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……”

The Liberals’ War on Learning

In the early days of his prime ministership,John Howard shared with some a private view about universities: don’t spend money on them, the people there don’t vote for us.

It is hardly novel to suggest that conservatives have always been troubled about the consequences of allowing the masses to be educated.

Ignorance advantages the hard right.

Book learning is a real danger for right wing politics. Numerous studies show that the more educated a person is – the more developed their analytical faculties – the less likely they are to vote for a party of the right. The uneducated vote right because they can easily be indoctrinated, scared by slogans and believe anything they are told. Not so those with any education. They easily see through political tricks and slogans. They use their advanced thinking skills and higher order learning. They also read much more widely on all issues before they form an opinion.

Conservative leaders are well aware of this, which is why they have historically sought, by one means or another, to limit the provision of education to the masses. They also are aware, though, that in a modern, knowledge-based economy, education is the key to growth. And so they face a dilemma: how to harness the brainpower of the masses without losing their political support.

NUMEROUS STUDIES SHOW THAT THE MORE EDUCATED A PERSON IS – THE MORE DEVELOPED THEIR ANALYTICAL FACULTIES – THE LESS LIKELY THEY ARE TO VOTE FOR A PARTY OF THE RIGHT.

Popular political wisdom holds that economic division led to the election of Donald Trump as United States president last year. Wrong, according to the analysis of America’s leading psephologist, Nate Silver.

He studied the county-by-county shifts in voting between the election of the rational progressive Barack Obama in 2012 and the populist right-winger Donald Trump in 2016. He found that in 48 of the 50 best-educated counties, more people voted for Hilary Clinton than had voted for Obama four years previously. Conversely, she got fewer votes in 47 of the 50 least-educated counties.

It was not economic disadvantage that drove them to move their votes to Trump; it was intellectual disadvantage. Education, not income, concluded Silver, was “the critical factor in predicting shifts in the vote between 2012 and 2016”.

The uneducated had their world view reflected back at them by Trump, and voted for it.

The same thing is happening  with Pauline Hanson.Those who vote for her are mainly the over 60’s and those who have not had much education.

The standout demographic characteristic of One Nation voters was their lack of education. The typical One Nation voter didn’t finish school, much less “set foot in a university”.

Following this week’s announcement that the government planned to save $2.8 billion through cuts to university funding and increases to student payments, Researcher McAllister was asked crunch the numbers again, this time not on the voting patterns of the uneducated, but of the tertiary educated.

Sure enough, they showed that the more education people received, the more progressive their politics became. These were thinking people who did not take up what was served to them without questioning it.

At the 2016 election, the Liberal and National parties got 39.2 per cent of the vote overall, but less – 38.5 per cent – among those who held bachelor’s degrees, and less again – 36.1 per cent – among those with postgraduate qualifications.

The big beneficiaries of the educated vote, however, were the Greens. Some 13.2 per cent of those with an undergraduate degree and 16.1 per cent of those with postgraduate qualifications voted for them.

“The total Green vote was just under 10 per cent, so they’re getting about half as many again among the tertiary-educated,” McAllister says.

Those figures include voters of all ages. When one refines the data further, to look at younger voters, the progressive skew is far more dramatic.

For those under 30 with bachelor’s degrees, just 22.6 per cent preferred the Coalition, compared with 28 per cent for the Greens and 39.8 per cent for Labor.

More startling yet is the voting pattern of those in that age group with postgraduate degrees. In that cohort, the Greens were by far the preferred party. Almost 40 per cent of people – 39.8, to be precise – voted for them. Labor got 31.5 per cent and the Coalition parties a miserable 22.2.

No doubt some of these people will change their votes as they get older and richer. Nonetheless, the trend is ominous for conservatives.

No wonder the political right is concerned about the consequences of having an informed and educated electorate, and that many Liberals yearn for a dumbed-down society.

In May 2013 the then-opinion editor for The Australian newspaper, Nick Cater, launched his book The Lucky Culture at a Melbourne function sponsored by the Institute of Public Affairs, the hard right-wing think tank with great influence in conservative political circles.

The biggest response to Cater’s speech came when he noted that the number of people with university educations was climbing ever upward in Australia. The IPA crowd booed loudly. Those boos tell the truth: underlying it is the desire to restrict education to a wealthy and conservative elite.

Indeed, the IPA’s executive director, John Roskam, a former senior adviser to John Howard’s hard-right education minister David Kemp, also an IPA alumnus, argued in a piece for Fairfax in 2006 thatstudents who did not qualify on merit for a university place should be able to buy their way in.

He advocated full deregulation of fees, writing: “The fact that some students might have their fees paid for by their wealthy parents while others will be forced to take out a loan is irrelevant.” How cruel is this argument?

The Howard government was notable for its attacks on the standards of public schooling as well as universities. It responded by vastly increasing the funds allocated to elite private schools that their sons and daughters attended. Under the Kemp–Howard funding model, the money allocated to private schools increased six times as much as that for public schools between 1999 and 2006.

Allocating more school resources to kids who already have the advantages of well-educated, supportive, well-off parents is like providing food aid to the well fed. It’s superfluous. Meanwhile, disadvantaged kids, increasingly concentrated in disadvantaged schools, are left intellectually hungry.

Coincident with Howard’s funding changes, Australia began to slide down the global rankings for school education. Why? Because most of the funding was going to the rich private schools. A comprehensive OECD survey of 76 countries in late 2015 ranked Australia 14th, behind places such as Poland, Estonia and Vietnam.

The top Australian school students, both public and private, compare well with the best internationally, but the gap between them and those at the bottom of the educational heap has widened to be among the biggest in the developed world.

GONSKI:- Abbott opposition’s response to Gonski was deceptive. He was deeply suspicious of it from the start as he was the NBN. First the Liberals opposed it, and encouraged conservative state leaders not to sign up. Then, just before the 2013 election, Abbott declared the Coalition to be “on a unity ticket” with Labor on school funding. Immediately after winning, he abandoned the unity ticket and committed to drastically reduced funding. His cuts represented about $29 billion less according to the government’s own figures.

The first budget under Abbott and his treasurer, Joe Hockey, also proposed a 20 per cent cut to base funding for universities.

The government could not get its changes through the senate, despite many tweaks, threats and finessing of the policy by then education minister Christopher Pyne – the famous “fixer”. And so we have had several years of funding uncertainty for both school and tertiary education.

The bottom line associated with Gonski 2.0 is that the government is shifting some $2.8 billion of the cost of higher education from its budget and onto universities and ultimately to students and their poorer parents.

How you feel about this cost-shifting depends on whether you consider a university education to be a private or a public benefit. Deloitte Access Economics valued the contribution of tertiary education to Australia’s productive capacity at $140 billion in 2014, of which $24 billion accrued to the tertiary educated themselves. The “spillover effects”, it found, meant that for every one percentage point increase in the number of workers with a university degree, the wages of those without tertiary qualifications rose 1.6 to 1.9 per cent. That is good for families and good for the country.

So much for the claim by conservatives that it is not cause for concern if university fees deter people from studying. It is a concern not only in terms of equity, but in terms of the broader economy.

Now to schools. Labor went to the last election promising what it called “full Gonski”: $30 billion more in extra funding than the Coalition.

Turnbull’s announcement this week cuts that differential to $22 billion. But the new policy does at least make a start on tackling the huge elephant in the room – reducing the taxpayer subsidy to overfunded non-government schools. If Labor did this there would be cries of “class warfare”.

Education Minister Birmingham announced that initially just 24 of the richest schools would see “negative growth”. But he also confirmed that 353 other schools would also lose money-many of them Catholic schools. The protests of the non-government schools were predictable. They have always argued that they should get government money because they take pressure off public schools. It’s akin to arguing that if you drive your Mercedes-Benz to work instead of taking the bus, you should be subsidised for taking the pressure off public transport.

The Australian system of giving public money to private schools is unique in the developed world. Everywhere else, if you choose an elite education for your child, you pay for that choice.

The Greens, who oppose funding for private schools, welcomed the change and offered tentative support – in advance of consideration of its detail – for the government’s funding package, on the pragmatic basis that it was better than what was previously proposed. Weren’t we always told the Liberals would never do deals with the Greens? Well they have on many occasions. The backpacker tax,changes to superannuation which have cost pensioners thousands of dollars.

The Labor deputy leader and shadow education minister, Tanya Plibersek, argued that by directing attention to the changes in funding for elite schools, the government was playing a “smoke and mirrors, pea and thimble” trick. “I mean, truly, we’re talking about a couple of dozen schools, out of more than 9000 across Australia, and some pretence that this will actually make a difference to $22 billion of cuts across the system,” she said. “It’s laughable, it’s absolutely laughable.” She has a good point.

We’ll see if the conservatives in the government think it laughable. Tony Abbott already has warned it will be “pretty vigorously debated in the party room next week”. He further said that it was “almost an article of faith in our party since Menzies that we were the party that promoted parental choice in education”. Which, of course, is code for supporting funding for elite education.The education of the sons and daughters of the very rich by poorly paid taxpayers.

Aislinn Stein-Magee, president of the Student Representative Council at the University of New South Wales, sees the funding cuts as part of a broader budgetary attack on low-income earners and young people. She cites the cuts to penalty rates, the tightening of Centrelink compliance and the robo-debt fiasco as other examples.

Faced with a budgetary problem on the one hand and the electoral problem on the other, the easiest targets are people who are less inclined to vote conservative anyway. Ian McAllister’s election analysis supports that view. He notes there were “big age effects” at the last election, “driven by older people moving away from the Coalition because of the superannuation changes and pension cuts” passed by the Liberals and the Greens.

The government cannot afford to further alienate its most reliable supporters, wealthy and over the age of 55. So it’s looking down the age and income scale for cuts.

The trouble is about 50 per cent of people under the age of 40 now have tertiary qualifications. They value education and it’s very dangerous to alienate them. McAllister notes that it is now Labor Party policy to reduce the voting age to 16. “If Labor gets in at the next election, you’ll suddenly have a much bigger cohort of people aged 16 to 22 or 23, all in school education or higher education,” he says. “That’s a much bigger education voting bloc than you have now. And much more inclined to vote for leftish parties.” Book learning is a real danger to conservative politics.

 

Education Readings May 5th

By Allan Alach

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at allanalach@inspire.net.nz

Teacher knows best? Not any longer as parents muscle in on the classroom

Feel familiar to you?

‘Abusive behaviour by parents is experienced by a third of primary teachers, either online or on the school premises, at least once a month. A fifth of secondary school teachers are exposed to such behaviour once a month, according to the study. Female teachers were more likely to report such experiences.’

http://bit.ly/2p7tooq

Projects, Passion, Peers and Play: Seymour Papert’s Vision For Learning

‘Papert had a vision of children learning with technology in ways that were revolutionary. He believed that kids learn better when they are solving problems in context. He also knew that caring passionately about the problem helps children fall in love with learning. He thought educating kids shouldn’t be about explanation, but rather should be about falling in love with ideas.’

http://bit.ly/2paokka

Can Technology Change How Teachers Teach? (Part 1)

Thanks to Tony Gurr for this one.

‘Judging whether teachers have actually altered their daily classroom practice is surprisingly hard to do. Teachers, imbued with the culture’s values, often say that they have changed their lessons from week to week, year to year due to new district curricula, tests, and programs. Yet policymakers and researchers are less certain of such changes.’

http://bit.ly/2qGKPNN

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

Will Computers Free Teachers to Teach More Creatively?

‘At a party of a friend recently I got into a discussion with someone about education and the use of computer technology. The person I was conversing with suggested that educational software could and should be developed to relieve teachers of the technical aspects of teaching.I argue that we do not need to focus on developing or advocating for such software what we need to do is  to focus instead on creative and critical thinking for the purpose of developing democratic citizens. There is a real lack of movement in that direction in the public schools.’

http://bit.ly/2pJv5N4

Gold Standard PBL: Essential Project Design Elements

‘If done well, PBL yields great results. But if PBL is not done well, two problems are likely to arise. First, we will see a lot of assignments and activities that are labeled as “projects” but which are not rigorous PBL, and student learning will suffer. Or, we will see projects backfire on underprepared teachers and result in wasted time, frustration, and failure to understand the possibilities of PBL. Then PBL runs the risk of becoming another one of yesterday’s educational fads – vaguely remembered and rarely practiced. To help teachers do PBL well, we created a comprehensive, research-based model for PBL – a “gold standard” to help teachers, schools, and organizations to measure, calibrate, and improve their practice.’

http://bit.ly/2pJlXrt

Bruce has put together a set of articles that provide ideas about how to make use of Flexible Learning Spaces that are now almost the norm in our schools.

Brightworks – Tinkering School

“The only way to appreciate how other schools work is to visit them. Lisa Squire  from Hobsonville Point Primary and her principal Daniel Birch are currently visiting schools in the USA featuring student centred  learning in flexible learning environment ( Modern Learning Environments/MLEs). Lisa is writing a blog to share her experiences and for teachers interested in such learning environments will find her blog enlightening. This blog is about her visit to a Brightworks a ‘Tinkering School’.”

http://bit.ly/2pH6R40

Nuevas Upper School – a flexible learning environment (FLE)

‘Another school recently visited by New Zealand educators is Nuevas Upper School which offers an educational environment in which students feel safe to be themselves, to step out of their comfort zone and to follow their passions. This is the highest rom  of both self discovery and collaboration. This will be of interest to teachers working in flexible learning environments (FLE). One of the central pillars of a Nueva School education, Design Thinking is thoroughly integrated, developing in the students a way of thinking, seeing, and doing that increases their effectiveness.’

http://bit.ly/2pH7872

Brilliant examples of project work from High Tech High Schools

‘When visiting schools the work on display indicated the range of content being studied and the depth of student thinking.  Below are examples of project work  done at  High Tech High Schools. It is their record of what they have done and how they achieved their results. Teachers can utilize ideas illustrated by the displays to get ideas for their own school. Through displays students can show their parents and friends the work that they have done, and the community can see how project based learning enables students to do and learn.’

http://bit.ly/2paaQon

Are we expecting too much too quickly of our teachers?

Interesting thoughts from New Zealand blogger about Innovative Learning Environments(ILE).

‘I sense that there is a deep exhaustion across the sector at all levels of the teaching profession. I think much of this exhaustion has come from under-estimating the enormity of the changes we are currently demanding of the sector. Moving to shared teaching spaces, or Innovative Learning Environments (ILEs) is one example of expecting too much too quickly.’

http://bit.ly/2qAJp8E

Transforming Secondary Education – the most difficult challenge of all.

‘One of the educationalists working towards a new conception of secondary education working in what we now call Flexible Learning Spaces (MLE) was Charity James of Goldsmiths College and in 1968 she published her book ‘Young Lives at Stake’. I think I must have one of the few copies available and it remains at the top of my favourite educational books. Charity James believed it was important to get secondary education right if all students were to leave able to take advantage of the exciting opportunities the future might offer. Her book provides ideas about how to organise learning in flexible spaces relevant to today’s challenges.’

http://bit.ly/1k3YTMR

New Zealand’s Minister of Education Hekia Parata has just stepped down – here are a couple of not particularly flattering tributes to her performance over the the last five years. Overseas readers may want to compare her to whatever flavour of educational politician they are stuck with.

A Report Card for Hekia Parata as the Minister of Education

http://bit.ly/2qGzGg2

Interpreting Hekia Parata’s legacy

‘As Hekia Parata steps down as Minister of Education, trying to assess the legacy she leaves behind is difficult. That she was the most passionate, most controversial and most polarising Minister is probably not debatable. But what did she achieve? Parata never gained the full trust of teachers. She continued to pursue an agenda that was completely out of step with school leaders, education academics and the teacher unions. So what is the Minister’s legacy?’

http://bit.ly/2qtdKc0

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Autumn – a chance to develop inquiry skills

Northern hemisphere readers will have to park this one for 6 months!

‘Autumn is too good not to take advantage of.All too often the results of Autumn studies seen in many classes ( usually Junior rooms) are superficial, to say the least, but this need not be the case.If there are deciduous trees in, or near, the school grounds what a brilliant opportunity to develop a small integrated study.The study could be prefaced with the provocation, ‘Why do some trees lose their leaves?’ Such questions introduce an inquiry approach to the students.’

http://bit.ly/2qGx2a3

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

If God says it stinks; it stinks

Alan Jones says, “I’m scared of NAPLAN.”

How about those kids whose captured parents let them do the test!
How about those scardy-cat testucators in schools and organisations  [e.g. APPA, AEU] who have been pavloved and keep supporting the political initiatives behind the testing program!
They’re everywhere….. ‘selling’ kleinism….well-conditioned by elite testucrats,,,,,,,,.pounding the sensitive feelings of children to do better at the tests in a few weeks.

That quick-visiting, unwelcome 457 from Scatoland, N.Y. sure sold us a pup back then. Kleinism took over;  and things don’t look too good for our kids’ mental health and school progress if we keep following the crazed ideas that he left for our present-day politicians to advocate. .

Alan Jones is right   Those ‘rich’ and ‘wonderful classrooms’ pursuing a rich and wonderful holistic curriculum don’t exist any more. They’ve been naplannized.

An observation
NAPLAN results ‘flatlined’ last year. Then Australia lined up towards the end of the PISA queue, getting poorer results than most other countries like us
We learned that the reason for the failure at PISA was contained in the DNA of NAPLAN that teaches kids to dislike particular subjects and schooling in general.

Yep. Undeniable. Unforgiveable.

At the same time, the creative, imaginative and useful aspects of schooling are left to flounder.
It seems as if the only way for the scores to get better is to manipulate the tests. So. Why not?
Admit failure. Make them easier.
The magic has gone. We keep treating kids as robots.

OR
Revive…
1. Make sure every parent knows that they can say ‘NO to NAPLAN’ and encourage them to do so.
and
2. Get rid of every politician who has not ‘come out’ on the side of children’s rights…..kids’  rights to proper, productive schooling.

Phil

P.S. Wouldn’t you like to be Alan Jones for a day, during this pre-Naplan period?

ALAN JONES HAS MADE IT CLEAR.   DUMP NAPLAN AND GET BACK TO MAGIC, WONDERFUL, HAPPY, PRODUCTIVE CLASSROOMS

February 2016 -Things Looked Good for a While

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

During February, 2016

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

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

THEN THINGS STARTED TO LOOK GOOD…..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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In which Piglet looks for a 21st Century Education Part 1

By Kelvin Smythe

(Originally published in Networkonnet)

One day, when Christopher Robin and Winnie-the-Pooh and Piglet were all talking together, Christopher Robin finished the mouthful he was eating and said carelessly: ‘I saw a 21st Century Education to-day, Piglet.’

‘What was it doing?’ asked Piglet.

‘Just lumping along,’ said Christopher Robin. ‘I don’t think it saw me.’

‘I saw one once,’ said Piglet. ‘At least I think I did,’ he said. ‘Only perhaps it wasn’t.’

‘So did I,’ said Pooh wondering what a 21st Century Education was like.

‘You don’t often see them,’ said Christopher Robin matter-of-factly.

‘Not now,’ said Piglet.

‘Not at this time of year,’ said Pooh.

Just as they came to the Six Pine Trees, Pooh looked around to see that nobody else was listening, and said in a very solemn voice: ‘Piglet, I have decided something.’

‘What have you decided Pooh?’

‘I have decided to catch a 21st Century Education.’

Piglet asked, ‘But what does a 21st Century Education look like? Then continued thoughtfully: ‘Before looking for something, it is wise to ask someone what you are looking for before you begin looking for it.’

What follows is something I look at as a kind of written doodle thus subject to continual revision (contributed to by what you have to say). In such a matter it is difficult to be comprehensive or fair; if I tried strenuously to be so, I would probably never get going.

We are, it seems, getting ourselves tied in knots about something called 21st century education – before looking for it, as Piglet suggests, it might be wise to find out what we are looking for.

This could be done in respect to how it might differ from what went before, how it might be the same as what went before, how it might be worse than went before, who is supposed to benefit from it, who is calling for it, does it exist, should it exist, what are its aims and, being education, how much is career- or self-serving bollocks.

I intend this posting to be a search for something called a 21st century education.

As part of that I declare my prior understandings about the concept – a concept because there has never been any discussion about something called 20th century education, it was never conceptualised in that way, so why for 21st century education? The formation and high usage of the concept label suggests powerful forces at work – forces, I suggest, taking control of the present to control the future. Those active in promoting the concept of 21stcentury education are mostly from political, technology, and business groupings, also some academics: the immediate future they envisage as an extension and intensification of their perception of society and education as they see it now. And in the immediate future, as well as the longer term one, they see computers at the heart of 21st century education, which is fair enough as long as the role of computers is kept in proportion as befits a tool, a gargantuanly important one, but still a tool.

Neoliberalism is dominant in current economic, political, and education thought so to understand what 21st century advocacy is about, there is a need to recognise the nature of that philosophy. But because it is neoliberalism we are dealing with a complex of abstract and polysyllabic words that need to be uncovered to reveal their true reality, a control, market-oriented, and anti-democratic one. But it is a Russian doll. Those words do more than cover anti-democratic, control ends; they also express a colossal ignorance of our best education understandings about how children learn, which, however, is not irrational, because that ignorance is partly a self-serving slipped-into ignorance.  And the reference to our ‘best education understandings’ is a highly qualified one, because neoliberalism has been hard at work under Tomorrow’s Schools undermining our best understandings and replacing them with their own, meaning the number of people ‘our’ refers to is a dwindling one.

Children have no choice as to what century they reside in, 21 carries no more significance to how one should approach the education of children than 20. I believe that people in education, or around education, should stop looking over the top of children to look at those before them: the best way to prepare children for the future, no matter the century, is to meet their needs now. Those needs would be along the lines of empathy [of which reading should be seen as a key contributor], fairness, independence, collaboration, creativity and imagination, problem-solving, commitment to democratic principles, critical thinking, ways of thinking [for instance, for science, arts, drama, history, mathematics], key knowledge [everything in education or life is by definition value-laden but that doesn’t mean children should be denied access to culturally important and cohesive knowledge – computer advocates are for skills and spasmodic knowledge based on children’s often passing superficial interest which is paraded as some kind of 21stcentury transcendental insight].

School education is being pressured to inappropriate purposes by groups who claim a hold on the future and from that hold generate techno-panic to gain advantage in the present.

Another prior understanding is that the inappropriate use of computers for learning has contributed to the decline in primary school education (though well behind the contribution of national standards and the terrible education autocracy of the education review office). For all the talk of personalising learning, of building learning around the child, of individualising learning, the mandating question for 21st century education seems to be: how can we build the digital into learning instead of how can we best do the learning? And even further: how can we build schools for digital learning instead of what is best for children’s learning environment? Large open spaces are not the best environment for children’s learning, meaning that in combination with the heavy use of computers to make large open spaces ‘work’, a distinct problem is developing. Computers and large open spaces are being promoted by 21st century advocates as the two key ideas to carry us forward to the education for the 21st century.

In respect to computers, learning about them and using them is both necessary and inevitable, how could it be otherwise, but from that necessity and inevitability comes the responsibility to protect schools from their disassociating effects. The neoliberal advocates of a computer-laden future are putting at risk the potential of human thought, behaviour, and imagination. Their judgement, based on what computers can do, remains undisturbed, it seems, by any understanding of what the best of learning can be. Computers are going to be everywhere, beyond the imaginations of most of us; all the more important to appreciate the decisive contribution of learning beyond and apart from the computer and the need to challenge the social control that pervasive computer use brings to bear on school and beyond.

The use of computers should not become the defining characteristic of what is called 21stcentury education but it has, and an education and social tragedy is unfolding.  The defining characteristics of 21st century education should be the same as the defining characteristics of 20th century education (expressed above) before the neoliberal philosophy took hold.

In the following paragraphs I will refer to trends deriving from the greatly increased use of computers, also the effects of the neoliberal changes to the education system such as national standards, the narrowing of the curriculum, the fear-laden functioning of the education review office, and the government control of education knowledge.

The particular form of learning most associated with computers is inquiry learning. For all the talk of discovery, creativity, and thinking claimed for that approach precious little seems to be forthcoming. Inquiry learning is the main curriculum practice developed to suit computers and neoliberal education. No matter what a teacher does, if it is called inquiry learning, the teacher is safe; the use of any other name puts the teacher at risk – the system likes conformity, even more obedience, and throughout a teacher’s practice and records the authorities are looking for those little signs of deference that communicate the teacher has got in behind.

Despite a lot of cute tricks and manoeuvres, inquiry learning is simply swept up old-style projects using google and computers. It is considerably an empty shell – yes, children are often interested, but what is missing is the development of the vital ways of thinking particular to a curriculum area. An empty learning shell is a prime characteristic of 21stcentury education.

Another 21st century prime education characteristic is the priority of skills over knowledge – meaning for ends any knowledge will do.  As stated above ‘everything in education or life is by definition value-laden but that doesn’t mean children should be denied access to culturally important and cohesive knowledge – computer advocates are for skills and spasmodic knowledge based on children’s often passing superficial interest which is paraded as some kind of 21st century transcendental insight.’

Because the neoliberal education system puts a low value on the arts, drama, and dance there has been a diminution in their quality and quantity, also contributing to that diminution is the cramping effect of national standards which, admittedly, is just another expression of that lack of valuing. In open space schools, which in some respects one would think ideal for the arts, drama, and dance a further diminution derives from the pressure to avoid the noise and activity that typically comes from children’s participation in those activities. The shush factor of the newer open space schools is not as noticeable and inhibiting as in the older ones, but it is still there.  And I miss the independent advisers throughout the curriculum but in the arts their absence is particularly painful. It was a team of art advisers dropping in at odd times that was the crucial stimulus to Elwyn Richardson – oh that they could come knocking again.

Open space schools lack the spontaneity available in conventional classrooms, for instance, allowing the varying of the timetable and being able to carry on with a programme, say for most of a day – a cherished part of the primary school tradition.

A heavy use of paper templates is common in schools today, with iPads providing digital ones, and exerting a decidedly deadening effect on learning. Another deadening effect is derived from an idea imported from America for use in open space classrooms in association with computers, but is also being used in some conventional classrooms as well. It is called ‘the wall’. Its purpose is to have children work independently on activities from a range of curriculum areas but especially the basics. Activities are displayed on ‘the wall’ and a place for the children to sign off when completed. In New Zealand, a direct duplication of the practice has largely been avoided but many classrooms especially open space ones, employ something like it. The crucial pedagogical point is that to avoid organisational confusion and a lot of demands on teachers, the activities provided are routine and a little below the level of challenge for children. If the activities are ability grouped, the activities for the top group are closer to being OK than the lower groups. The practice is unstimulating and limiting in all curriculum areas but especially in mathematics.

Twenty-first century education has also become associated with two harmful language practices – in reading, a trend to more phonics and words in isolation – oh champion; and in writing, on the basis, it seems, that primary children should be prepared for university from early juniors, the emphasis in writing has shifted to the expository and argument and away from children writing imaginatively and expressively. This combined with the use of templates and the asTTle emphasis on using adjectives and adverbs willy-nilly, is resulting in writing in New Zealand schools being smashed.

Another prime characteristic is the way the role of the teacher is defined. The role of the teacher as carried out in the past is first belittled, pouring water into bottles apparently while standing at the front holding forth (which seems quite a trick). And having established that, the 21st century teacher is then defined as being a facilitator (my hunch is that if that facilitator worked out from what to where and how, the facilitator would, in fact, be a teacher).

One of the substantial problems with computer use and learning is the way it encourages or allows teacher to forgo their responsibilities (as I see it) to deepen and extend children’s learning before they go out on their own (so to speak). Learning experiences need an introduction (with all sorts of open questions and activities), gaining of knowledge (interestingly and pertinently), use of that knowledge (with investigation or activities), and a conclusion (presentation and discussion). But the 21st century way is to quickly hand it over to computers and inquiry learning, with the teacher congratulating him or herself on the independence being encouraged.

The reason why the Treaty of Waitangi is hardly touched is because teachers are unwilling or unable to take children into such a topic, to build up the knowledge, to develop a feeling for what happened, and to identify the issues for the children to investigate from there. And a reason why teachers are so fixed on inquiry learning (leaving aside hierarchical insistence) is a lack of knowledge of alternatives. It is important for teachers to know, even if they don’t feel able to change, there are.

Where is the social studies thinking? that is, the comparative thinking based on the interaction of knowledge with the affective.

Twenty-first century social studies is children choosing their own topics or being asked to investigate large, abstract impersonal topics like communication. There is very rarely a true social studies challenge in a topic like that, or a source of empathetic development.

The social studies thinking will be absent.

Where is the science thinking? that is, thinking based on science investigation.

The question: The question that guides the investigation.

 

What I know now: The child records all he or she knows about the question. If the child already knows the answer, then there is no point in investigating it further. The teacher can also at this stage make a judgement as to whether it is possible for the child to investigate it in the time available. Many topics like volcanoes and dinosaurs lend themselves to study-skills rather than investigation processes.

What I did: This is the vital stage and what differentiates science from point-of-view? It is a step-by-step record of what actually happened; it can be in diary or note-taking form. It records the observing, testing, and trying out of the question. The failures as well as the successes are recorded. Others can read what went on and may suggest ways to revisit the investigation by another route. It may help show others not to go along that path. The child also includes references about those who helped and testing methods used.

And so on.

The science thinking will be revealed.

Where is the language way of thinking? that is, sincerity expressed in writing.

Imagine: the discussion, encouraging but not obtrusive to the child’s thinking; the child knowing how previous writing had been used and that imagination was valued; the art that had occurred or might follow; the urging to intensive observation and accurate expression that preceded the writing by the nine-year-old girl who decided to view the world through the grass not toward the grass:

Small balls of rain fall down and spit up in tiny streaks of white.

Leaves knotted by strings of weeds.

Leaves like cups hold blobs of water.

Drops of water trail down leaves and peak at the top.

Bird’s wings doubles as it flies.

Twigs uneven like a fork.

The dripping tap splits into tracks.

‘Did you find what you were looking for? asked Piglet.

‘Yes,’ said Pooh in muffled tones.

‘But I have decided something.’

‘What have you decided Pooh?’

‘This honey pot is a lot more interesting.’

Continued in Part 2