Marion asks some questions. Please share them.


The Purpose of Schooling

The Place of NAPLAN

Three important questions

In a recent cover article of Kappan, the professional publication for Phi Delta Kappan, Marion Brady asks three questions of those who are interested in schooling and what it means for our  kids.  He’s refers, also, to standardised blanket testing which is what NAPLAN is.    Why don’t you discuss your response to the questions with a friend?….with a teacher?…..with a politician?


Public schooling’s overarching purpose is improving learner ability to think. Thinking means categorizing, inferring, hypothesizing, generalizing, extrapolating, relating, contrasting, predicting, synthesizing, imagining, intuiting, and dozens of other thought processes. To the near-total neglect of those thought processes, standardized tests reward learner mastery of just two—recalling, and to a lesser extent, applying a learned concept or skill. 

Question One: Given the fact that human survival, functioning, and progress require the routine use of all thought processes, how can standardized testing’s extremely narrow emphasis on only one or two of those processes be justified?
Scores produced by high-stakes standardized tests have life-altering, often destructive consequences for learners, teachers, administrators, schools, school systems, and the institution itself.

Question Two: Why is it not morally reprehensible and ethically indefensible to continue the use of standardized tests incapable of evaluating the relative merit of thought processes essential to human functioning, problem solving, and civilized life?
Using scores on standardized tests to monitor learner and teacher performance blocks adoption of innovations and practices the merits of which cannot be quantified and contribute to a score.

Question Three: Should not the use of all commercially manufactured, machine-scored standardized tests of learners and teachers be discontinued until test manufacturers demonstrate an ability to evaluate the relative quality of the thought processes public schools were created to improve?


Phil Cullen

Marion Brady quotes from H.G.Wells: “Civilisation is a contest between catastrophe and education.”


Marion Brady


The Climate [Treehorn] aka The Situation [Brady]

Yesterday, The Treehorn Express dealt with three major aspects of schooling in Australia…. The Climate, The Child. The School.

Coincidentally, Marion Brady , esteemed U.S. educator and commentator, advocate for Systems Thinking for improving the organisation of schooling, who is frequently featured in The Washington Post, today,  provided a more succinct version of The Climate. You’d think that he lived in Australia, wouldn’t you?   Those aspects that apply especially to Australia’s demise in its schooling credentials, have been highlighted.

The situation:

  Tradition, institutional inertia, multi-layered bureaucracies, fear of change, textbook publishers, testing companies, uninformed politicians, and upside-down organization chartsthat put amateurs in charge of experts, block educator acceptance of systems thinking as the primary organizer of school curricula.

No plan is in place to address these institutional obstacles to curricular innovation.

A way forward:

Lasting curricular change is bottom up and voluntary, propelled by the enthusiasm of kids and teachers. The optimum place and time to introduce systems thinking is at the middle school level, using multidisciplinary teacher teams working with small groups, and offering social science, language arts, and humanities credits. Introduce systems thinking at that level, and its merit will eventually lead to adoption at other levels.

Responsibility for evaluating learner performance must be returned to teachers. Commercially produced, standardized, machine scored tests can’t measure complex or original thought, and can’t judge the quality of a major source of learning—group dialogue and cooperation.

Below are links to an e-book*** that makes the case for systems thinking as the major organizer of schooling, and four illustrative courses of study**** written for adolescents and older learners. In the spirit of “open source,” all are free to educators who wish to use them—no money, no sign-up, no strings, no obligation. User suggestions for improving the activities can keep them current and continuously adapt them to inevitable social change.

*Einstein et al;

** Systems theory (Wikipedia)


****Courses of study:

Phil Cullen  41 Cominan Avenue Banora Point Australia 2486  07 5524 6443  0407865999

Education Readings October 30th

By Allan Alach

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at

These two articles by Kelvin Smythe have rattled a few cages in New Zealand:

For goodness sake let’s get computer use in perspective

“No matter how sophisticated the current understanding of computers and school education, no-one can sensibly predict the various directions computer use in education will take. What we should know, and we should hold on to as something real and solid amidst the ephemeral and flux, is that the fundamentals of children’s learning – if purposes are humanistic and democratic – remain substantially the same.”

A response to the criticism of my criticism of the school that saw art as a distraction to computer work

“The promise was that computers would be tools, but now rooms are being built for those tools, indeed, whole schools, to devastating effect; computers have become central, and programmes, rooms and schools are being built around them.”

Bruce Hammonds also joined in:

For and against computers in schools – Kelvin Smythe inspires an important debate.

“I have to agree with Kelvin that the ‘heart, vivacity and substance of curriculum areas’ are all too often missing in classrooms replaced by an emphasis on technology. It does seem to me that some teachers are captured by technology and, if this is the case, such technology is itself a distraction from real learning.”

The following two articles reinforce many points that Kelvin and Bruce have made:

David Greene: Teachers or Technology?

“The result? Instead of technology creating great teaching tools for teachers, teachers become the tools of technology!”

Technology Alone Won’t Save Poor Kids in Struggling Schools

“Roughly one in four children in the United States lives in a home without a computer or Internet access, and this digital divide is often cited as a factor in the intractable achievement gap between poor students and their well-off peers. Give these kids a computer, the logic goes, and you may increase their chances of succeeding in school. Entire philanthropies are built on this idea. But a jarring new National Bureau of Economic Research working paper concludes that all of this hardware may have no effect, at least in the short term, on educational outcomes.”

Moving on:

A big problem with the Common Core that keeps getting ignored

Marion Brady’s latest article for the Washington Post. His comment:

“Many unexamined assumptions prop up the standards-and-accountability education “reform” campaign. A major one is that the “core” curriculum in place since 1893 is a solid foundation for instruction and testing. Below, I explain why I disagree, and in the last sentence provide a link to others’ perception of the problem.”

Current school start times damaging learning and health of students

“Scientists have found that current school and university start times are damaging the learning and health of students. Drawing on the latest sleep research, the authors conclude students start times should be 8:30 or later at age 10; 10:00 or later at 16; and 11:00 or later at 18. Implementing these start times should protect students from short sleep duration and chronic sleep deprivation, which are linked to poor learning and health problems.”

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

Establishing a Culture of Student Voice

“What firmly establishes a culture of student voice is giving them charge of how they learn, including development of assessments and products for learning outcomes.”

Teach Your Child to Love Learning: Keys to Kids’ Motivation

There are few things more aggravating to parents than a kid who “doesn’t try.” Whether it’s math homework, dance class or those guitar lessons they begged for but now never practice, we want our children to be eager learners who embrace effort, relish challenges and understand the value of persistence. Too often, what we see instead is foot-dragging avoidance and whiny complaints of “This is boring!”

How to separate learning myths from reality

“Bridging the gap between popular neuromyths and the scientific insights gathered in the past few decades is a growing challenge. As modern brain-imaging techniques, such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), have advanced scientific knowledge, these misleading lay interpretations by business practitioners have advanced as well. Unless such misconceptions are eliminated, they will continue to undermine both personal- and organizational-learning efforts.”

An open letter to all educators…

“There is a vicious epidemic that has been spreading and continues to spread unchecked across the globe. The achievement gap that is so often spoken of is merely a cover for what is really happening.

We don’t have an achievement gap, we have an opportunity gap…”

Why the conventional wisdom on schooling is all wrong

I thought I’d posted this article by Marion Brady before but apparently not.

“Delivering information isn’t the problem. Kids are drowning in information, and oceans more of it is at their fingertips ready to be downloaded. What they need that traditional schooling has never given them and isn’t giving them now isn’t information, but information processing skills. They need to know how to think—how to select, sort, organize, evaluate, relate, and integrate information to turn it into knowledge, and knowledge into wisdom.”

When Did 19th Century Learning Become So Trendy? (8 Old Ideas That Are Actually Pretty Innovative)

“People mocked non-techie projects and now it’s “we really need hands-on Maker Spaces.” Five years ago, I watched techies on Twitter saying, “Note taking is dumb when you can just Google it.” Now everyone is posting about the power of sketch-noting. Suddenly mural projects and theater productions are okay again, since we added an A into STEM; or as I like to call it “MEATS.” I want a MEATS Lab. Maybe it’s time we abandon the idea that certain education practices are outdated and realize that learning is timeless and sometimes some of the best ideas are buried under the industrial carpet of factory schools.”

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Group work and learning styles

“…if we want all students to realise their full potential ( usually written into every school’s charter) then their individual talents and styles need to be recognised. A standardized system ‘one size fits all’ does not fit anyone. All too often school failures are students whose learning styles have been ignored or neglected.”

Education Readings July 24th

By Allan Alach

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at

*I Am Not Tom Brady*

Just when I thought we’d reached peak madness, this arrived. Warning – you’ll need a strong stomach before reading this.

“What kind of message does this send to students? I wondered. That their teachers are so incompetent that they need an ear piece and 3 people sharing a walkie talkie in the corner to tell them what to say?”

How Can Parental Involvement In Schools Improve?

“You don’t have to be an accomplished educator or a Nobel-prize winning economist to understand the benefits of familial engagement in education. Imagine the dollars saved if more families volunteered for projects involving our schools, the benefits of having more people to read, tutor and mentor and the positive long-term economic boost from smarter, more successful students which, in turn, would strengthen public education.”

Kids of Helicopter Parents Are Sputtering Out


“When parents have tended to do the stuff of life for kids—the waking up, the transporting, the reminding about deadlines and obligations, the bill-paying, the question-asking, the decision-making, the responsibility-taking, the talking to strangers, and the confronting of authorities, kids may be in for quite a shock when parents turn them loose in the world of college or work. They will experience setbacks, which will feel to them like failure. Lurking beneath the problem of whatever thing needs to be handled is the student’s inability to differentiate the self from the parent.”

Second-Hand Helicopter Parenting

Following on:

“Parents, I urge you to let your kids create and learn as kids. As hard as it can be to step back and watch it happen, it is SO important to the learning process and as it turns out, to mental health. Kids need to experience safe failures in order to learn that they are resilient. Kids need to see what they alone are capable of. They need to have the opportunity to learn independently. They need to know that they can improve because they want to.”

Philosophy sessions ‘boost primary school results’

This is rather interesting. First link is to a BBC report and the second link is to the official website.

“Weekly philosophy sessions in class can boost primary school pupils’ ability in maths and literacy, a study says.

More than 3,000 nine and 10-year-olds in 48 UK schools took part in hour-long sessions aimed at raising their ability to question, reason and form arguments.”

My wife is a lazy liar

Teachers and their partners will relate to this…

I”t’s the last day of school for my lazy, lying wife. She says teachers still have to go to work, but that can’t be right. Teachers only work when the kids are at school. I wish she would come clean and admit she is not really a teacher.  School starts around 9:00 and dismisses at 3:45.  She leaves the house before seven each morning, and it’s only a fifteen or twenty minute drive to the “school” where she “teaches.” She comes home around six or six-thirty in the evening. Sometimes later. What is she doing with all the extra time?”

What Bill Gates Doesn’t Understand About Education

Marian Brady:

“Mr. Gates, you swing a lot of weight in political circles. If you told policymakers that the current thrust of reform was blocking alternative ways of improving learner performance, and educators should have enough autonomy to explore those alternatives, those of us who have been working on them for decades might have a chance to show what’s possible.”

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

Real Education Still Matters: Exposing the Limits and Myths of ‘Market Forces’ Education.

Bruce’s latest posting, referencing an article by Peter W. Cookson Jr “The rise of instrumentalism in education.”

“Like those imprisoned in Plato’s Cave, learners who do not have the opportunity to experience free inquiry are vulnerable to the one-dimensional images and stereotypes produced by much of the media and publishing world. The learner is hobbled, even crippled, as she or he travels the developmental path of self-discovery and critical consciousness. This disempowering of mind produces tunnel social vision.”

12 Must Read Books on Education for 2015

Twelve must read books on education for 2015.  Worth reading the information about each book to give you a sense of future directions. First in the list is a new book by Sir Ken Robinson. What books are you aware of that could be added to the list?

Design Is Eating The World

The industrial age placed efficiency number one. As Henry Ford, inventor of the assembly line, famously said ‘ you can have your car painted in any colour as long as it is black.’ Today  aesthetic design is an important factor. Would seem to apply to schools as well – a need to move from ‘one size fits’ all standardisation to the personalisation of learning. Schools need to teach and implement design skills.

“Yet our generation’s greatest entrepreneur, Steve Jobs, considered design so important that he cited a calligraphy course as his most important influence.  For him, design wasn’t just a product’s look and feel, but its function. Over the past 20 years, we’ve seen a radical shift toward design as a fundamental source of value.  It used to be that design was a relatively narrow field, but today it’s become central to product performance and everybody needs to be design literate.”

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

What’s your ‘mental model’ about teaching?

What’s your ‘mind-set’ about teaching?

“Over the years I have become increasingly aware of the different ideas people hold about teaching( in today’s terminology ‘mind-sets’)

It is also obvious that many teachers hold these ‘mind-sets’ unconsciously – it is just the way they have learnt to do things. When asked about the beliefs that underpin their teaching many such teachers find it hard to move beyond platitudes or clichés. And when they can, all too often, their actions do not match their words.”

On Knowing – Jerome Bruner

Wise words from the past – as relevant as ever. This old blog features  ideas about creativity by Jerome Bruner from a little known book of his I picked up years ago called Essays for the Left Hand. It has become one of my favourite books although a number of his essays are a little beyond me. His ideas on creativity are spot on.

“Conditions for creativity require that the learner stand back from reality and to be ‘prepared to take his journey without maps’ driven by a deep need, or passion, to understand something. The ‘wild flood of ideas’ need to be tamed, and in the process, the thing being created takes over and compels the learner to finish. The learner, Bruner writes, is ‘dominated’ to complete the task.”

Developing a democratic curriculum.

The ideas of James Beane:

“Relating back to the ideas of John Dewey he believes that if people are to live democratic lives they must have the opportunity to learn what that way of life means. His ideas are based on the ability of students to participate in their own education. Democratic schools share a child centred approach but their larger goal is to change the undemocratic conditions of school themselves and in turn to reach out to the wider community.”

Robert Fried on Seymour Sarason

Seymour Sarason is seen by educationalist Robert Fried as a ‘cautious radical’ and a pragmatic idealist who staunchly defends classroom teachers in one breathe and scolds them in another for their failure to make schools interesting places for teachers and children. Fried believes we should take him seriously. For sixty years Sarasan has agonized about why our institutions and social systems so rarely succeeded in achieving the visions of those who created them despite the hard work and sincere efforts of all involved. Sarason has relentlessly challenged conventional thinking about why schools seem so resistant to change.  Sarason has interesting ideas about school culture – well worth a read.

The right — and wrong role — for teachers

By Marion Brady

Bill Gates spent$45 million trying to find out what makes a school teacher effective. I’ve studied his Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) project, and think it ignores a matter of fundamental importance.

Consider: What makes an effective lawyer, carpenter, baseball player, surgeon?

The answer is that it depends—depends on what they’re being asked to do. An effective divorce lawyer isn’t necessarily an effective criminal defense lawyer. A good framing carpenter isn’t necessarily a good finish carpenter. A good baseball catcher isn’t necessarily a good third baseman. A good heart surgeon isn’t necessarily a good hip-replacement surgeon.

Put lawyers, carpenters, baseball players, and surgeons in wrong roles, test them, and a likely conclusion will be that they’re not particularly effective. So it is with teachers. Put them in wrong roles, and they probably won’t be particularly effective.

Gates’ faith in test scores as indicators of effectiveness makes it clear that he buys the conventional wisdom that the teacher’s role is to “deliver information.” But what if the conventional wisdom is wrong?

Here’s an American history teacher playing the “delivering information” role:

“What were the Puritans like? Many of the things they did—and didn’t do—grew out of their religion. For example, they thought that all people were basically evil, and that the only way to keep this evil under control was to follow God’s laws given in the Bible. Anyone who didn’t follow those laws would spend eternity in Hell.”

Later—a few minutes, hours, days, or weeks—it’s the learners’ turn to play their role. They take a test to show how much of the delivered information they remember. If it’s a lot, the teacher is labeled “effective.” If most of it has been forgotten, he or she is “ineffective.”

Let’s call this “Teacher Role X.”

Now, suppose the teacher doesn’t play that role—delivers no information at all about Puritan beliefs and values or anything else—instead says, “I’m handing you copies of several pages from The New England Primer, the little book the Puritans used to teach the alphabet. Get with your team, and for the next couple of days try to think like a little Puritan kid studying the pages. What do you think you’d grow up believing or feeling that’s like or not like your present beliefs and values?”

marion1 That’s it. The teacher may be an expert on Puritan worldview, but offers no opinion, just wanders around the room listening to kids argue their assumptions, defend their hypotheses, elaborate their theories and generalizations, getting ready to later make their case to the other teams.

Let’s call this “Teacher Role Y.”

Which teacher —the one delivering information (X), or the one requiring kids to construct information for themselves (Y)—is more effective?

Here’s Bill Gates, chief architect of the present education reform movement, giving his answer to that question: “If you look at something like class sizes going from 22 to 27, and paying that teacher a third of the savings, and you make sure it’s the effective teachers you’re retaining, by any measure, you’re raising the quality of education.”

Clearly, when Gates says it’s just as easy to deliver information to 27 kids as it is to deliver it to 22, he’s taking the teacher-as-deliverer-of-information role for granted. Just by talking a little louder, Role X teachers can deliver information to the additional five students. Give them bullhorns, and they can deliver to 127. Give them television transmitters or the Internet, and class size is irrelevant. Salman Khan’s online math tutorials reach millions.

For Role Y teachers, however, every additional learner after the first makes the job harder. They’re trying to gauge the nature and quality of learners’ thought processes; assess depth of understanding; set and maintain a proper pace; decide whether to move on, go back, or go around a learning difficulty; determine learner attitudes toward and appreciation of the subject; trace the evolution of communication, collaboration, and other skills; and note honesty, tenacity, and other character traits that a good education is expected to develop.

Role X teachers may care about those matters, but if they’re standing behind a podium in a lecture auditorium, talking to a television camera, or teaching a class via the internet, caring is the most they can do. Real learning is a relationship-based experience. The effectiveness of Role X teachers won’t change significantly unless somebody invents technology that’s capable of, say, delivering a kiss remotely that has the same effect as the real thing.

Notwithstanding the assumption that Teach For America recruits or others who know a subject well can teach it, teaching—real teaching—is exceedingly complex, difficult work. That Role Y history teacher in my example had to decide that understanding a group’s worldview is important enough to warrant devoting two or three days to it, and be able to explain, if challenged, why the study of worldview is relevant and important. He or she then had to find a vehicle (in this case, The New England Primer) that was intellectually manageable by adolescents of varying ability levels, dealt with the required content, required use of a full range of thought processes, and engaged kids sufficiently to be intrinsically satisfying.

Then the real work began—“reading” kids’ minds—analyzing their dialogue, interpreting facial expressions and body language, and sensing other cues so subtle they’re often below ordinary levels of awareness—cues that may relate to the learner’s mood, ethnicity, prior experience, peer and family relationships, social class, and so on—the whole of the challenge further complicated by the fact that no two kids in any class will be alike.

It takes years for those skills to develop and become “second nature.”

Teacher Roles X and Y are played not just in the teaching of history but in every subject, and the roles are poles apart. Indeed, so distinctive are the two approaches they create two entirely different classroom cultures, each with enough consequences—expected and unexpected—to warrant at least a half-dozen chapters in a book.

The performance of students taught by Role X teachers can be evaluated by machine-scored standardized tests. Machines can’t come even close to evaluating the performance complexities of Role Y teachers. That’s why the testing fad and everything that relates to it—the Common Core State Standards, student ranking, school grades, timed standardized tests, merit pay, pre-set test failure rates, and so on—drive Role Y teachers up a wall.

Failure to distinguish between teacher-centered and student-centered approaches to educating makes the conclusions of Gates’ Measures of Effective Teaching project of limited usefulness at best, misleading at worst. That failure also generates problems within the ranks of teachers, creating a chasm of misunderstanding that more than a century of professional dialogue has thus far been unable to bridge.

Decades of firsthand experience with both Roles X and Y in my own teaching and that of teachers for whom I’ve been responsible leave me without the slightest doubt that, notwithstanding its continued use, much Role X instruction amounts to little more than ritual. Unfortunately, Role X is what No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and other policies being forced on teachers by corporate interests and politicians are reinforcing.

Given the wealth and power behind those misguided efforts, the refusal of their advocates to listen to experienced teachers or respect research, and the assumption by the likes of Rupert Murdock that current reforms will build a money machine for investors, it seems likely that present X-based education “reform” efforts will be the only game in town.

I can think of only one sure-fire way to take control of public education away from Washington and state capitols, return it to educators and local community control, and open the door to broad dialogue and genuine reform. The young hold a wrench which, dropped into the standardizing gears, will bring them to a near-instant stop. If even a relatively small minority agree (as some already have) to either refuse to take any test not created or approved by their teachers, or else take the tests but “Christmas-tree” the ovals on their  answer sheets, the data the tests produce will be useless.

Conscience-driven students who do that will be owed the gratitude of a nation. They’ll have put the brakes on a secretive, destructive reform effort based on a simplistic, teacher-centered, learner-neglecting conception of educating.

I can anticipate some of the conventional-wisdom reaction to what I’m advocating—that it’s irresponsible, that kids are too immature to evaluate the quality of their schooling, that I’m undermining the authority structure that holds the institution together.

Before hanging negative labels on me, ask yourself: Is a system of education that limits intellectual performance to the thought processes that machines can evaluate, adequately equipping the young to cope with the future they’re inheriting?

Problems: High-Stakes Standardised Tests [Marion Brady]

Treehorn Express:

Shared opinions soaked in knowledge & experience.


Marion Brady

Marion Brady is one of my favourite writers. He writes for The Washington Post usually in Valerie Strauss’s column. This is a unique combination of outstanding journalist and great educator. Marion, I believe, has the ability to express an important issue in an unequivocal succinct manner. Here is his “partial list of problems with standardized, machine-scored tests, problems which should be addressed before such tests are used to determine student life chances, …and undermine confidence in public schooling to pave the way to privatization.” One or two have been altered slightly for Australian conditions.

Commercially produced, standardized, machine-scored tests:

  1. Can measure only “lower level” thought processes, trivializing learning.
  2. Provide minimal to no useful feedback to classroom teachers.
  3. Are keyed to a deeply prescriptive national curriculum.
  4. Lead to neglect of physical conditioning, music, art, and other non-verbal ways of learning.
  5. Unfairly advantage those who can afford out-of-school test preparation.
  6. Hide problems created by margin-of-error computations in scoring.
  7. Penalize test-takers who think in non-standard way (which the young frequently do).
  8. Radically limit teacher ability to adapt to learner differences.
  9. Give control of the curriculum to test manufacturers.
  10. Encourage use of threats, bribes, and other extrinsic motivators.
  11. Use arbitrary, subjectively-set pass-fail cut scores.
  12. Produce scores which can be (and sometimes are) manipulated for political purposes.
  13. Assume that what the young will need to know in the future is already known.
  14. Emphasize minimum achievement to the neglect of maximum performance.
  15. Create unreasonable pressures to cheat.
  16. Reduce teacher creativity and the appeal of teaching as a profession.
  17. Are unavoidably biased by social-class, ethnic, regional and other cultural differences.
  18. Lessen concern for and use of continuous evaluation.
  19. Have no “success in life” predictive power.
  20. Unfairly channel instructional resources to learners at or near the pass-fail “cut score”.
  21. Are open to massive scoring errors with life-changing consequences.
  22. Are at odds with deep-seated values about individuality and worth.
  23. Create unnecessary stress and negative attitudes towards learning.
  24. Perpetuates the artificial compartmentalization of knowledge by field.
  25. Channel increasing amounts of tax money into corporate coffers instead of classroom.
  26. Waste the vast, creative potential of human variability.
  27. Block instructional innovations that cannot be evaluated by machines.
  28. Unduly reward mere ability to retrieve second-hand information from memory.
  29. Subtract from available instructional time.
  30. Lend themselves to “gaming” – use of strategies to improve the success-rate of guessing.
  31. Make time – a parameter largely unrelated to ability – a factor in scoring.
  32. Create test fatigue, aversion, and an eventual refusal to take tests seriously.
  33. Undermine a fundamental principle that those closest to the work are best-positioned to evaluate its quality.
  34. Simply don’t work. PISA scores for Australian 15 year-olds have slumped considerably over 5 years.

In public lectures, Marion Brady is fond of allocating this list of problems to each member of the audience to encourage dialogue. Every reader of The Treehorn Express who has the opportunity, is encouraged to do the same. Marion would approve. Share this list with parents at school meetings; with teachers at subject meetings, union meetings, staff meetings, principals’ meetings, Probus meetings, Rotary, LIONS, CWA, political party meetings, caucus, cabinet, even senate inquiries…any kind of meeting where some people are likely to ‘care for kids’ and are concerned about Australia’s future. Carry a copy with you. It is my intention to use it in this way and to add the tablet that compares GERM ideals [Pasi Sahlberg] with those of Leading-Learning ideals.

PLEASE ENCOURAGE others to think about the 34 points above. Ask your local member to print it out and spread it around.


Australia’s version of high-stakes testing is called NAPLAN. It is a feature of a political dystopia that is ruled by demanding feudal lords and ladies who don’t know what they are doing; nor do they realise the amount of damage that they do. NAPLAN, as the backbone of our schooling system, has Stalinist overtones of a ‘state theory of learning’; that the behaviour of individuals can be regulated by fiat. Schools have to carry the baggage of this kind of political disrespect for children. Unfamiliar with the real pupil demographic and unwilling to learn, members of parliament instil fears and stress through schools by their support for high-stakes testing.

2013 needs to be the year when they think about what they are doing to this great country.

The top twenty jobs in highest demand in 2012 did not exist in 2004. Present day school children will be seeking jobs that do not exist using technologies that have yet to be invented. How do schools prepare them for this?  There is a critical choice : TEACH THEM HOW TO LEARN  or  TEST THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS OUT OF THEM.

Click: ‘Care for Kids’

Phil Cullen

January 9 2013

Marion Brady’s powerful message

The Treehorn Express

Prepared and presented by Phil Cullen,

proud anti-NAPLAN geriactivist thinking of kids.


Treehorn story?

The Treehorn Express Theme song: ‘Care for Kids’

April 26

Hi Politicians: It’s happening!  What do you think?


Launch of ‘Say NO to NAPLAN’

It’s truly exciting to think that we are on the brink of real, fair-dinkum Aussie reform, about to start when enough parents give serious consideration to what is happening to their children. The reform has to start with the complete scrapping of NAPLAN. It is evil. When you get a chance to read the booklet  “Say NO to NAPLAN” [to be distributed on Monday]on  you will find heaps of  reasons to scrap it.

The launch in Melbourne on Monday afternoon has already received some press attention in today’s The Age; The Sydney Morning Herald; The Canberra Time; The West Australian


A ‘simple fix’ for School Curriculum

Marion Brady

The Washington Post 26 April 2012

Marion Brady is a widely-known and highly respected U.S. educator[ ]. He writes regularly for Veronica Strauss’ ‘The Answer Sheet’ in The Washington Post’ .  His messages are usually meaningful and powerful. This one is as powerful as it gets and I do commend its careful reading. As an editor said of another of his writings : “Serious minded educators who begin to read this manuscript are very likely to finish it and be influenced by it for the better. Those who are not serious-minded, if there is any hope for them at all, might start to be serious minded…”

Yes. It is that kind of paper.

Towards the end of the article he asks, “Do I want authorities to mandate school use of what I am talking about? Absolutely not.” He then proceeds to list, in Australia terms:- The Federal and State Governments, ACARA, Business Interests, publishers of tests – to just get out of the road. He continues, “What they are offering [accompanied by threats and bribes] is more of the same old 19th Century thinking, now ‘legitimized’ by rich philanthropists, big-business CEOs, politicians, lawyers, fund managers, all supported by mainstream media that think Arne Duncan , Joel Klein, Jeb Bush, Michelle Rhee, and other high-profile pontificators really know how to fix schools. They don’t.”

The article concludes : “It’s hard to imagine a poorer system for preparing the young for coping with the mess that the system has helped to create.”


Sincere best wishes to the ‘serious-minded’ educators gathering in Melbourne on Monday.

The gathering gives hope to those who care for kids.

Australia is already a better place because you are doing what you are doing.

God bless you.


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Phil Cullen

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  The Treehorn Express 

Treehorn story?

The Treehorn Express Theme song: ‘Care for Kids’

The Treehorn Express is dedicated to the cessation of Kleinist NAPLAN blanket testing in Australia.  Our recently introduced Australian schooling system is based on one introduced to a New York school district by a lawyer, Joel Klein. in 2002 and copied by Australia’s Ms. Gillard in 2009, without consultation or examination. Now, the key-stone for Australian schooling is the administration of blanket testing of some measureable items for each child every second year, in May. Upon the results, teacher, principals and schools are judged and rated.

Mr Klein, the founder, now heads the Murdoch test-publishing company worth billions!  Australian test-freaks are amongst his disciples.

Why have it? Kleinism is a New York version of fear-driven schooling which separates ‘haves’ from ‘have nots’ and opens the door for mega-bank-rolling by known curriculum vandals for control of school-based learning. That’s why it exists.

It disrespects school pupils, devalues teachers’ professionalism, forces States to prescribe school texts and teaching strategies, threatens Australia’s future and rivals the Perth Mint as a money source for the top end of town. 

Why does Australia support it? Why? Money. 

____Little Treehorn and his cobbers reckon that “Adults just don’t care about school kids.”  You don’t?___ 


Rupert Murdoch will be pleased. One of his colonial possessions has taken the initiative and is about to expose the dreadful state of schools in the the state of Queensland, Australia. It makes his own task so much easier. While school authorities in the USA are pleading: ”Release our schools from the control of  Rupert Murdoch.”, the Courier Mail [Friday, 27 Jan.] headlines “Good and bad of our education revealed”.

Go Rupert and Joel. Your troops are loyal.

The article forewarns: “Individual school-by-school marks will be revealed after a six-month battle by this paper for the results” in tomorrow’s issue. It says that the State Government has carried out ‘audits benchmarking all of its schools’ and supplied the material to the newspaper. That should earn the government’s  candidates thousands of more votes from the teaching/parent fraternity at the coming elections!

“Revealing school marks” will be about as useful as revealing how many school children carry a hanky… but some people will make judgements about the worth of schools and praise the Naplan blanket testing system for revealing such profound information. Families will be packing to head for Wonga Beach [as Kevin Rudd advised parents to ‘walk to another school’], north of Cairns because the marks reveal that it was “one of three to achieve an outstanding rating for the ‘effective teaching categories’ practices category. The four-page lift-out in tomorrow’s C.M will cause a massive increase in daily circulation….and migration.

Comments from child-protecting agencies such as the Q’ld Council of P&Cs, the Q’ld Assocation of State School Principals, the Queensland Teachers Union, and all Independent School organisations will proffer their professional opinions  in subsequent papers; and they will be measured by the metre. Treehorn will be thrilled. He is being noticed.



Learning is different from such gathering of marks of a few school items. Their relationship is fragile.  Learning is an individual and personal matter. It is immoral for anyone beyond my child’s learning experiences to make judgements about the outcomes of his exchanges with me or his teacher. The evaluation of his efforts at school and at home is his business. I am very interested and so is his teacher, with whom I share his progress. IT IS NO ONE ELSE’S BUSINESS. I did not give permission to any group or politicians or measurers to mention my child’s effort within his class or school context. Leave him out of the numerals that are used to judge the learning experiences of his collectivity.  So there.


At the same time…

In the independent US press, Marion Brady, a frequent contributor to the Washington Post [not owned by Rupert] authored an article on Thursday, 26 January, the opening and closing paragraphs of which are repeated below. The full article is available on

It’s certainly worth reading.

“Education Reform: An Order-of-Magnitude Improvement.

Imagine the present corporately promoted education reform effort as a truck, its tyres flat from the weight of the many unexamined assumptions it carries.

On board: An assumption that…

  • punishment and rewards effectively motivate;
  • learning is hard, unpleasant work;
  • what the young need to know is some agreed-upon, standard body of knowledge;
  • doing more rigorously what we’ve always done will raise test scores;
  • teacher talk and textbook text can teach complex ideas;

Well you get the idea.

Misdiagnosing the Main Problem

Right now, the biggest, heaviest assumption on the reform truck has it that, when Common Core State Standards Initiative is complete – when someone has decided exactly what every kid is supposed to know in every school subject at every grade level – the education reform truck will take off like gangbusters.

It won’t. If all the reformers’ flawed assumptions are corrected, but the traditional math-science-language-arts-social-studies “core curriculum” remains the main organiser of knowledge, the truck may creep forward a few inches, but it won’t take the young where they need to go if they care about societal survival. The mess from this generation’s political paralysis and refusal to address looming problems can’t be cleaned up using the same education that helped create it.

What’s wrong with “the core”?

For its content to be processed, stored in memory, retrieved and combined in novel ways to create new knowledge, it would have to be well organised and integrated, It isn’t. It’s a confusing, random. overwhelming, intellectually unmanageable assortment of facts, specialised vocabularies, disconnected conceptual frameworks, and abstractions – the whole too far removed from life as the young live it for them to care about it.

So they don’t. They’re being blasted with information at fire-hose velocity. The diligent and the fearful store as much as they can in short-term memory, and when testing is over, their brains delete what’s considered clutter because it’s not immediately useful. The non-diligent and the cynical guess and/or cheat the answer sheets. The rest [and their numbers, understandingly, are steadily increasing] opt out of the trivia game, or are opted out by thought, caring parents.

CONCLUSION : On the Other Hand

When the CEOs and the politicians they’ve bought finish the simplistic “reform” they’ve started, when the claim that an order-of-magnitude improvement in learner intellectual performance has been dismissed as hyperbole, when all states have been pressured to adopt the Common Core Standards [aka National Curriculum] locking the knowledge-fragmenting subject-matter tests that can’t measure the quantities and quality of thought have been nationalised, and when the Standards and Testing Police are fully deployed and looking over every teacher’s shoulder, it’ll all be over. America and the nations that follow its lead in education [That’s us ] will face a dynamic world equipped with a static curriculum.

Catastrophe will be inevitable.”


  Come on folks. Get off the fence. Say something to somebody who might be able to help our kids.

Parents can stop the malignant practice by telling their school that they don’t want their children to contest NAPLAN.

Politicians can stop it if a few fair-dinkum Aussie ones stand up for Aussie kids in their Parliamentary Party Room.

Principals can stop it by refusing to have their professional ethics battered any more.

Teachers can stop it by saying ‘enough is enough’. We like our kids.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     OtherTreehorns ? :   Check Recent Posts and Archives in the sidebar.

Phil Cullen

41 Cominan Avenue

Banora Point

Australia 2486

07 5524 6443

Treehorn Stop Press: Lessons for Australia

Treehorn  Express


A couple of articles that appeared a few days ago in The Washington Post led to some conclusions [see bold type below] that Australia needs to note urgently , despite its slow [up until now] grasp of what school classroom learning is.


A simple exercise conducted by a school-board member in Florida was published this week. The story went feral. It was about a school board member of nine years, former teacher and counsellor with a science degree and a master’s degree in education and psychology, who sat a version of the standardised test called Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. He reported, “I won’t beat around the bush. The math section had 60 questions. I knew the answers to none of them, but managed to guess ten correctly. On the reading tests, I got 62%. In our system, that’s a ‘D’, and would get me a mandatory assignment to a double block of reading instruction.”

The huge response saw the exercise as an indictment of standardized testing. Diane Ravitch tweeted, “Why stop with a school board member? Governors, state legislators, and Congress should take the tests and release the scores.”  When one commentator tweeted, “Why not media folk? Maybe let them warm up taking an 8th grade test”  Outstanding US columnist Valerie Strauss, reckoned that she would not try.  “This one fears she couldn’t pass it. Standardized tests, well, they aren’t my thing.”

In her famous column The Answer Sheet [Monday, 19 Dec.] Valerie included an article by Marion Brady, who noted a few salient points that Australians need to take to heart seriously :







To check further:-

Blessings of Christmas. Stay alert.


Phil Cullen AM

’41 Cominan Avenue

Banora Point

Australia 2486

07 5524 6443