head Teacher, of all things, of a one-teacher school. I loved it. My dream achieved.  For eleven years, I did my  apprenticeship in four  different localities. All of my one-teacher schools are closed now but I still remember the names of the pupils. Many have passed on and some are in their eighties. You see,  when I first started as a Head Teacher cum Principal I was eighteen years of age.  My two or three ‘scholarship class’ members were fourteen or fifteen years of age.  I now have a lot of former pupils. Love each one of them.

The years went on and the love for primary schooling and kids just grew and grew.  I now love nostalgia.  I love catching up with former pupils who remember me for the right reasons. It’s the sort of feeling that only schoolies enjoy but can’t explain; and is unique to those who care about kids. I thought that I shared these feelings with an endless number of others. I was sure that every primary teacher was the same way. I kept this belief for sixty years….that everyone in primary schooling loved kids and teaching them, as much as I did; and would go to the ends of the earth for them.

I was wrong.

2008-17 has revealed that many employees in the field of primary schooling in Australia don’t care much about kids. They care deeply about some kids, but not the universal kid. I had accepted, early in the piece, that Australian every-day adults, generally speaking, prefer to have as little as possible to do with kids, apart from coaching the local under-eights footy team.  Treehorn, when I found him, validated the view that all adults, including parents, teachers and principals prefer not to be bothered too much by what distresses kids.   I was disappointed [‘floored’ is a better term] to learn, in particular that Australia’s  school principals don’t have much interest in the ‘generalised’ school child, at all. They like their job and do it well and that’s it. They  meekly and  publicly approve of the extreme. heavy, burdensome NAPLAN testing device because Julia Gillard told them to do so after she returned from New York, overdosed on Klein bullshit, which, they know all very well, destroys the learning spirit of the curriculum in the interests of data-gathering – just for the sake of data-gathering.  Principal’s associations know that. APPA was blatantly ‘Stockholmed’, replaced by AGPPA and then  ‘Eichmannised’ .  They should have known that NAPLAN, under the pretence of being diagnostic and motivational, would destroy our system;  a system that once had the potential to be great. Sloppily, near tearfully,  I must say : They broke my heart by their desertion from reality.

When Julia Gillard introduced this crazy New York system of schooling based on the deliberate creation of anxiety and fear, they had a chance to say to her : “We don’t do that sort of thing to school children.” They didn’t.

I now know what disappointment is.

Then, in January 2010, the Australian Education Union that represents the chalkface operators, unanimously supported a motion at its Sydney Conference that NAPLAN be banned!   I was over the moon. I was so proud of my association with some of the attenders. Amazed that such a thing had happened and so proud that Aussie teachers collectively, it seemed, recognised the implications of naplanising school children ….that they had assured the welfare of little Aussie learners to progress in a child-centred environment, that I did something that I had never done before. It seemed to me like it was the wonder of the age….that our classroom teachers could be so wonderful, so glorious, so up-front.  I could see Cloud 9 way down below me; so I went to Mass on the following day to say thanks. [I’m a Mick. ] I am usually asking for a favour, but here I was doing something that I have reflected upon, often, since:  Going to church just to say ‘Thanks’!!  That’s not normal. Maybe I’ll get the chance to do it again sometime…maybe when politicians  start thinking about what they are doing to children  and ban the stupid thing.  You see…ouch….The motion was at the AEU Conference was withdrawn on the same day and the notion of freedom abandoned.  Never learned why.   Very little mention of NAPLAN by the AEU since. Did the big boys capture Him, or was it the AEU? The big end of town seems to believe that it is  dominant enough  to do either. I may never learn what happened to the original motion.

{By the way, did you listen to all that Budget Yak-Yak in the Federal Parliament?  “We will spend billions and billions on schools and our kids will be the best in the world! We will improve education standards by giving more money to this, that and whatever” The baloney from both sides of the house was vomitous.  NAPLAN, the extreme destroyer of schooling, introduced by Labor  and maliciously ‘fiddled’ by Liberals and Nationals, now supported by their common neo-liberal viewpoints, did not get a mention, even though it wastes billions per year.. the worst ‘bad debt’ in on the landscape……and it was budget time!}

Those who know me, know that, back in the eighties I held super-normous hope for the future of primary schooling in Australia. I could see super-dooper schooling happening and, for some reason, I always thought that by about 2010 [no good reason for picking that year], Australia would enjoy an enormous network of public schools, to which children would burst a boiler to get to each and every day BECAUSE OF THE LEARNING HAPPINESS THERE….for no other reason. Enjoying a thoroughly holistic tailor-made curriculum, each would find real joy in extending their own abilities as far as they could and enjoy every moment of learning at their local community school.  They would not need any sexy inexperienced measurement sciolist from outside the school gate to judge their capacity,  and brand them with a number. Schooling would be real schooling, real learning. School leavers would not need an HSC score or NAPLAN score. Hirers would ask the school about their applicants and be given the full picture.

Garn. No matter what you might like to say, a progressive exam-free system is possible.

Well, things didn’t live up to expectations. Once managerialism and the restructuring fad hit the fan in the eighties, one could see what was happening. We were destined to follow the path ‘back to drastics’.  The last paragraph in my “Back to Drastics” [USQ Faculty of Education, 2006. P.87] was prophetic : “Hope persists. There are some great schools around and classroom teachers still have the real power. Once the teacher and the pupils move into their room together, the educational processes begin. Nobody in any self-important holy of holies has yet thought of starting from such a premise. Structural changes are usually imposed from the politicial apex, downwards. We keep starting at the wrong end. Education 3000?   At all times, the large and dangerous changes have been initiated by sciolistic ne’er-do-wells, who have had their decisions confirmed by the kinds of political party decision-making, for whom absurdity is not a handicap.

Clearly, the managerialism era was the start of Australia’s demise as a world power and of the standards of schooling that were once on the up and up. They are related; so, when Managerialsim and Restructurism made an easy path for the rabid Standardised Blanket Testing routine called NAPLAN because the wrong decision-makers were in the wrong positions, our system went haywire and has been that way for a decade. We cannot claim any growth in world stature in financial, industrial or political terms nor is there any indication of improvement in overall intellectual performance of any kind. We are waiting for the big boys to sort things out.  We maintain a mediocre ranking in world affairs, even though we have the ability [now being crushed] of fighting above our weight.

The forces that keep us in this mid-to-low-level position are powerful, extremely powerful. WE NEED THEM TO GET OFF OUR BACKS. We need them to talk with Rupert and tell their mates, Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten that they are allowed to discuss schooling  openly, and not deliberately hide the mention of NAPLAN. Bring it out in the open! Schooling is not about money. The 37 kids from my railway-fettlers’ one-teacher school at Baking Board have contributed significantly to Australia’s welfare as has every other school. Schooling is about the promotion of learning and that banking corporation called UBS, needs to let go of the hooks on our institutions that they use to control our schooling system, our politicians and our media. The cone of controlled silence is too thick, as well.

NAPLAN is now discussed as a generality, a part of schooling, a thing that happens at school, a thing to be feared or wondered about. Rupert and UBS have had their way.  UBS, controlling our top end of town might care to think more seriously about the real meaning of the word SCHOOL.  What is it? What is it supposed to do? Is it doing it? Do kids like learning? Do they do  well at all parts of the curriculum? Why blanket test them when they progress faster and better when teachers share the evaluation of their efforts with them at the time of learning?  If you want to know how well they are doing, why not have a system of mentoring and reporting by highly qualified, experienced experts with a yen for excellence and with pollen on their wings? Why not just give the profession back to teachers?

The Australian education system, without any fear or doubt, is controlled by UBS and Rupert Murdoch [the schooling industry, in testucation mode, is worth $300 billion per year to him…at his last count].  UBS [this  banking corporation that paid the fares of bull-shipper Joel Klein down-under to show us what to do] seems motivated by a lack of appreciation for the ethics of the education profession. Big Bankers don’t like us teachers. [We shouldn’t have given up doing  school banking for them] It does not seem to understand that  a profession can be based on altruistic principles.  UBS, a respected organisation within thee money-making professions, could do so much good for children if it was able to adopt a moralistic view of the treatment of children and a responsible view of the work of the caring professions.

In any case, I’ve tried for quite a few years with the help of little Treehorn and a remarkable Kiwi educator, Allan Alach, to try to help restore normal conditions for Aussie school children through the columns of The Treehorn Express. We didn’t do any good. Treehorn is still that vivid green colour, because no one with any wit, has noticed him.

The two superordinate forces [UBS, Murdoch] are just so enormously powerful and our decision-makers are so very easily persuaded and so very well controlled……

They do not allow ANY political party to discuss NAPLAN.  The party doors are closed to reasoned discourse.

The mainstream press and the ABC aren’t brave enough to investigate the history or worthiness of NAPLAN.  [Kids. You can rely on shock-jock Alan Jones for support, however. He’s just got going.]

Shaky state governments [e.g NSW] believe that, by adding to the ferocity of the NAPLAN notion by screwing around with a relationship to the HSC, something or other will be improve.  Fat chance.

OMG. The place has really gone crazy and the standard of the whole gamut of learnings at school is fading – not just the naplan subjects. Kids just don’t like school much…..for good reasons.

We could end all the anguish in our schooling system if primary and secondary principals’ associations flexed their ethical muscles and told the feds that their members will return to their professional code OR if ACSSO (Australian Council of State School Organsations)  suggested to their members that they say NO to ‘NAPLAN’ OR  more mums and dads at home, thinking seriously about their child’s future, would  refuse to allow their children to participate……. like the parents of those 337 out of 343 pupils at Kimberley College, Brisbane have done OR some political party members would just sit down and talk about the meaning of school.

We all know our test-crazed system  stinks, but who am I [with some aligned colleagues and friends ] to test the might of UBS, Rupert and Co. and tolerate sloppy politicising. We don’t make the slightest impression,  it seems. They’re too powerful. Little Treehorn looks like staying a vivid green colour for a long, long time. We live in an era when there is a serious disinterest in childhood.

I can’t stand it any more. I quit. Thanks Allan and friends. Bye.

Phil Cullen

https://treehornexpress.wordpress.com

http://primaryschooling.net

Finally to those who don’t mind or don’t care how much NAPLAN is used to bash young children : “May the fleas of a thousand camels……”

6 out of 643

I had thought that my Treehorn article called ‘It’s NAPLAN time. Bring out the law book’ and a couple of quickies since, would be my swansong.  I am flattered, of course, that Professor Diane Ravitch of the University of New York [home-town of our founder Joel Klein] repeated my article in her blog which has an extensive distribution in the USA.  Professor Ravitch is the former Deputy Director of Education for the USA. She’s an icon.

https://dianeravitch.net/2017/05/08/naplan-and-the-ruination-of-education-in-australia/
https://dianeravitch.net/2017/05/08/australia-a-brief-history-of-how-americas-bad-ideas-undermined-education-down-under/
But then, 9 May was the first day of NAPLAN testing and  the Kimberley College episode hit the fan.

What happened yesterday, the first day of NAPLAN 2017, at Kimberley College?

6

Only SIX out of 343

sat the NAPLAN test.

That means that the parents of six pupils at Kimberley College have been misguided by the ramblings of testucators who reside beyond the school gate. Shame.

Kimberley College  [https://www.kimberleycollege.org/] is a private school established by a group of parents just to the south of Brisbane  in 2000.  Back then, they wanted to have their children move into secondary schooling with the enthusiasm for learning and for achievement that they had developed at Kimberley Park State Primary School.  Principal Paul Thomson was using the regular curriculum to establish THINKING as the most useful educational outcome, using multi-aged settings through to Year 10 to maximise the learning effort.  It’s a place where deep thought is given by parents to the learning habits of their children, to the richness of their happily stimulated minds and what the future holds for them. De Bono’s spirit is in the air. Creative, conceptual thinking pervades the curriculum.

There is really no place in a serious, fair-dinkum learning institution like Kimberley College for killer tests like NAPLAN.   Standardised blanket testing of the NAPLAN kind, products of testucators’ compulsive adoration of data, are anathema to the parents of this school. They want their children to learn and to achieve at higher than normal levels.  NAPLAN’s focus on mediocrity doesn’t suit them, and NAPLAN’s DNA contains that measurement virus that disposes children to hate Maths, Science, Reading Literature.  The testing regime is clearly based on fear and anxiousness. It is a repressive, stress ridden threat to each child’s mental health. It has run-on effects. It has no place on school premises.

Kimberley College would be popular at this time with Treasurer Scott Morrison.  NAPLAN itself is a really ‘bad debt’, costing Australia billions each year to administer; and it ensures the loss of an industrial and intellectual future.  Inestimable. The parents at Kimberley College have just contributed a few thousand dollars to the national welfare. I figure that $5000 is a reasonable estimate for over 300 papers, supervision, delivery,  measurement of desks from each other by visiting officials….and the million other nuisances that schools musty tolerate because of NAPLAN.

It’s such a pity that our testucators do not know what happens in schools and in classrooms, minute by minute, day by day….the things that seriously detract from the learning enterprise.  It’s a pity that they are so inexperienced at what really happens in the classroom.

NAPLAN is surely the biggest threat to learning that this country has even seen.

Sincerely. May God bless the parents of Kimberley College for showing us the way.  The rest of Australia just might learn something.

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Phil Cullen  http:primaryschooling.net    http://treehornexress.wordpress.com

IT’s NAPLAN TIME

IT’S NAPLAN TIME

Bring out the law book.

[An essay from a Manager’s diary]

On Tuesday, May 9 NAPLAN testing will hit all Australian Children’s Factories with a ferocity that Cyclone Debbie could never match.  The level of destruction to Australia’s learning capital will be vast  and there is no way that anyone can compensate nor be compensated for the damage. Once the natural desire to learn has been decimated, reconstruction becomes a long-long-long term effort. It’s been happening for nine years now and all of Australia must know of the damage it is causing. If we don’t, we soon will.

The sooner we get rid of it, the better.  From the start of this menticide epidemic in 2008, when powerful political creatures arranged for the systematic destruction of Australia’s school learning culture for the sake of their pals’ financial profit, we have endured a system of schooling that brings no credit to any one of us. Our testucation nerds have instituted a schooling program that guarantees paralysis of the intellect from the first day of school, where, in some states, kids are tested before they start. We have been abusing our children’s keenness to learn with merciless abandon.  Only the love and compassion of the everyday classroom teacher maintains any semblance of progress these days, but their super-efforts  can never compensate adequately for the nastiness of the testucating end of town. The present generation of school attenders may never recover and the ‘fat little men will simply sit there and grin’, as Alice predicted.

This year, some testucators will be searching for modest ways to make the tests easier, in the manner that many of us reformed-testing-freaks used to do to make tests harder. The public is supposed to believe that NAPLAN is good for its children and this can only be done if the scores get better. They were shocking in 2016.  Manipulation can be part of the game.  For instance, there used to be statistical data available  that listed which  tables were more difficult than others……9+7 is much more difficult to remember than 8+4, for instance. This ‘level of difficulty’ applies to all kinds of testable items, whether it be in Maths, Science or Grammar. Teachers know this. Some are easier to handle than others for some reason.  In that earlier era of testucation, we test freaks  had to eat crow eventually; and reform our attitude to schooling.

If there is anything more dangerous to a country’s future than testucators, it’s an elite politician  who has ‘fallen for ‘ a special kind of testucator.  Julia has confessed to describing Joel Klein as her ‘pin-up boy’.  You let him fool-ya, Julia, didn’tya?. Despite the appearance of her office wall on behalf of her corporatocracy who paid for Joel’s trip down under and whose photos probably adorned the rest of her wall, she envisaged a system of millions of classrooms where little Aussie darlings would sit still all day, each day working assiduously at tables and spelling and sums and grammar and practice tests  and related bumfuzzle with zest and ‘heils’ for their ultimate success at PISA. Her cuckservative fopdoodlers, those compliant  conservatives  whom she had cuckolded and  paddocked in the bozone layer of confusion early in the piece, then attached their own fictile associations to her apron strings to strengthen their political anti-child animus. The Australian Primary Principals Association was easily moulded into one of hers; and the whole schadenfreude business was in place to her great satisfaction; and to Kevin’s, who had told her to do it; and to BSU; and to NYCity’s finances; and to Rupert;  and to Amplify  and co-test-manufacturers and tablet-program producers who continue to ridicule the young and sneer at their declining mental distress.

As Sir Wally said : “Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practise to deceive.

In Orwellian terms, cynics now comment that NAPLAN is a kind of political prolefeed that keeps the proles [proletariat] in their place in case they became too knowledgeable; which is what it is doing. However, this was not her ladyship’s intention. She is of Labor background…just doing as she was told by the big end of town….a disposition maintained by present day Labor.

POLITICS

Treehorn has conducted a crusade for kids for some years now. It has been a daily effort and the longer it has gone, the more it is clear that the NAPLAN tragedy can be regarded as an exercise in politics rather than a reform in education. Clearly UBS, the world’s largest banking enterprise controls schooling in Australia and has done so from the outset. Its control over political behaviour is monstrous. In political terms, its history of school CONTROL is pretty clear., but largely overlooked or ignored.

1. Circa 2008, UBS instructed Kevin Rudd that it wanted something done about schooling.

2. Panicky Kevin instructed his Minister for Education to do something.

3. Minister Julia Gillard headed straight for the USA [not Finland, Singapore, New Zealand or other countries that had progressive, high achievement  schooling ‘going for them’ at the time], where, after reporting to Rupert Murdoch before attending a Carnegie Foundation party, she met the controversial boss of a large New York school district, who sweet-talked her into a belief in his scheme; which was based heavily on fear….[fear of failure and disgrace for kids, fear of loss of job for teachers, fear of closure of school for parents]…and she was enthralled.  It was a pure and simple FEAR-based scheme.; nothing to do with real achievement-oriented, progressive learning as in Finland and places that developed kids’ love for learning. It meant POWER. She fell for his charm. He became her ‘pin-up’ boy and, following Julia’s  liaison with UBS, he and wife Nicole received a free trip down under at UBS expense where he spoke only with UBS connections. [He later called them ‘education officials’.]  His Immenseness spoke of ‘enacting tranformational change’ to the UBS audience in Melbourne; of ‘reporting and grading systems’  to the chosen audience at the Press Club in Canberra and about ‘relationships between businesses and schools’  at a UBS dinner in Sydney before concluding that Australia had “…a lot of understandable concern about putting together an accountability system and transparency.”

4. So….Julia and Joel and the UBS installed his scheme. This meant that  state system initiatives had to be taken over and controlled, but that was a piece of cake for our future P.M. We now have Kleinism as our national schooling system well controlled by UBS and its New York connections, who, incidentally, are making billions in the U.S. and anticipate  making more in Australia following the surge in the use of tablets in Aussie schools. Their testing programs, curriculum program, learning games are ripe for the using, and the whole project is now turning to gold.

5. Psychometrics only were appointed to conduct a rigorous testing program through an organisation called ACARA. The ‘C’ stands for Curriculum, even though teaching experts were banned from appointment at the test centre..  UBS was on its way to total command.

6. In her public acknowledgment of the power of kleinism and its mightiness, which she spruiked at the special UBS dinner for Joel Klein in November 2008, Julia Gillard sought approval from her political superordinates for her scheme, quoted Rupert Murdoch who said that “thousands of children are being betrayed ” and, he added,  there is “a gap between those who are getting an education and those who are not.” Strange words.

7. She thanked the large companies like Freehills and Corrs Chambers Westgarth for their support “…to the development of the program and their pro-bono contributions.” and encouraged others to consult their boards to contribute to the “partnership of leading employers.”  She was in with Flynn having persuaded all the big boys that this scheme meant educational improvement. All her scheme [party?] needed was more money.

8. The Labor Party, Liberal Party and Greens all took note and decided never to examine the context of NAPLAN, its effects on schooling nor on the mental health of children [which became quite startling by 2011], nor the connection to ‘the establishment’. The Libs conducted a couple of fizzer Senate inquiries which used-up time and paper and delayed any serious examination of NAPLAN as an educational device. Not one political party has shown any interest in the plight of kids at school during the past decade nor bothered to question what is going on.  They seem to be too afraid. NAPLAN has yet to be used as an election issue, which is what it should be. If any party uses it, it’s bound to be a boomer…and its banning of Naplan a clear winner….but the forces of evil…

9. The Australian Education Union voted unanimously at its January, 2010 Conference to ban NAPLAN, then suddenly changed its mind….no reason given…..and the barber kept on shaving.

10, The government took over the control of the once-doggedly-determined professional society, the Australian Primary Principals’ Association and some like organisations in case they remembered their duty of care to kids and returned to their ethical principals.

11. The Murdoch and Fairfax Press, believing that discretion is the better part of valour,  have never conducted any serious ‘investigative surveys’ of the NAPLAN EFFECT ON SCHOOLING. They’d need to be brave, wouldn’t they? Even the ABC has been super-cautious as have respected journos who were once open and forthright. Things are very tight and totally controlled.

This unified pro-NAPLAN force is much too formidable for any care-for-kids campaign.  Australia is stuck with a mediocre system trailing other countries by a country mile.  The cock-up with its present operations does not provide parents with any promise for a reasonable future. You will know so many of them being regularly actioned…..

LAWS OF MANAGEMENT

In management terms, NAPLAN has had an obvious Cobra Effect or Rat Effect [aka Rule of Perverse Intentions] on Australia’s schooling system “…which occurs when an attempted solution to a problem makes the problem worse as a type of unintended consequence. The term is used to illustrate the causes of incorrect stimulation in economy and politics.” 

Principals associations, usually seen as the protectors of Child Rights, school standards and professional ethics were the first to fold and to illustrate, by their reactions to the reality behind  known, unwarranted laws of management as applied to educational administration. These laws [see below]  became unwarranted and unnnecessary replacements for the basic  administration  of schools that enhance the  conditions of freedom and dignity for children.

Campbell’s Law clearly applies to the NAPLAN disaster and has been noticeably  ignored since the outset….

The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making,

the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be

to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor.

[Use of tutoring shops, extra homework, post-school classes are instances of cheating the system and corrupting the results.]
as was the Settlage Definition of a test score also ignored……

A mark or score on a blanket test represents  an inadequate judgement

by a biased, inexperienced and variable non-schooling judge,

of the extent to which an undefined level of mastery of unknown proportions

of an inadequate amount of material has been completed

under tense conditions that render the outcomes useless.

[Indeed! How can distant testing ever replace shared evaluation at the point of learning?]

That’s NAPLAN testing. It’s the wonder of the age that it has lasted as long as it has. The efforts of the mythmakers and their low-level, coercive, politico-totalitarian forms of control seem to have convinced a gullible public that its diagnostic credentials magically turn NAPLAN into a learning motivator and, at a cost of millions of dollars annually, kids will get smarter, quicker  It is a downright furphy. Such measures of control get what they deserve: low levels of response that are just formal, bordering on rejection. The low level of teacher enthusiasm and pupil dislike for the subjects combine to produce the weak results that the hyper-political scheme deserves. Insecurity and uncertainty ensure the exposure of established credos of management…

1. Eichmann’s Plea.  We do as we are told without regard to humane requirements.

2. McGregor’s Theory.  Theory X is better than Theory Y.  Fear, mistrust, deceit and a punitive atmosphere motivates operators better than does humanity and trust and normal ethical behaviour.

3. Stockholm Syndrome. An irrational psychological alliance  [e.g. A.G.P.P.A] between captor and captured, leads to total capitulation of ethical principles by the captured.

4. Hawthorne Effect. Behaviour and mental attitudes alter, depending on the level of personal interest taken.

5. Goodharts Law. When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a measure.

6. Streisand Effect. Attempting to hide important information, like parents’ right to say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to testing, sometimes has unintended consequences by increasing the number who will say ‘No’.

7. The New Stupid.  A condition that occurs when excessive data, expensively gathered, is misused to draw conclusions that entice powerful politicians to make erroneous decisions.

8. The Boondoogle Effect. Doing useless, wasteful or trivial work as a consequence of The New Stupid; like wasting time on excessive practice, teaching to tests, neglecting a wholesome, holistic curriculum.

9. The Mushroom Effect. Keep the public in the dark and feed it on bullshit.

[If you don’t believe the last one works, just listen  over the next few days to the platitudes and waffle diverting our attention  from the real business of schooling  to the Gonski reforms.

Observers of the NAPLAN debacle have noted  many instances of each of these laws and their effects in action during the past few years.The busy presence of these laws and the dark history of Australian schooling over the past decade, surely indicate that  NAPLAN has nothing to do with schooling or the learning business.  It is a gross, ugly political gimmick  and the forces that support it, such as USB and the Murdoch empire,  are much too powerful  for sad little children….like Treehorn.
Bye.

As we pontificate over Gonski reforms, we’ll just  let the kids in the classrooms continue to suffer.
000ooo000ooo000ooo000ooo000ooo000ooo000ooo000ooo000ooo000

Two cows were grazing in a paddock as a large Milk Tanker drove past.  On the side of the tanker were three large words: PASTURISED – PURIFIED – HOMOGENISED.  One cow looked at the other and said, “Makes one feel inadequate, don’t it?”
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Phil Cullen  http://primaryschooling.net       http://treehornexress.wordpress.com