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

By Duane Swacker

About Duane

Chapter 3

Justice Concerns and Educational Malpractices

‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Historically in Western thought justice along with fortitude, prudence and temperance has been considered one of the four cardinal virtues. Comte-Sponville considers it the only cardinal virtue “that is an absolute good in itself.” The other virtues can be considered good only in certain contexts; for where is the prudence in being so cautious as to not venture forth in the world for fear of calamity, in being courageous (fortitude) in a cause that is evil such as a suicide bomber who kills innocent people, or in temperance in being so ascetic with satisfying bodily desires–eating, drinking, making love so as to deny ourselves those simple pleasures?

The two components or types of justice are: justice as agreement and compliance with the law and justice as equity and fairness. I concur only with justice being a “good in itself” when it is concerned with fairness and equity (a difficult state to determine) but not when the justice of what we are dealing with is the law and the law is itself unjust in fairness and equity. Aristotle said “At his best, man is the noblest of all animals; separated from law and justice he is the worst.” For ancient Greeks like Aristotle and Socrates whatever the law dictated was what was just, so much so that Socrates refused help to escape his sentence to death for impiety and corrupting the youth of Athens. He believed that fulfilling the social contract, the law of the time in carrying out the death sentence was the only course of justice. Was justice really served by his legal execution, even if self-inflicted? I leave the answer to others as it is beyond the scope of this book to delve into all the justice concerns involved with Socrates death.

Ideally laws would satisfy and ensure equity and fairness concerns obtain. But it doesn’t take much to realize that many laws are not just in equity and fairness concerns. Mankind, as noble as Aristotle may have wished, can indeed be less than noble than animals in the application of laws. But we humans do judge, especially in regards to issues of educational practices.

Aristotle also said “The just, then is the lawful and fair, the unjust the unlawful and unfair.” True justice therefore consists of laws, rules, policies and practices that promote the most equity and highest degree of fairness. Aristotle’s definition serves well as a starting point in analyzing, and in judging whether an educational practice is just with the caveat that, as Comte-Sponville notes, “morality and justice come before legality, at least where the essentials are concerned. . . . And what is essential? Freedom for all, the dignity of the individual and the rights of others.”

Combining our justice concerns with the fundamental purposes of education as described above we can establish a guiding principle with which to judge educational practices and outcomes: An educational policy and/or practice is just when it promotes the welfare of the individual so that each person may savor the right to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and the fruits of their own industry.

Furthermore we must keep in mind as Comte-Sponville notes that “justice is superior to and more valuable than well-being or efficiency; it cannot be sacrificed to them, not even for the happiness of the greatest number.” For example educational practices such as grading, the testing and selection criterion for entry to “magnet schools” or select public schools, or standardized tests like the ACT when mandated as compulsory by the state and whose results are used by post-secondary institutions to sort and separate and therefore reward and punish students either through selection or denial of admittance should be rejected as being unjust due to the inherent discriminatory nature of those practices even if they are valuable for efficiency in selection for various institutions.

Continuing with Comte-Sponville’s thoughts in his chapter on justice: “without justice there would be no legitimacy or illegitimacy. . . without justice, values would be nothing more than interests or motives; they would cease to be values or would become values without worth.” In other words there can be no promoting of the welfare of, the well-being of the student as outlined in our fundamental purpose of public education without the entirety of justice being considered. Without justice considerations public education quickly devolves into a “what’s best for me” scenario in a Spencerian atmosphere of dog eat dog rule of the jungle.

Although both types of justice, as law and as equity and fairness are important in this study of educational malpractices it is the latter that are more applicable and important. The blind and uncompromising application of the law, of educational directives of federal, state or local origin can be viewed as a corruption of justice. Aristotle states that “the equitable is just” while also stating that equitable justice is “but a correction of legal justice.” Or as Comte-Sponville makes clear “Let us say that equity, which is not different from justice but a form of it, is applied justice, living justice, concrete justice—true justice. . . Justice does not make just people, people make justice.”

So where does that leave us when educational practices are found to be conceptually error filled resulting in invalid outcomes that by definition are unjust, that end up discriminating against many students? Lamentably, the vast majority of educators choose expediency-legal justice over justice as equity and slough off justice as equity concerns. A brave few though have challenged the unjust malpractices of the status quo usually paying a heavy price in personal health, welfare in family and professional life. Those brave souls have followed a perhaps not well known American tradition, that of civil disobedience. Let us finish up our discussion of justice with the words of an American author and philosopher who knew well the deprivations (time spent in prison) of civil disobedience:

“The mass of men [and women] serves the state [education powers that be] thus, not as men mainly, but as machines, with their bodies. They are the standing army, and the militia, jailors, constables, posse comitatus, [bureaucrats, administrators and teachers], etc. In most cases there is no free exercise whatever of the judgment or of the moral sense; but they put themselves on a level with wood and earth and stones; and wooden men can perhaps be manufactured that will serve the purpose as well. Such command no more respect than men of straw or a lump of dirt.”– Henry David Thoreau [my additions]

And one last thought from Mahatma Gandhi “There is a higher court than courts of justice and that is the court of conscience. It supersedes all other courts.” Mahatma Gandhi.


For a complete discussion of Justice see Comte-Sponville’s “A Small Treatise on the Great Virtues” Chapter 6 Justice.

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

By Duane Swacker

About Duane

Chapter 2

Fidelity to Truth in Educational Discourse

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

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

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

Yes, truth matters!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Duane Swacker

About Duane

Chapter 1

The Purpose of Public Education

‘Honesty is the first chapter in wisdom’ Jefferson

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

Mission Statement

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

Our Mission

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Something new on Treehorn Express:

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


Duane has provided Treehorn with the following introduction:

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

Watch this space…

Bye Treehorn

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

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

I was wrong.

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

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

I now know what disappointment is.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phil Cullen

https://treehornexpress.wordpress.com

http://primaryschooling.net

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

NAPLAN. It’s all systems go!

NAPLAN – 9 May

IT’S ALL SYSTEMS GO!

The intensity of preparation for the tests is evident in the extreme measures that schools are taking to confront the evil in a few days. [See The Treehorn Express 19 April]. School administration teams will be busy arranging for the rooms, the invigilators aka security guards appointed, what to do with the rest of the school during the three days, sorting out those who have requested not to do the tests and the endless tasks that NAPLAN brings with it. The normal curriculum teaching will have been adjusted in classrooms some time ago and there will be heavy concentration on the examinable bits expected in the tests; plenty of test practice and homework.  Teaching and learning will have been suspended until Friday, 12 May when celebrations for the conclusion of the sweat swot will be joyous.

Australian Schooling – the teaching and learning part – commences on Monday, 15 May.

The holistic curriculum that aims at high achievements in all learning matters will be commenced for the year  on Monday, 15  May.

IN THE MEANTIME…..

Parents will be taking their children to tutoring shops, purchasing those “NAPLAN for Dummies” kind of books from the newsagents, supervising homework with serious concern,  planning the rewards for ‘jobs well done’ and, maybe singing songs like “It’s Not on the Test”

to their own ‘little third graders’ The wise parents will be writing their notes to the teacher or the principal or the school indicating that they do not want their child to be subjected to the traumas of NAPLAN testing.

The teachers will be using up their supplies of vallium and tears and ‘kicking the cat’ that frustrations bring when they want their pupils to succeed in something that they did not ask for, can do without, doesn’t work, and is abusive to children’s mental health.

Principals will be doing as they are told as well as helping their teachers to ‘feel good’ under difficult circumstances

At the top tiers of government, Simon will have, by now consulted with his war cabinet [The Australian Government Primary Principals’ Association [ http://www.agppa.asn.au/ ], as they caste their ‘unified and authoritative’ eye over ACARA’s management of NAPLAN 2017, especially following the messages from the 2016 disappointment. This think-tank’s contribution to the maintenance of mediocre standards in our schools is pivitol.  One cannot expect much higher than mediocre, of course. It’s in-built. It is, indeed crucial for 2017, since the most recent PISA results, where the effects of NAPLAN were evident, and Australian scores were worse than some third-world obscure authorities that Australia gets back to the middle or better in world terms. The very nature of NAPLAN assures the world that Australia is heading the wrong way in PISA terms. Our kids and their teachers do not seem to like doing NAPLAN nor PISA [for 15 year-olds]; that’s for sure.  PISA is THE litmus test for how well NAPLAN works; and the evidence to date clearly shows that our kids are ‘turned off’ to learning maths, science and literature; and the stress and anxiety that they cause to individuals, parents and homes is much too high.  This government think-tank, AGPPA, would have discussed, in some depth as to the 2016 calamity and whether it is worthwhile pursuing this kleinist mode of mass evaluation, called NAPLAN. We would expect no less, even though the discussions have not been made public.

Will NAPLAN be different this year and did AGPPA approve of the differences?  Simon’s group will be au fait with the difficulties of the change-over to mechanised testing and satisfied itself that all is okay, except for the difficulties in Queensland, but ACARA will surely be required to assure the Government’s group that all is fair and square before it makes any public statements.  How good are the keyboard skills of the victims? Anyone know?

The effects of this sort of testing program on the mental health of children must be of serious concern  to AGPPA, if Simon’s loyal group  cares for the government’s welfare.  The governments drive for ‘Values’ seems to be a serious one, even though Australia does not have a serious stance in the way it treats its children. The tales of PTSD and versions of it, the suicide rate, the unhappiness in families at this time of the year must surely have been on the agenda of this government think-tank.

All will be well if sufficient parents are prepared to say ‘NO to NAPLAN’.  It’s not too late.

By the way, does the government have its own  Australian Government Council of State School Organisations that it has captured? If so, watch out kids. You’ve been  well and truly treehorned.

________________________________________________________________________________________________

Phil Cullen   http://primaryschoolng.net/    http:treehornexpress.wordpress.com

Education Readings April 21st

By Allan Alach

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

The hidden dangers of caring about your career too much

‘This is one of the most important social justice and economic issues of our time. Until teachers feel valued and supported in their pursuit of their calling, they will continue to leave the classroom—and our most vulnerable children will suffer as a result.’

http://bit.ly/2oPsekK

Why School Makes Us Stupid

‘If you’ve ever thought school sucks, is a waste of time, or the education system is stupid, then this video is for you.’

http://bit.ly/2ovMEeY

A Look at 6 Digital Citizenship Myths That Must Be Dispelled

When digital citizenship cemented itself into the public consciousness only a few years ago, it definitely had its critics. That remains true even today as we strive to understand what it means and how to practice it in our homes and classrooms. Many digital citizenship myths still have some of us doubting the intrinsic need for its practices.’

http://bit.ly/2p0qHsw

7 Suggestions For How To Treat Wilful Digital Illiteracy In Education

‘A teacher I know asked me last week if I could create a Word document for him so that he could type a list of dates. He has been teaching, I believe, for over 20 years, and is in a senior position in her school. Why has he been allowed to get away with such a basic lack of knowledge for so long?

In this particular instance it doesn’t have any direct effect on the children he teaches, or the staff he manages. Or does it? I am a firm believer in what has been called the “hidden curriculum”, in which what you teach and what the kids learn may be rather different. What are his children and staff learning from his behaviour? ‘

http://bit.ly/2pk3kLu

Why Kids Shouldn’t Sit Still in Class

‘Sit still. It’s the mantra of every classroom.

But that is changing as evidence builds that taking brief activity breaks during the day helps children learn and be more attentive in class, and a growing number of programs designed to promote movement are being adopted in schools.’

http://nyti.ms/2pk5WZZ

What Student Test-Takers Share with Ejected Airline Passengers

By Alfie Kohn

‘Consider the sport of ranking the U.S. against other nations on standardized exams.  Even if these tests were meaningful indicators of intellectual proficiency, which is doubtful, specifying how well one country’s students perform relative to those elsewhere tells us nothing of interest. If all countries did reasonably well in absolute terms, there would be no shame in (and, perhaps, no statistical significance to) being at the bottom.  If all countries did poorly, there would be no glory in being at the top.’

http://bit.ly/2pHZ1GK

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

Why Giving Effective Feedback Is Trickier Than It Seems

‘But giving effective feedback in the classroom can be trickier than it seems. It’s more of an art than a simple practice and requires the teacher to be disciplined and thoughtful about what is worthy of feedback, as well as when to give it.’

http://bit.ly/2oVltMC

More to good schools than ranked pass results

‘When choosing schools we need to prioritise much more than ranked test results. Choosing a school is infinitely more serious than scanning ranked examination percentages. We need to know the human heart of a school because design for learning is a complex thing.’

http://bit.ly/2oVuKnY

Computers in class ‘a scandalous waste’: Sydney Grammar head

Is there some truth in this?

‘A top Australian school has banned laptops in class, warning that technology “distracts’’ from old-school quality teaching.The headmaster of Sydney Grammar School, John Vallance, yesterday described the billions of dollars spent on computers in Australian schools over the past seven years as a “scandalous waste of money’’.’

http://bit.ly/2ortBn1

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Learning to be ‘creatively rebellious’. The importance of the Three Ds: being Different, Disruptive and Deviant.

‘Organisations (and this includes schools if they are to be true “learning organisations”) need to become ‘courageous’ and adopt a ‘rebellious instinct’ and to discard old habits and safety nets to remake themselves as 21st C  adaptive organisations. Unfortunately all this is beyond the timid leadership of most primary schools or the industrial aged straightjackets secondary schools operate under.’

http://bit.ly/2pI6e9L

Fundamentals in education

The real fundamentals in education – the creation of a creative mind

‘In recent years education has become more and more cognitive or rational; learning that can be seen and measured so as to prove evidence of growth.

In the process real fundamentals have been overlooked.The creation of the mind is more than simply cognitive. The mind is a unified, active, constructive, self creating, and symbol making organ; it feels as well as thinks- feelings and emotions are a kind of thought. Attitudes are created from feelings and emotions.’

http://bit.ly/13b5vRO

The corporate takeover of society and education.

‘Since the early 90s society has been reshaped by a neo liberal corporate ideology. An emphasis on private enterprise and self-centred individualism has replaced an earlier concern for collective good of all members of society.   As a result of this ideological shift a wider gap has been created between the rich and poor causing a number of social concerns. Schools as part of this shift have been transformed from a community orientation to being part of a competitive cut throat ideology.’

http://bit.ly/1hARUnP