Skinning Cats Alive.

I had convinced myself during the 1980s that, within twenty years, Australia would have a schooling system that was like no other…..built purely on love for learning and a zest for achievement in all things. At the time, things were on the up-and-up and school leadership was more ethical and professional and thoughtful than it had ever been. Teachers were proving their academic and professional worth in the big arena. Bureaucrats were learning to pull their heads in and were releasing the power of a truly caring profession. There was ‘Pride in Primary’ – real fair-dinkum pride in being a primary teacher -a catch-phrase that the good guys used at the time during their professional and personal activities. Classrooms looked like exciting learning places…‘Living, Learning Laboratories’ as Bob Pashen called them – inviting children to come in and join in the joy of learning. Things felt good. We had a lot of wrinkles to iron out that would take some doing and a lot more independence to be grasped … but we knew we could do it. We felt so tall and so proud of being primary.

Bugger! We couldn’t. A special form of heavy-handed totalitarian political control grew alien antennae that made some powerful politico-weirdos believe they knew everything about everything.,..and they took over the activities of governments.

A toxic form of managerialism hit the fan in the mid-80s; and we lost sight of the kids. These aliens organised and started running testing factories replacing real people who’d been-there-done-that ,organising schools of learning and mentoring others on the way. These good guys were cunningly dominated by absurdists who forced fear-laden testing on kids and have now done more damage to Australia than the Japanese could ever have done. Fear-laden swotting of a kind never known before has replaced decent teaching. The load on small pupils during normal learning time, the likes of which no previous generation has had to tolerate. is enormous. Kids are still our future, but you wouldn’t think so. 

Now we have a take-over of schooling by the most ruthless gang of kid-bashing monsters ever. Schools, intended to be the centres of schooling excellence that our children deserve, were set up on Day 1 of schooling … ,last Monday…. to be an examination centre for happy, anxious young kids who’d been dreaming of something else on their first day. 

What an introduction to a lifetime of learning!

The little ones were kept quiet and submissive, we’ve been told, waiting for a teacher to give them a series of literacy and mathematical encounters, the results of which were scored and recorded and forwarded to an all-powerful pooh-bah who will keep the data for statistical purposes. The school will be expected to keep the results until the poor little folk contest the really earnest NAPLAN test in Year 3, when they are about 7 years of age. The branding done and intellectual expectations set in place in the minds of those adults whom the child respects at this point, will mark their progress for many years, Day 2 marked the beginning of ‘getting to know you’ activities, starting to ‘down play’ the implications of the day before, and to start the pupilling….fair-dinkum schooling. No one will have time to try to see what effect the testing had on the pupil, how the pupil felt, The effects could be profound, but we big people will pretend that negativity can be patted away and all will be okay. We will also pretend on behalf of those who did not do well, that it doesn’t matter. The kids are so young. They’ll get over it. We’ve sorted them out early, as far as NAPLAN goes, anyhow. 

Remember that page in one of the most wonderful books on education :ThGeranium on the Window Sill Just Died but Teacher you went right on” by Albert Cullum : 

Where is my place in your puzzle, teach?

Do I fit?

Or am I one piece too many?

Tell me for real, teach!

I know there’s no room for me on the bulletin board,

but do I have a place in your puzzle?

When the advisers and special helpers move in to remind the slow or poor-scoring child of his or her inadequacies, we will be sure to get an increase in scores, by Year 3, because that’s what this kind of schooling is all about. By test time in Year 3 0r 5, many pupils will be saying, in Albert Cullum talk :

was good at everything

– honest, everything –

until I started being here with you.

I was good at laughing, 

playing dead, being king.

Yeah, I was good at everything!

But now I’m only good at everything

on Saturdays and Sundays…

It’s certainly useful to know how your pupil stacks up against others and against certain criteria. …and against their own views of themselves. It’s also critical , however, that the information is obtained as part of the learning operation. Those who would kill a cat by skinning it alive, would approve of the way that some schools conducted the operation last Monday. “Hello Sam. Here’s a little fun thing I’d like you to do. Bye Sam”

The media will pile on the plaudits for the kids and the teachers for the first day. It makes good copy. Parents will scurry home to learn how to do it better with the next child. After all, kids talk. The disgrace of having to seek remediation for what I did to my kid! OMG.

I should like to make one point. The way that this operation was carried out, the organisational mode was a disgrace. Only cold and calculating beasts , excuses for humanity, would dream this sort of thing

Teachers will learn more about each child during the first week or two of schooling and use it for each child’s welfare; in the way things ought to operateand;, hopefully, repair some of the damage done by mean-spirited adults who enjoy skinning cats alive,

Phil Culllen, Emeritus Director of Primary Education, Q’ld.., 41 Cominan Avenue, Banora Point. Australia 2486. 07 5524 6443 0407865999 cphilcullen@bigpond.com

Datafication

THIS IS AN EXTREMELY SERIOUS TOPIC.  IGNORE ITS INTENTIONS AT OUR NATION’S PERIL; AND THEN PRAY FOR ITS KIDS.

The future of our nation depends on our attitude towards children and their schooling

DATAFICATION

It’s here. It’s the end of schooling as an interpersonal teacher-pupil interactive learning enterprise.
During this century there has been a distinct movement in schooling from Education to Testucation to Datafication.

To the everlasting credit of a remarkable work force, Australiam teachers have maintained an amazing standard of pupilling excellence, of which, despite the debilitating interruptions by blanket testing, Australians can be proud. The future of schooling will be much tougher for pupils, teachers and parents, however, if we continue on our present course.

DATAFICATION

IT’S SERIOUS. “What it simply means is this: from our actions to our thoughts, everything is getting transformed into a numerically transformed format or ‘Data’….from sports to finance and from entertainment to healthcare, everything around us is converting into data.” [Sawinder Kaur]. Get used to it.

“Datafication refers to the collective tools, technologies and processes used to transfer an organisation to a data-driven enterprise. This buzzword describes an organisational trend of defining the key to core business operations through a reliance on data and its related infrastructure.”[Technopedia]

“Datafication is the method behind the madness of Big Data.”  [Mark Sylvestor]

It’s a later day technological trend that involves the collection of data and transforming the information into new forms of value. It’s the sort of thing that Rupert has dreamed of for years.  Seen to be of benefit for core business operations, it has invaded schooling systems to destroy the vigorous spirit of established institutionalised learning and to turn its citadels into business operations and testing factories in which a gullible public will spend big money to enrol their children. The recent rise in the standard of marketing and lobbying  skills will ensure this.   Datification has been able to take over from the testucation processes attached to NAPLAN because our testing industry had difficulty in understanding the consequences of certain unwelcome schooling behaviours that were introduced rudely into Australia in 2008; and this makes things easier for schools to become digitised and datafied testing factories.  It’s more than just using laptops at school for learning purposes. It’s a debauched use of technology merely to supply data to measurers for judgmental causes and maladjusted, political control.

Data collection is driving our schools….now….and the intensity is about to increase.  The shape and infrastructure of schooling and our attitude to it have changed. We need to stop the nonsense and talk. Testucation and datafication are draining the humanity of learning from our schools.

If we want this trend to continue, we should do nothing.  We are used to doing nothing. Ignoring the plight of school children is a major Australian cultural meme.  “She’ll be right, Jack.”  We allowed managerialism to take over from experienced-based organisational designs in the 1980s, then ignored the change to testucation in 2008, now to datafication.  Are you happy with the trend? Within the school setting, it meant changing from challenging styles of maieutic pupilling to didactic chalk-talk test practice, practice, practice that pupils usually detest. It has produced mediocre results in national and international tests as expected and should continue to do so.  It’s the pupils who decide how well they will do on tests, for goodness sake. How do we treat them in a productive, learning sense?

This may not have been  the Gillard-Klein intention when they introduced fear and obsession with test scores to supplant pupilled love of learning in 2008, but it happened.  They certainly set out to be data-centric, nasty and tough, but I should think that they did not intend things to go so far. They thought that they were just testing what had been taught, as we all used to do in our schools. It all went pear-shaped and the kids are now doing worse than ever before  at basic operations, because of the tests themselves…. but the modus operandi of using NAPLAN to gather data has been maintained!  […and it’s the bogey that contains the seeds of lowering standards! It actually causes the slump!] This has suited the datafying hawks, however,  who are presently taking over  from both kleinish testucators and former educators, ‘…using rapid speed and amazing tools to store, manipulate and analyse  information”,  for other-than-schooling purposes. Almost the whole population will, in the future,  be data-nailed as soon as they enter school and be branded through  datafying routines now being used by industry.  Schooling is not what it used to be; and we should fear for the kids at the chalk-face of the 21st century.   With creativity, problem solving, thinking, decision making, zest, acceptance  of challenges and pupilling,  all removed from the school scene, the kids don’t have much chance to enjoy a happy, challenging, creative, healthy life full of satisfying achievements as they could have expected from basic pupilling conditions at a humanity-based learning school.

Eagerly supported by the big corporate boys, the testucrats have set no limits to the expenditure of tax-payers’ money on new organisational arrangements.  If someone had said to you, some years ago, that education departments in Australia would, one day, spend $A24.7million dollars for computerised tablets, just to do a few tests of basic standards over a one-hit three-day period, because it’s quicker than using paper and pencil…..what would the electorate have said?   OUT!

Just to score tests faster !!!!   You can also be sure that much more than that will be spent over the next few years on increasing ‘how’ and ‘what’ we collect in our next lot of data-drives.

If you approve of totalitarian tactics, creation of fear, sleepnessness, depression and arrogant child abuse to obtain better scores on unreliable tests, that those such as NAPLAN now provide, with the expectation of more datafication procedures,   you must belong to some kind of moronic religion or terror group that ignores humanity and children and fair-play and equality.  Get outa here. Go back home to dataland.

__________________________________________
Phil Cullen  41 Cominan Avenue  Banora Point  Australia 2486  07 5524 6443 407865999 cphilcullen@bigpond.com  REFER :”Who’s Who in Australia.”

ATTITUDE

The future of our nation depends on our attitude towards children and their schooling
ATTITUDE

Hardening of attitudes is one one the world’s must serious diseases – Zig Zigler

 

  • ATTITUDE is a human condition defined by Jung as “…the readiness of a person’s psyche to act or react in a certain way.”  This psychic reaction is usually the result of a personal evaluation of the circumstances that surround our social experiences.   In the workplace, a person adjusts control over his/her feelings once the affective domain checks out what is being demanded by somebody else….each using his or her esoteric knowledge and experience to develop a specific attitude.  Each person decodes the messages coming through the work-a-day system in his/her own way and reacts with enthusiasm or ennui or rejection. If the motives of those in charge  run counter to the ethics of the professional operator at the work-face or their attitude is not to give two hoots about the underling’s attitude, there will be problems. Attitudes will clash. System-wide ennui is guaranteed….. prior to rejection. Systems, especially schooling ones, hope that everybody….administrators, assistants of all kinds, teachers, teacher- aides, children become enthusiastic and demonstrate positive similar attitudes to learning [the only business of schooling] per se. The Finns adopted this attitude years ago. It’s an intense, involved business….esoteric in a very real sense….. so it is important for a country’s development that everybody is on a similar wave-length about the best ways, allowing for variety  of course, to teach children how to learn. Think of Finland’s all-as-one attitude to learners and teachers.  However, if wires are crossed as to the purpose of schooling and there is a serious divergence of attitudes in the ways that schools and schooling authorities teach and evaluate , all is lost…for sure. Think Australia

Distinguished psychologist, Gordon Allport describes ATTITUDE as “…the most distinctive and indispensable concept in contemporary society”.

Let’s look at Australia’s attitude to schooling. It is sadly in need of a major overhaul as this example shows: We were, to a person, impressed by Finland’s mode of schooling because it does well at PISA tests for 15 year olds every three years; NOT because its schools value the learning habits of its children, and the country highly values what teachers do in the teaching-learning-classroom context.  We were impressed by its high scores because weprefer to use bang-crash modes of instruction and have a  penchant for using numerals to describe human endeavour. It’s a post millennium form of pagan idolatry…adoration of numerals.  That’s true, isn’t it? What is going on? How come the Finns don’t use our crash-bang-rigid techniques? What do they know, that we don’t? Do people really do better when they like learning? Fear makes people do as they are told in concentration camps, correction centres, battle procedures and the like. It should work in schools. That’s our forte…our attitude to learning. Be big and strong and commanding. Finland seems to work back-to-front. The whole country likes the idea of learning.

Monopath, Julia Gillard, representing our entrenched screwball attitude to schooling and teating when she chose the Klein system of fear-based learning in 2007, did so with confidence that Australia’s attitude to schooling and scoring is of the bang-crash-wallop-fear kind. Attitude! With her attitude embedded in looking for a malevolent solution rather than a tender, inclusive one for Australia to conduct an  evaluation of its schooling system, she only went for one extreme view. She only looked at one, using the Stuart Firestein technique of ‘farting around in the dark’; but, she grabbed the kind her friend Kevin wanted. Since then, of course, it has been shown that she boo-booed,  that the use of NAPLAN testing to judge the standard of schooling is the work of fools, but we are stuck with it because she and her political and corporate friends said that we must do as we are told….despite our professional desires to exert true ethics and esoteric knowledge that will benefit children…..and avoid the kind of  serious damage that NAPLAN inflicts.

Now, we Aussies also tend to judge a country’s world ranking only by its three-yearly scores on extreme PISA tests for 15 year olds.  That, in normal circumstances, is a pretty big ask….and a sick one….and another sample of the work of fools.  It presumes that what is tested has been taught and that each question means the same things for each contestant country.

If this was a reliable method of making judgements, Australia would never have changed to kleinism back in 2008. We were amongst the worlds best then; and have only moved down to the failing section of low-level-learning countries, since we introduced naplanish fear-based operations. Our pollies took too much notice of the local malcontents who seldom have anything nice or useful to say about the ‘present generation’; and treat ‘childhood’ as if it was someone else’s problem. Attitude.  Wouldn’t it be more reliable and valid to judge our system, not on PISA scores, but on the quality of our contributions to world science, medicine, music, mathematics, art, social sciences, world politics,  literature, sport and recreation….the kinds of things that schools do?  Don’t our measurers know enough about measurement to be able to do this?  They need to see a teacher!

The jury rests.

You will have noted…..

The fear-bang-crash attitude is now so well entrenched in the Aussie psyche, that a change of government does not make any difference.  They all join in the work of fools. Federal parliament sorely needs some politicians who are concerned about the plight of children at school. There is none in the chamber, at present,  who cares,   The atmosphere at federal parliament has been attitude-free about decent schooling for a very long time…and…our weak state pollies have handed schooling responsibilities to people at the federal level who don’t seem to give two hoots about child welfare and intellectual progress. [So much for the power of COAG!] The change from Labor to Liberal saw more of the same; and there is no political party policy at present – anywhere- suggesting any change towards a child-oriented-high achievement- learning system. Check their policy documents.  Find the word ‘naplan’, if you can. Make sure you take a good look at the policies of the Labor, Liberal, Green and National parties.  Is there any state party which is proud enough to want to go for positive change?  It  would not be too difficult to organise a state system that is prepared to think and challenge the rest of the world, but everybody is afraid. They would have to THINK first, and that seems to be a pretty difficult thing for political parties to do.

Tragically, our children cannot expect to enjoy and extend their natural love for learning while the Australian attitude towards acceptance of the fear-based, kleinish high stakes bashing of kids and teachers’ mind-sets of learning, remains.

At the classroom level, we know that each  of those children staring out the window  or fiddling under the desk or  leaning with their chins on their hands, while the teacher is trying to introduce some new topic , is saying, “I’m not interested in learning this stuff; and there is nothing that you can do to make me if you keep going this way. You can’t force me to learn if I don’t want to.” The child has attitude. Too many, like this victim of high stakes testing,  prefer to be bludgers; under present conditions of schooling, an attitude forced on our kids because our pollies don’t care what our testucrats are doing to them. Together, the pollies and the testucrats have no conceptual grasp of what happens in the classroom, They have no idea of the effectiveness of pupilling or of the importance of the intimacy and power of the pupilling contract. All pupils have an attitude to whatever happens at school.  Theirs is a healthy attitude. They want to learn.  We’d all like all school experiences to be meaningful and wholesome and effective…..but ‘there’s those NAPLAN rules’.

Think of the beautiful young seven-year-olds after two years of school learning….having learned more than they will ever learn in any other two years of their lives,  being forced into the front line of fear and mental abuse about to be used on them for the first time in their lives. This will happen in Australia in a few weeks time.  Naplan neurosis, the only predictable outcome of a testing program for children so young, is a serious social malady, highly contagious, that causes learning insecurity, anxiety, depression and fear of accepting challenges; and it remains with them for the rest of their lives.  The testucrats, suffering from delusions of adequacy, believe that they properly reflect the community attitude of a need for the stern quantification of schooling, thus  denying children of the love and support that true learning needs. Their holier-than-thou attitude to teachers wishing to pupil their classes shows that they are out of their depth…..they’re over their heads in a car-park puddle.

That, by the way, is what measurement freaks have never learned.  “You can’t teach me anything, if I don’t want to learn.”   “Negativity turns me off.”

That’s where Australia’s office-bound testors have completely buggered-up the system. They think that frightening kids, threatening teachers, making kids practise, practise, practise test-taking; sanctioning after-school attendance at tutoring shops, doing plenty of homework is what schooling is about and enlivens the learning psyche.  Bulldust. That’s a testucator’s attitude. THE ATTITUDE OF OUR QUALITY, EXPERIENCED TEACHERS IS MILES AWAY FROM THIS.   ATTITUDE.  Quality teachers don’t like abusing children and turning them into robots to get a score. They prefer to treat children as pupils…… pure teaching.

Testucators don’t care how kids feel.  Their attitude, based on the fundamentals of measurement and statistics, is that hard data must be collected at any cost. Measuring is their profession….and they rule the roost. They think that heavy blanket-type, three-days-long collection of data every second-year  from pupils who prefer to be learning, is a legitimate pursuit. Children can be treated as robots. The testor’s  God ,’Statistics’, reigns. Rigidity is supreme.

So, Australia is  now in a very precarious position. Testucrats only want children  to learn what can be recorded on a piece of paper.   Teachers want to teach  their pupils all that they need to know, while testors only want them to learn only what can be  tested by PISA and other unreliable instruments.    Kids want to learn. Sadly, Aussie teachers must do as testors require.  Kids must do as they are told by both. No choice. Parents have to be the adjudicator. if they ever learn that they have plenty of  power. ‘  in their hidden right to say ‘NO’. ….even though federal politicians make the most of parents’ gullability by hiding the option of choice from them.  Attitudes, during this naplan period of history, are so far from a healthy teaching-learning reality, that things are  positively dangerous for Australia’s future. There are no expectations of change or of discussing the need for change during 2017.  We can’t shift the PISA guideposts, so we must accept that the inevitability of our official attitudes through forced NAPLAN testing will remain the same. As parents, we have been told to shut-up. We are all cooked, buggered, flattened, finished, done, however, if we continue with  such antique attitudes in 2017.

The only sensible attitude is to go back to tors – to 2007 – and do what should have been done then. Give back the decent professional ethics to real school administrators and scrap stupid NAPLAN.  Talk about the purposes of schooling.  I repeat. TALK. We are getting further and further away. We are slipping further down the gurgler of international repute; and our nastiness to children [Read “Beautiful Failures”?] is widely known and internationally deprecated.  Australians continues to adopt a very, very, very unhealthy attitude to schooling. On the world stage, that’s the kind of people we are becoming…..nasty bastards.

‘Experts’ from beyond the schooling hemisphere….especially those Aussie journos and commentators and Institutes, with out-of-context opinions and no firm  schooling attitude …..have some way-out solutions. *Bring in Gonski or any needs-based model  quickly!* Leave everything to COAG! * Do whatever Finland, Germany, Singapore or the US is doing! *Let’s talk about something else to do with schools. They seem to be saying :”We don’t know much about schooling, but we’d like to express an opinion. We are the elite. We set the agenda for discussion every day. and we prefer to be blase about school things…..pretend we know all about it.   Such opinions will be useful , however, if ever we get around to talking seriously with The Lucy Clarks, the Kathy Magolis and Gabriel Strouds of this world, who know what is going on; and don’t mind telling it as it is. You and I know dozens of worthy educators who have ‘been there, done that’ – from Kununurra to Collingwood – who can help us sort out our attitude to learning while at school.

Do we have an identifiable, united Australian attitude towards schooling as the Finns and other progressive countries appear to do? No.

It a mixed mess at present, reflecting only the attitude of Julia Gillard, Joel Klein, Chris Pyne and Simon Birmingham and their measurement hard-line disciples who would only suggest the following….

DON’T  bother asking Australian teachers what effects NAPLAN has in the classroom.  Don’t risk finding out about their attitude to fear-controlled schooling….nor the results of this. Teachers must be kept silent and obedient.

DON’T ask parents if they want the choice of saying “Yes’ or ‘No’ to their children’s endurance of the test-prep period each year. January to May.   What is their attitude to being left out of it all? Must we continues to keep the real truth from parents?

DON’T ask the community-care professionals or the general public if they see NAPLAN as a form of child abuse.  What is the attitude of the mental-care-professionals to the fear, anxiety, sleepnessness and depression suffered by NAPLAN victims?  Don’t mention what it can lead to.

Feel sorry forthose about to enter Year 3 and the world of testucation.

What is Australia’s attitude towards fair-dinkum schooling?  REALLY!

We failed PISA. How to fix it.

 

WE FAILED PISA-ONE ISSUE ONLY

PISA results down.     TIMSS report damning.   WHAT?  

WHAT HAS HAPPENED?  WHAT CAUSED IT?   WHO’s to BLAME?

HOW DO WE FIX IT ?

Media experts have examined the results and know how to fix it…..well……

Make funding more equitable.                                                 

Restore strict discipline.

Banish smart phones  

Employ only quality teachers.

Improve entrance level to teacher preparation

 Fix our cultural and economic inequality.       

 TEACHERS ARE TOO FRIGHTENED

PAY TEACHERS BETTER.

More after-school tutoring, like Singapore                            

More homework.

Stop funding private schools.                                                  

Make Maths & Science a prerequisite for all Uni. courses.

IMPORT GOOD MATHS & SCIENCE TEACHERS

ooooooooooooooooooooo0000000000000000000000000

Schooling in Australia is now a farce; thanks to the one issue only.     Only one thing has caused the decline. 

NAPLAN

Kill-learn NAPLAN

Julia said, in 2008, that PISA results would improve once  NAPLAN got under way……”TOP 5 BY 25”, she said. 

And her NAPLAN  has been the only one major alteration to the system  since that time; since we have been going down hill.  The curriculum – how and what  children are taught at school – has been taken over by crazy assessments; and testucators have replaced educators in the halls of power; and results continue to plummet.

As Joan said, “Anybody with a brain half the size of a starfish’s must see what caused it.” She must have noticed……that……

THE ONLY CHANGE TO SCHOOLING IN RECENT TIMES HAS BEEN THE USE OF 

NAPLAN TESTS. THEY ARE DESIGNED TO KILL LEARNING.

It hasn’t worked.  It never will. LET’s TALK ABOUT THE REAL CAUSE

The Great One – Simon himself – has proposed that we import better Maths and Science teachers.  {There’s one from left field.  ?!?! ]

We can import Socrates, Plato, Pythagoras, Fibonacci, Frobel, Rousseau, Steiner, Madame Montessori,  Friere, Confucious, Froebel, Rousseau, Einstein, Piaget, Jesus but , for sure, there will still be a decline  in Australia’s results on the PISA tests and any other tests of its kind, while we have NAPLAN in our schools.  There can be no doubt about this. It’s deadly stuff.  It kills the love for learning.  It’s fear-based credo is just too much for our Aussie kids.  They can give the pundits world shattering high scores if they are allowed to learn how to learn with love and encouragements and challenge and to enjoy learning for its own sake and if they treat Maths and Science as really beautiful subjects full of amazing interests and challenges. They’ve proven it in the past. Kids do better without the NAPLAN kind of child abuse.

NAPLAN prevents that kind of attitude, that kind of attention, that kind of positivity.  Kids  are taught to hate Maths and Science.

How many ‘experts’ have noticed the growth in wasteful assessments and the enormous increases in the gathering of data and the impact that it is having on teacher-pupil contact time for learning purposes?

Isn’t it time that one of our political parties started to think ‘kids’ and ‘learning’ and ‘fair go’?  I certainly cannot vote for a party that allows NAPLAN to continue. How can you…if you like kids?

Can we do without it?  Can we afford to keep it going?

What’s wrong with democracy as a way of life? Why can’t we forget about NAPLAN and PISA and get on with learning?

_______________________________________________________________________________________

Phil Cullen, 41 Cominan Avenue, Banora Point 2486.
07 5524 6443  0407865999 
cphilcullen@bigond.com
Refer :”Who’s Who In Australia”

The Most Important Things Schools Don’t Do – A challenge to Australia’s Educatio MinisterThe Most Important Things Schools Don’t Do – A challenge to Australia’s Education Minister

PLEASE SEND THIS ON TO YOUR STATE MINISTER. TREEHORN DOES NOT HAVE READY ACCESS TO THEM OR THEIR DEPARTMENTS.
Treehorn Express
A CHALLENGE TO STATE MINISTERS
This week, the collective wisdom of Australia’s education system gathers to consider what can be done to ensure that Australia has the world’s best  system of schooling.  It’s a tough  task considering the direction in which we seem to be going and the unseemly mess we are in.  All those with the title of Minister and their advisers will discuss school funding, the depletion in PISA scores and various issues that have been raised through pre-meeting correspondence. 
The Treehorn Express and its faithful readers maintain a genuine concern for the standard of schooling in Australian, New Zealand and the US and anywhere else that shares a love for school kids and a passion for helping them to learn how to learn. The standard and type of schooling in the western world, controlled by measurement freaks,  is a big worry. Australia is the most test-crazed country in the world  It allows little time for teachers to teach. 
We are supposed t be here for kids, not institutions and measurement manufactories. 
Below, fellow advocate for kids, Marion Brady reckons that the aim of schooling is : MAXIMIZE LEARNERS’ ABILITY TO  MAKE SENSE. Same aim, different expression. All experienced educators are on the same wavelength.
With Brady’s comments in mind, Treehorn would like to challenge each minister to read his article below and leave the meeting 1. Still using NAPLAN; 2. Still having unequal funding for private and public schools and 3. Failing to instigate a serious, wide and open discussion on the best ways to care for Australian kids in a schooling environment, during our children’s  natural search for excellence over 13 years or so of schooling.
If they are fair dinkum Aussie educators, we can expect 1. the end of NAPLAN;  2. Gonski- funding or better; 3. plans for an intense, extensive public discussion.
We don’t want Prime Minister Pauline having to tolerate a bigger  mess than her previous female PM left .  No kind of misogyny intended.
It’s a short article – one of his best – and it deserves to be carefully read with an open mind and pleasant thoughts about school children.  Treehorn has added a short comment at times and highlighted some statements,. You’ll be able to tell.
The original is located in the Washington Post ….
Washington Post, “The Answer Sheet” blog by Valerie Strauss
Posted December 9, 2016:
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
The most important thing schools don’t do
By Marion Brady
Prepare the young for  tertiary education and careers; promote democratic citizenship; keep Australia  economically competitive; master the core subjects; transmit societal values; instil a love of learning—those are six of about 30 aims for schooling I’ve found in academic journal articles.  Treehorn can add:  ‘care for the mental health and learning attitude of young people.’ That’s seven.
On my list, one aim is paramount: “Maximize learner ability to make sense.”Not only does it enable
every other legitimate aim of educating, it gives schooling its proper focus—maximizing human 
potential. 
No one needs to be taught how to make sense—to think. We’re born equipped to do it. The challenge is to do it better, to radically improve what are sometimes called “higher order” thinking skills, particularly those involved in tracing complex causal sequences and anticipating possible unintended consequences of well-intended policies and actions. We know how to build nuclear power generating plants, but not how to dispose of the waste they create. We know how to produce enough food to feed the world, but not how to distribute it equitably.We know how to start wars, but not how to end them or avoid them altogether. We know how to warm the planet, but not how to navigate the political complexities that stand in the way of adopting measures to stop the process.We know how to frack the aquafers and empty each nation’s underground water tanks and despoil the landscape and oceans, but not how to replace it all. 
Unfortunately, schools—the institutions modern societies have created to help the young maximize their ability to think—have never been able to present well-thought-out strategies for actually improving sense-making. Beyond the primary and elementary levels, the emphasis has instead been on delivering the content of subjects considered “core”—math, science, language arts, and social studies. As those subjects are traditionally taught and tested, “thinking” is primarily a matter of recalling information delivered and, to a lesser extent, applying that information in abstract ways.
Recalling and applying are, of course, thinking skills, but what makes us fully human, and what gives humanness so much potential, is our ability to infer, hypothesize, generalize, categorize, relate, compare, contrast, correlate, describe, abstract, extrapolate, predict, sequence, integrate, synthesize, interpret, translate, empathize, value, envision, imagine, intuit.
That’s 24 thought processes, most of them more complex than recalling and applying. Add to them other thought processes of which I’m not aware. Add the extremely powerful role emotions [like fear of failing NAPLAN]and the place of play in shaping thought. Add the fact that the actual process of sense-making integrates the processes systemically to create a whole greater than the sum of parts. Considering these complexities, the human potential being wasted by teaching to machine-scored tests that can’t evaluate the quality of sense should be obvious.
The failure of traditional schooling to significantly improve thinking skills stems primarily from its emphasis on delivering “pre-processed” information. The contents of textbooks, teacher talk, reference materials, the internet, and so on, are products of the thinking of others, leaving learners with nothing to do except try to store information in memory long enough to pass a test. That’s about as interesting and intellectually stimulating as memorizing completed crossword puzzles.  That’s NAPLAN 
Traditional schooling’s emphasis on recalling exacts a heavy price – boredom, discipline problems, reliance on extrinsic motivators, the rapid disappearance from memory of information once taught, decades of flat academic performance.
That list of problems having its roots in the neglect of all other sense-making processes could be extended.
Thinking skills can be significantly improved by coaching that focuses learner attention directly on immediate, “unprocessed” reality, on primary sources from past realities, and on imagined probable, possible, and preferred future realities. Learning teams can investigate their school’s energy efficiency, compare attitudes toward authority of early  settlers in Australia as manifested in the records they kept, analyze waste disposal procedures in their neighborhoods, predict likely consequences of Australia’s  inevitable cultural change from the western [US dominated] economic culture to those requirements of the Asian  [China dominated] economic galaxy. Those kinds of activities engage because they respect and make active use of the ability to think.*
The complexity of the sense learners make when they’re intellectually engaged in real-world work makes it clear that quality of thought can’t be evaluated by commercially produced standardized tests. Do two “good” hypotheses equal four “fair” or seven “poor” hypotheses? What’s the difference between “good” and “fair”?  Does a kid’s inference show insight or startling insight? Is a learner’s description of an event beautifully succinct or merely sketchy?  Computers can’t answer these questions.
There’s no getting around the inherent complexity of original thought, and no getting around traditional schooling’s failure to stimulate and nurture it.
Today’s reformers dream of low-cost schools where technology does the telling and  technology does the testing, That’s NAPLAN….plain dumb.
“Civilization,” said H.G. Wells, “is a race between education and catastrophe.” Perpetuating the misguided education policies put in place by politicians at the urging of wealthy but educationally clueless campaign contributors doesn’t just invite societal catastrophe, it assures it.
                                                              ###
The links below access free explanatory materials and ready-to-use secondary-level courses of study illustrating instructional activities that routinely require learners to engage in a full range of cognitive processes.
At all times, the caution issued by John Settledge when he toured Australia, needs serious heed : “ When the affective is secure, the cognitive is inevitable.”
Other than the fact that learners’ exercise of those processes produces thought too complex to be evaluated by standardized, machine-scored tests, the activities themselves fit within traditional bureaucratic boundaries and expectations.
Thinking about thinking: http://www.marionbrady.com/CIR .asp
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Phil Cullen
41 Cominan Avenue
Banora Point 2486
07b55246443
0407 865999
Refer: “Who’s Who in Australia.”

Education Readings December 2nd

By Allan Alach

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

Teacher Stress & Anxiety in New Zealand Schools

‘The results clearly illustrate the extent of the problem of stress and anxiety in NZ schools today: the majority, 54% of respondents (365) answered Yes.  44% (296) answered No, and understandably, due to the sensitivity of the subject, a small number 1% (11 respondents) declined to answer. These results are extremely concerning because no matter how subjective, for a majority of teachers to feel it is necessary to take time off in order to recover from workplace stress and anxiety, there will inevitably be consequences for the health and well-being of staff and potentially for the quality of teaching and learning in NZ.’

http://bit.ly/2fMUtJa

The Problem with Choice

‘I know too many people who are not educators (and some who are) that are in favor of the choice movement in education. The biggest reason people want choice is to improve the education for their own children and then create competition so that other schools will be forced to improve or shut down. Unfortunately, both reasons are based in misconceptions about education.’

http://bit.ly/2gWOqqw

Russell Stannard: Why are digital literacies so important?

‘I have just returned from Finland where if you can’t use the internet you are massively hindered in your day to day activities as almost all government/ municipal contact is done online. They have huge problems for example with older people, immigrants and refugees, who cannot interact with the system. It is becoming harder and harder to survive in society without having the basic digital literacies.’

http://bit.ly/2fMXkBG

Instead of “Job Creation,” How About Less Work?

Increased automation has not reduced our workload. Why not? What if it did?

So, I say, down with the work ethic, up with the play ethic!  We are designed to play, not to work.  We are at our shining best when playing. Let’s get our economists thinking about how to create a world that maximizes play and minimizes work.  It seems like a solvable problem.  We’d all be better off if people doing useless or harmful jobs were playing, instead, and we all shared equally the necessary work and the benefits that accrue from it.’

http://bit.ly/2gzLIDF

What Kills Creativity in Kids?

‘Creativity is a choice—and if children are going to choose to be creative then parents (and teachers) have to be careful not to stifle it. What kills kids’ creativity? Here’s what to avoid.’

http://bit.ly/2g8FkCY

Standardizing Whiteness: the Essential Racism of Standardized Testing

‘But when you define a standard, an ideal, you make certain choices – you privilege some attributes and denigrate others. Since the people creating the tests are almost exclusively upper middle class white people, it should come as no surprise that that is the measure by which they assess success. Is it any wonder then that poor kids and children of color don’t score as well on these tests? Is it any wonder that upper middle class white kids score so well?’

http://bit.ly/2gmqz2h

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

The Big Picture Learning School’s story

‘In the schools that Big Picture Learning envisioned, students would be at the center their own education. They would spend considerable time in the community under the tutelage of mentors and they would not be evaluated solely on the basis of standardized tests. Instead, students would be assessed on exhibitions and demonstrations of achievement, on motivation, and on the habits of mind, hand, and heart  – reflecting the real world evaluations and assessments that all of us face in our everyday lives.’

http://bit.ly/2fFwRLd

The school of the future has opened in Finland

‘Child psychologists have long argued that changing the approach we take to education would help many children learn to love school rather than hate it. We’ve all heard pre-schoolers talk about how they can’t wait to sit at their school desk and run to their next lesson with their rucksack over their shoulder. In fact, we probably remember that feeling of excitement ourselves the first time we went. But right from the first days of school, many children feel a huge sense of disappointment with what they encounter.At the Saunalahti school in the city of Espoo, Finland, they’ve found a brilliant way to overcome this problem. Starting just with the school building itself, you’d look at it and never think it was a school. Instead, it’s more a like modern art museum – wonderfully light and airy.’

http://bit.ly/2fFG3zb

To Advance Education, We Must First Reimagine Society

‘Because disaffection with the education system reflects a much deeper societal malaise, it’s imperative that we first figure out what kind of world we really want: a world populated by responsible adults who thrive on interdependence and community, or a world of “customers” who feel dependent on products, services, and authority figures, and don’t take full responsibility for their actions? The answer, he says, will point to the changes needed in all three pillars of education — schools, families, and communities.’

http://bit.ly/2gmthVs

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Quotes from Frank Smith and John Taylor Gatto

Both of these authors should be on your reading list.

John Taylor Gatto is the author of ‘A Different Kind Of Teacher’. Frank Smith’s book is called ‘An Insult To Intelligence’.  As well, Smith’s book “Reading” is a must read.

http://bit.ly/2gzeLHJ

Teaching for thinking

‘There is a lot of talk about teaching thinking in schools and all sorts of thinking processes are often seen on classroom walls. The trouble is that more than talk and processes are required – there ought to be some real evidence of students thinking to be seen. All too often was is seen is ‘higher order thinking for thin learning!’.’

http://bit.ly/2gLTAkK

Importance of School Values

‘A vision gives an organization a sense of direction, a purpose, but only if it is ‘owned’ and translated into action by all involved. But vision is not enough in itself. The values that any organization has are just as important or even more so because they determine the behaviors that people agree to live within. Alignment of people behind values is vital but too often both vision and values are just words hidden in folders are rarely referred to. What you do must reflect what you believe if there is to be integrity. And any alignment needs to include students and parents as well.’

http://bit.ly/1WQKvVA

Education Readings November 9th

By Allan Alach

The more observant ones amongst you will have noticed that this week’s readings are published earlier than usual. We are heading off to the north of New Zealand tomorrow for a 10 day break – neither of us have been there before, so it’s a new adventure for us. For those of you in the USA, these readings may distract you from the politics!

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

How Intrinsic Motivation in Education is Undermined by Extrinsic Motivation

‘I have heard many people talk about intrinsic motivation and how we need to get more of it – especially in schools. But what exactly is intrinsic motivation and why should we nurture it? This is a 2-part blog post. In part 1 (this one) I explore what intrinsic motivation is and why it matters. In part two (follow the blog to get informed when it’s online)  I will explore how intrinsic motivation can be implemented in the classroom.’

http://bit.ly/2fV9Bsd

Teacher research and why it is more important than ever for our schools

‘For some time now we have seen suspicion of any form of educational research not fitting into the ‘gold standard’ of randomized controlled trials. Qualitative and context-sensitive research has been excluded from the evidence base and teachers have been compelled to implement ‘evidence-based’ practices. It has seemed in some quarters that there is no longer any need for teachers to ask questions; they are all being answered by science. Indeed, teachers’ questions are seen as obstacles to their faithfully following pedagogic scripts. Currently, however, education systems are starting to see the limits of top-down reform and particularly of attempting to impose single solutions on teachers. It turns out that ‘what works’ does not always work for all students in all classrooms.’

http://bit.ly/2fyShF9

The Reading Rules We Would Never Follow as Adult Readers

Food for thought.

‘The number one thing all the students I have polled through the years want the most when it comes to reading.  No matter how I phrase the question, this answer in all of its versions is always at the top.  Sometimes pleading, sometimes demanding, sometimes just stated as a matter of fact; please let us choose the books we want to read. Yet, how often is this a reality for the students we teach?  How often, in our eagerness to be great teachers, do we remove or disallow the very things students yearn for to have meaningful literacy experiences?  How many of the things we do to students would we never put up with ourselves?  In our quest to create lifelong readers, we seem to be missing some very basic truths about what makes a reader.  So what are the rules we would probably not always follow ourselves?’

http://bit.ly/2fVmUsY

‘The devastating decline of the arts in schools will hit the poorest children the hardest’

A sad and almost inevitable outcome of the standards based education agenda:

‘I would like to see vice-chancellors of universities, employers and educators speaking up for the value of creativity in schools, for all learners. It is not a fanciful exaggeration to reflect that otherwise we may head back to class-based culture wars where arts are for certain classes only, and the others can make do. In other words, social immobility for all.’

http://bit.ly/2ftHOMI

Why Teaching to the Test is Educational Malpractice

‘… as a teacher, you can be singled out, written up or even fired for refusing to engage in malpractice. You are bullied, cajoled and threatened into going along with practices that have been debunked by decades of research and innumerable case studies. Take the all-too-common practice of teaching to the test. Not only do students and teachers hate it, but the practice has been shown to actually harm student learning. Yet it is the number one prescription handed down from administrators and policymakers to bring up failing scores on high stakes standardized tests.’

http://bit.ly/2fxCbNW

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

Multiple Creativity Studies Suggest: Creating Our Reality Requires Detaching From It

‘I pore over studies on creativity, and recently I noticed a consistency across these many creativity studies that took me years to notice, let alone articulate. A consistency that most authors of these studies allude to in some way, and in different ways. I’d like to share a unified way of thinking about creativity, supported directly by these many studies, that helped me to better understand this important skill, but, more importantly, could help us all be more creative in business, marketing, and in life.’

http://bit.ly/2exxalN

To improve quality in education, reconsider true definition of ‘good teacher’

‘It is assumed, therefore, that teachers and the actions they take in the classroom fundamentally impact students and what they learn. Often we, as a community of education stakeholders, take this assumed relationship so far as to assert that educational systems are only as good as the quality of their teachers.However, this nearly universal valuation of both teaching and teachers glosses over the sober realization that individual teachers have differential effects on student learning.’

http://bit.ly/2bWcH8S

5 things we should teach in school but don’t

‘Let’s be honest: our education system is screwed.I mean, almost all of the important history I learned between grades 5 and 12 I could probably find on Wikipedia and understand within a few weeks now.And pretty much any scientific knowledge you could ever want to learn is explained with pretty videos on YouTube.’

http://read.bi/2ftsXBU

The Future of Learning

What is the purpose of school & the role of EdTech?

‘There’s a constant tension within the education system. This is a tension that isn’t a new one. It’s been going on hundreds of years in fact. John Dewey in 1902 wrote a book called The Child and The Curriculum that had the same tension, the same argument about whether education about subject knowledge and content knowledge or is it about self-realisation of the child, learning for the fun of learning and opposed to learning because you had to get through some tests? That’s been a constant tension, as it is today, and more so in a way because we’re beginning to use technology in a way that reinforces the format, the idea that education is about mastery of content, of subject knowledge, and then regurgitating it at an examination.’

http://bit.ly/2fxGzwp

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

The NZC curriculum nautilus

The nautilus – a metaphor for the New Zealand Curriculum

‘The shell of the nautilus is a symbol, or metaphor, for beauty and proportional perfection. First used on a New Zealand Curriculum in 1993 it has become a familiar symbol for New Zealand teachers. Or has it? The ‘new’ New Zealand Curriculum introduced to schools in 2007 comes with a redesigned nautilus shell.To introduce the ideas of the curriculum to students (and teachers) it might be worth giving thought to the reason for the selection of the image. If it were possible to show students a nautilus shell (or a series of pictures) this might inspire some insightful thinking. We all seem to have a fascination for sea shells, most homes have a shell or two on display, and capitalizing on this fascination would result in an equally fascinating study at any level of learning.’

http://bit.ly/2exwIE0

What should a parent expect from a teacher in the 21stC?

Apart from the surge in technology use, and the new skills teachers need to adopt, implement and harness new digital media and tools (a subject for another blogpost), I would argue that little has changed in our expectations of good educators.’

http://bit.ly/1QwPHy6

School Reform: more political than educational

‘I would think that if we had focused on recognising, and sharing, the ideas of creative teachers and innovative schools in the first place, and if the various governments had seen their role as creating the conditions and providing resources, we would be in a far better position than we are in now. And, as well, we would have teachers who have faith in their ability to develop new approaches to teaching and learning without distorting and disabling the total system. The politicians have had their day – time to put the trust back to those who have the practical experience to develop new ideas school by school, community by community.’

http://bit.ly/2bB04Cv