Education Readings October 5th

The Treehorn  Express
[Maintained by NZ educator Allan Alach]
Educational Readings
By Allan Alach
Last week I commented on the international connectiveness of our educational network. This was proved in short order, when Diane Ravitch, in USA, posted a blog referencing the article about Mike Feinberg and KIPP schools that was in last week’s readings. Not long later, US academic Scott McLeod tweeted the same link! Great!
It’s been an interesting couple of weeks in New Zealand that gives us hope that the GERMs may be meeting their doom.  A number of things have happened – firstly the Ministry of Education, following a dictate from the minister, published each school’s national standards dataset on a website.  This followed on from newspapers publishing league tables based on this ‘ropey’ data (Prime Minister’s description). The fact that the previous minister had promised that league tables would not result from national standards was conveniently ignored, and shown for the mistruth it was all along. The publication of the data immediately resulted in a wide of range of articles debunking virtually every aspect of national standards as applied in New Zealand.  The ‘general public’ have not fallen for the league tables bait, as was hoped, nor bought into the accompanying teacher and school bashing. Given New Zealand public’s long history of supporting primary schools, this isn’t surprising, as previous National Party Ministers of Education have discovered.
At the same time the Minister of Education, accompanied by the Secretary of Education (CEO of the Ministry) held a meeting in the earthquake damaged city of Christchurch to explain the ‘necessary reorganisation’ of schooling in the area. There were so many errors and problems with this meeting that it would take a long article to explain. The outcome has been nationwide awareness of the whole process and its underlying agenda of school closures and charter schools, acerbated by a farcical interview on a current events TV show where the incompetence of the Secretary for Education was laid out for all to see. We need to feel some sympathy for her, as her minister dropped her in the hot seat by refusing to front up herself – not surprisingly given her inability to answer questions.
Coincidentally, and very fortuitously, Finnish educator Pasi Sahlberg has been here to speak to both primary and secondary teacher union conferences, and this has really served to highlight the void between Finland’s success and the GERM (Salhberg’s phrase) infected approach of the government.  Sahlberg described his meeting with the minister as ‘interesting.’ The education spokespeople of the opposition parties, on the other hand, attended both union meetings, heard Pasi’s presentations, and engaged in panel discussions with him. These politicians have clearly got the message about the way New Zealand needs to go – returning to the model that attracted Finland in the first place!
Other events in New Zealand over recent weeks are making it increasingly likely that the next election in 2014 (maybe earlier given how fast the wheels are falling off this government) will see a change of government. This would result in a rapid disinfection of education to make it GERM free. This will then provide hope to other countries that the GERMs can be eliminated.
We live in hope.
I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at

This week’s homework!

Contextual Accountability

This is a powerful article that needs no introduction.

I believe fervently that Michelle Rhee and an army of like-minded bad-schools philosophizers will one day look around and see piles where their painstakingly-built sandcastles of reform once stood, and they will know the tragic fame of Ozymandias. Billion-dollar data-sorting systems will be mothballed. Value-added algorithms will be tossed in a bin marked History’s Big Dumb Ideas.”

Evidence: The Case of the Common Core Standards
This excellent ‘must read’ article was written about the USA. However you will note that it wouldn’t take much adapting to fit New Zealand. I wonder why?
Why Kids Need Schools to Change
The current structure of the school day is obsolete, most would agree. Created during the Industrial Age, the assembly line system we have in place now has little relevance to what we know kids actually need to thrive.”
Sorry, kids, GERM minded deformers have decreed that the 19th century had the ideal education system. Tough.
The Global Search for Education: The Education Debate 2012 — Howard Gardner
Let’s appoint Gardner as minister of education wherever he is needed…
What education reformers did with student surveys
They want to reduce everything to quantitative data regardless of its invalidity that comes from trying to fit square pegs into round holes.
On “Reform” and the “Public” in Education
Think school deform is a 21st century phenomenon? Ever wondered how and why are our schooling system is structured this way? Is anything new under the sun?
Do kids really learn from failure? Why conventional wisdom may be wrong
Another excellent article by Alfie Kohn. Read to find out the difference between ‘good’ failure and ‘bad’ failure.

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Chasing the Wind

The Treehorn Express


Treehorn story?

No fair-dinkum teacher likes NAPLAN.

It breaches all ethical rules.

In a school of repute there is no fan;

There’s learning without measurement tools.

Theme song:  ‘Care for Kids’


Chasing the Wind

That’s what it feels like when one is chasing to see what has happened to the long held schooling values and learning beliefs that have blown away…..and when one keeps begging, pleading, praying for them to do a 180.  Ever tried to catch logic, professional ethics and common sense when they have disappeared into the atmosphere, blown away sadly with the help of first rate, gentle true-believers who, one would think, because of their professional ethics, should never have tolerated any kind of harm to school pupils in the first place; the sort of  harm that measurers and politicians encourage.  So many good folk just don’t seem to care any more. School leaders have turned from educators into testucators, been eichmannised and now passively maintain an organised silence.   Who created this sort of schooling climate? How did it happen? GERM, the product, seems to be confined to English-speaking countries. Strange. Politicians didn’t do it on their own, but they cannot escape blame. Publishers control them.

It is quite eerie, as if some evil force has captured the minds of caring primary school educators, who used to display the very highest of ethical and administrative standards. They don’t understand its source, nor does ‘this movement’ have an M.O. of identifiable educational benefit. It has always had a cruel, immoral, profit-base, so ‘educators’ now hide; and children suffer. Ethical behaviour that was once aligned with the U.N. Rights of the Child has been scrapped, replaced by political brown-nosing to the advantage of mega-rich publishers and private school corporations; and to the grave disadvantage of all school pupils. Our country’s future is at risk. It’s morally ill. That’s certainly apparent.  How did it happen?

There has to be a word for the spread of this pandemic malady. The term ‘schadenfreude’ is not adequate. That is what happens at the political level and is now being passed on to school level. You can feel and sense the pleasure that non-caring influential politicians and their ilk get when they indicate that things on the school front are going to get better – ‘better’, meaning that scores will rise in the little bits of the curriculum that are testable; that fear works. Such palpable excrement.  They know that any ‘improvement’ has been at heavy human cost to little people. Then they apply this sham improvement to the whole classroom setting, to boot. Many, many children are being scarred for life because of this relentless, ridiculous contest. That’s schadenfreude – pleasure from children’s stress and sickness.  Good schools shouldn’t  indulge in it.

The pandemic nature of the malady imitates that of the Standards Debate of earlier years started by school-ignorant ‘Black Papers’ academics in England. Supported by corporations and some educational bodies who did not understand and did not bother to check, the whinging for ‘better results’ spread around the globe and lasted for a few, very intense years. ‘Back to Basics’ was the cry. The media enjoyed the period. Their clientele increased enormously. A major publication [The Bulletin] spent two full issues on the topic with the title : “Australia’s Educational Scandal:  We’re turning out Millions of Dunces.”  ABC TV conducted a nation-wide debate on school standards, involving a number of academics from Perth to Townsville that was to last two hours, but the time was extended. It became very serious, with devastating consequences. This bash-schools-and-teachers meme laid a useful platform for further assaults on schools about the way that moral and sex education was handled, for instance, then something else, then something else. Politicians and the media found that schools were very soft targets indeed. The weakened work force was deprogrammed, silent and compliant, … so… the 1990 managerial parvenus were able to command gelatinous departmental heads, duplicitous ministers, battered teachers unions and compliant teachers groups to restructure Australian education systems on non-school models….on crazily shaped organisational paradigms that have persisted until the present day. Some of the most useful models of  quality control that public schooling ever had, were down-sized and outsourced. Highly experienced supervisory talent, for instance, was made redundant, replaced by medusan blooms that grossly weakened the previous attention given to conversations about teaching and learning. This seriously affected  professional renewal and improvement. Workable school-based curriculum development also got the chop; and consideration for humans as humans, with typical robotic responses expected by those who measure, sadly, prevailed.

There is a word for such a pandemic malady –MEME – the acceptance of an idea with accompanying symbols and practices that are transmitted from one to another. Memetics is a field of study, of recent origin, that explores the evolution of memes.

Little seems to have been done in a memetic sense to identify the ways in which educational memes, as units of cultural transmission, infect the airways. Social contagions such as beliefs that ‘standardised testing improves teaching and learning’ join fads like tattooing, wearing long ‘shorts’ or short skirts, nose piercing, which all spread like a virus through populations. They spread as all viruses do, and seem to be uncontrollable; and, usually,  we don’t seem to understand ‘why’ nor ‘how’. They just happen and we don’t care. We can be pretty sure, however, that this ‘fear-based, high-stakes testing’ meme won’t go away as earlier ones, which had no financial raison-detre, have done. The sources of this present day contagion are known and it’s also known that the MO has nothing to do with teaching and learning. Previous memes have contained educational concerns per se– both negative [e.g.‘Back to Basics’] and positive [e.g. ‘open schooling”]

This meme is different from previous educational ones in the sense that it is a profit based, deliberately-organised fad. The others just faded away as the population came to its senses. This one certainly did not    arise from any public concern. It couldn’t have, since there was no reliable empirical evidence nor academic punditry to sponsor any reason for  this strange meme [‘Tests improve standards’]. Those who think that it has anything to do with school improvement have been hoodwinked.

Memetic social movements, as distinguished from fashion fads, can be halted … but…only it seems when enough good people demand that the nonsense stop. We can bury our heads in the sand or stand up for what is right and just and pleasant; and, thereby, we can be an example for our children by resisting the forced acceptance of this profit-based, anti-social, schooling-destructive virus :  blanket testing.


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Maintained by outstanding NZ educator, Allan Alach

Phil Cullen AM,FACE, FACEL

41 Cominan Avenue

Banora Point

Australia 2486

07 5524 6443

NZ Elections & Paulo Friere

The Treehorn Express

Treehorn story?

Theme Song :

The Treehorn Express is dedicated to the cessation of Kleinist NAPLAN testing in Australia.  Kleinism is a New York version of fear-driven schooling which uses the blanket-testing NAPLAN [its only learning-motivational weapon] to destroy the  reputation of teachers and schools. This weapon was forced on schools in Australia in 2009. It separates ‘haves’ from ‘have nots’ and opens the door for mega-bank-rolling by known curriculum vandals for control of school-based learning. It disrespects school pupils, devalues teachers’ professionalism, threatens Australia’s developmental future and is just no good.  Politely described, it stinks.

Although some ‘education’ groups support it, ideologically, NAPLAN is immoral, unprofessional, politically driven, unrequested by the profession, curriculum destructive, extremely costly, wasteful and divisive. It has a background of malicious intent. 


  For official information, click on  Get it ?


Elections & Paulo Friere

“Pedagogy of the Oppressed”

Allan Alach

[It’s a privilege to include this article in Treehorn Express. It first appeared in the outstanding educational journal Education Today produced in New Zealand by Doug Hislop. The magazine includes election comments by candidates on schooling issues.}

On November 25th New Zealanders will be heading off to polling booths to cast their votes to decide the makeup of the next New Zealand government. This particular election is probably, from an education viewpoint, the most significant in New Zealand’s history. There is a branching intersection on the educational road, with vastly different destinations. The alternatives will hopefully have been well detailed by now, one focussing on the New Zealand Curriculum and its vision, principles and values, while the other will lead much further down the standardisation of education path. There is already considerable evidence suggesting that a national testing regime of some sort is already in development, ready for implementation in 2014.

Of the two alternative destinations, the arguments for the ‘whole child’ approach of the New Zealand Curriculum have been very well made in previous editions of Education Today and in many other forums, and these are also well  supported by extensive international and national research and evidence. There is little more that needs to be added to this branch of the road. While there are powerful advocates for the standards and achievement branch, very few of these are recognised educational experts, and there is a distinct lack of international evidence and research to support this. It is far easier to find evidence that this approach essentially does not work, which raises a very pertinent question in itself. Why?

This is a situation that requires some examination to unpick possible reasons. We need to first look at schooling, or more precisely, planned education for children. At the base level, planned education for children is a process of ‘programming’ their brains to function in the world. That is not as negative as it sounds and the education process is hopefully based on positive values, attributes and skills to enable all children to reach their full potential. Obviously though, different educational plans may result in different formal programmes in children’s brains. Vicarious learning, of course, will take place regardless of the best or worst intentions of formal education.

It is the underpinning belief about the purpose of education that is the issue. Crudely speaking, this can be split into two options: a broad, generalist education to enable children to reach their full potentials, wherever these may lie, or a narrower, goal oriented education, for example, to enable children to participate in the work force.  In this context, all educational policies have an underlying political agenda, and so we can then examine them from this perspective.  Given the current emphasis on the narrower standards based educational environment in New Zealand, and similar countries such as Australia, England, Canada and the USA, it is appropriate that this be objectively examined.

One of the great educationalists of the 20th century was Brazilian Paulo Friere (1921 – 1997). Friere spent many years working with poor and dispossessed people in isolated areas of Brazil, and his great book “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” (first published in 1970, latest edition published by Penguin Books, 1996) was developed from his experiences.  His definition of oppressed is vastly different from the pressures faced by those who feel under threat from the current political, economic, education and social policies that are in vogue in many countries, including New Zealand.

However much of his writing can be used to interpret the ideology behind the standardisation of New Zealand education and like countries, and help to explain the oft repeated question “Why don’t they listen?”

In his foreword to the 1996 Penguin edition of this book, Robert Shaull writes,

“There is no such thing as a neutral education process. Education either functions as an instrument that is used to facilitate the integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity to it, or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality, and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.”

This essay could possibly conclude at this stage, because there, in Shaull’s words “bring about conformity,” is the answer to the minimisation of education through a narrow focus on achievement in literacy and numeracy, to the exclusion of everything else.  Friere has much to add to this, however, and immediately defines his purpose with a quote that was written by Francisco Weffort in a preface to one of his earlier books. This provides the counterpoint for the narrowing of the curriculum.

“The awakening of critical consciousness leads the way to expressions of social discontents precisely because these discontents are real components of an oppressive situation.”

The theme that the ‘oppressors’ do not want the ‘oppressed’ to learn to think and question the basis of their situation is elaborated many times throughout the book. The base situation, according to Friere, is that the oppressed have been, and will need to be, conditioned to accept the status quo.  In the early stages of the development of awareness of their lot, the oppressed struggle to differentiate their awareness from the influences of the oppressor, in order to gain an objective view of the situation, due to their “submersion in the reality of oppression.”

This can be used to explain why so many principals and teachers failed to see the true implications behind the introduction of national standards, under the guise of ‘raising achievement’ until it was too late.

Indeed, it would be plausible to argue that there are still many principals and teachers, let alone parents and the wider community, who have not yet been able achieve this differentiation of awareness that Friere describes.

Taking this further, he observes that people, lacking this consciousness, can also themselves unknowingly contribute to the oppression. Examples of this in the New Zealand education sector are not hard to find, whether in the Ministry of Education, the tertiary sector or in schools. Taking this one step further, it can also be contended that many well meaning Members of Parliament would fit this description.

Extending from this, there are the people who are knowingly contributing to the oppression, having set aside previously held beliefs and values, including those who are seeking personal gain. Again we can find examples of this in the Ministry of Education, universities and other agencies. One could question the integrity and morality of this group.

Friere then examines the relationship between the oppressors and the oppressed;

 “One of the basic elements of the relationship between oppressor and oppressed is prescription. Every prescription represents the imposition of one individual’s choice upon another, transforming the consciousness of the person prescribed to, into one that conforms with the prescriber’s consciousness. Thus the behaviour of the oppressed is a prescribed behaviour, following as it does the guidelines of the oppressor.”

This concept of ‘prescription’ leads directly to mandated standards of achievement. Friere’s pedagogy was developed as a way to enable the oppressed to break free of the influences of their oppressors, through the fostering of questioning and inquiry, to enable them to perceive, for themselves, their own realities and understanding of their oppression. The oppressors, of course, are very aware of the threats that enlightened people would pose to their power base, and therefore it is very much in their interests to maintain and even tighten the prescriptions. This then becomes a battle for the oppressed to “pursue the right to be human,” through the development of every aspect of their potential.

Paradoxically, and again rather appropriately considering the Wall St and other ‘occupations’, Friere also observes that the ‘liberation’ of the oppressed may then leave the former oppressors feeling as though their quality of life has suffered.  “Conditioned by the experience of oppressing others, any situation other than their former seems to them to be like oppression. Formerly they could eat, dress, wear shoes, be educated, travel, and hear Beethoven….”

Any restrictions on these, due to the ‘liberation’ of the oppressed, will seem as a violation of their rights. This does provide a cogent interpretation of the situation in many so-called developed countries, particularly the ones dominated by the three influential plutonomies of USA, Canada and the UK, with Australia and New Zealand ‘tagging along.’ It is an easy matter to use this to interpret the increasing need by the more conservative governments in today’s world, and the power groups behind them, to increase their control over the people, in order to maintain their hegemony and way of life through “a policy of indoctrination of the young” (Noam Chomsky)

Friere contends that oppressors believe that they have the right to live in peace in their world, as the dominant class. This is regardless of the needs of the oppressed, and also “because the existence of the oppressed is necessary to their own existence.” 

This is based on a high degree of possessiveness, leading to everything being viewed as objects at their disposal, and of having a materialistic value.

“Money is the measure of all things and profit the primary goal. For the oppressors, what is worthwhile is to have more – always more – even at the cost of the oppressed having less or nothing.”

Having more is seen by the oppressors as a right, gained through their own efforts. Friere takes this one step further.

“If others do not have, it is because they are incompetent and lazy, and worst of all, is their unjustifiable ingratitude towards the ‘generous gestures’ of the dominant class. Precisely because they are ‘ungrateful’ and ‘envious’ the oppressed are regarded as potential enemies who must be watched.”  


“..the more the oppressors control the oppressed, the more they change them into apparently inanimate ‘things’.”

Pass this through an educational filter, and it leads to the classification of children’s learning as numbers or rankings against standards, in a dehumanising process that is an inevitable result of this world view. No other outcome is possible.  How is this done? Friere address this in the following quote which explains the reduction of ‘education’ to basic literacy and numeracy and the seeming disregard for the humanities.

“As the oppressor consciousness, in order to dominate, tries to deter the drive to search, the restlessness and the creative power which characterise life, it kills life. More and more, the oppressors are using science and technology as unquestionably powerful instruments for their purpose: the maintenance of the repressive order through manipulation and representation.”

Friere wrote this 40 years ago. One wonders how he would have interpreted the technologies of today’s world. Having established this, Friere lays the foundation for his pedagogy to enable the oppressed to reclaim their humanity through the fight for;

…freedom to create and construct, to wonder and to venture. Such freedom requires that the individual be active and responsible, not a slave or well fed cog in the machine…”

He commences by reflecting on the use of education as a means of control, which is probably as old as humanity itself. This is best achieved through a formal teacher-student relationship.

Friere labels this the ‘banking concept of education’ where teachers deposit knowledge in students’ mental ‘bank accounts.’ The more ‘banking’ a teacher does, the better she is determined to be. Students are graded by their abilities in processing, filing and then retrieving ‘deposits’ on demand.  The more able a student is in doing this, the higher her ‘achievement’ is deemed to be.  This concept views knowledge as a gift bestowed by the ‘knowing’ on the ‘unknowing,’ with ‘knowledge’ defined and controlled by those in power, the oppressors.

Friere outlines ten attitudes and practices associated with the ‘banking’ process, and this encapsulates the ideology, and accompanying view of education, that underpins the standardisation of education.

a)  the teacher teaches and the students are taught;

b)  the teacher know everything and the students know nothing;

c)  the teacher thinks and the students are thought about;

d)  the teacher talks and the students listen – meekly;

e)  the teacher disciplines and the students are disciplined;

f)    the teacher chooses and enforces his choice, and the students comply;

g)  the teacher acts and the students have the illusion of acting through the actions of the teacher;

h)  the teacher chooses the programme content, and the students (who were not consulted) adapt to it;

i)    the teacher confuses the authority of knowledge, with her own professional authority, which she sets in opposition to the freedom of the students;

j)    the teacher is the subject of the learning process, while the pupils are mere objects.

Friere explores this in considerable detail, before developing the case for his alternative ‘pedagogy of the oppressed’. This pedagogy is the antithesis of the ‘banking concept,’ focussing on developing awareness through inquiry, so that “people become masters of their own thinking” and are “able to achieve critical consciousness” in order to achieve their human potential.

While the pedagogy is outlined extensively in the book, for the purposes of this essay it is sufficient to state that there are substantial similarities between Friere’s pedagogy, and the child centred, inquiry based, problem solving principles and values of the New Zealand Curriculum.

The purpose of Friere’s pedagogy is to raise consciousness and awareness through inquiry learning, investigations and dialogue to enable the oppressed to claim/reclaim their humanity as individuals and to break free of the constrictions imposed by the oppressors.

The open ended vision of the New Zealand Curriculum “Young people who will be confident, connected, actively involved, life long learners” targets a similar fostering of human potential, enabled by the values, key competencies and inclusion of all curriculum areas. This sits in stark comparison to the narrowing down of the curriculum that has resulted overseas as standards are deemed to take precedence.

The overall intention of the oppressors, as described by Friere, is to control the consciousness of the oppressed, to ensure that they accept the world as it is, to prevent them becoming aware of an alternative reality and therefore to minimise challenges to the dominance of the oppressors. This is the underlying purpose of the ‘banking’ model of education, which accompanies the standardisation of education in so many countries. A reason for disregarding of all the research to the contrary now becomes very clear, as this evidence challenges the very purpose and power base of the oppressors.

Interpreting this very significant book, “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” in the New Zealand context, along with the other agendas that also accompany the standards based ideologies, leads to the only possible conclusion about the whole standards/testing movement.

 As has been written and said many times, standards (and all that are associated with these) are for political and financial purposes and have nothing to do with education.

As Friere wrote, “To glorify democracy and silence the people is a farce.”


Acknowledgement:  Thanks to Nancy Letts, US Educational Consultant ( for invaluable support and guidance.


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Phil Cullen

41 Cominan Avenue

Banora Point

Australia 2486

07 5524 6443

High Stakes

 The Treehorn Express

Who’s Treehorn?

Theme song :


Treehorn would not have known that the staffroom at his school contained four different kids of teachers. He didn’t care. None of them seemed to notice his condition nor cared about his shrinking. His own teacher was special in many ways; the others, just people.  For adults, the four different kinds are easily distinguishable. They tend to reveal themselves after a few minutes’ conversation and more by a visit to their classroom.

Kleinists have a firm belief that pupils learn best when they are threatened with all sorts of punishment and that they need plenty of testing, testing, testing, cramming, cramming, cramming, practice, practice, practice, raving, raving, raving. They believe in high-stakes, hard data schooling.  I was one of these for far too long. My excuse was that every pupil from Year 1 onwards had to be prepared for that three-subject examination at the end of primary school that alleged to select those who should be allowed to proceed further. The exams were prepared by fearsome kleinists who lived in an office far, far away from my classroom.

Kleinism is based on the notion that, if the children do poorly at factory-made tests, it is the teacher’s fault. It’s all fear based. Politicians frighten the bureaucrats, who in turn frighten the principals who then frighten the teachers who frighten the kids. Simple business design; and the gospel according to Rupert.

Mugwamps are people who sit on the fence on ideological schooling issues. They have their mugs on one side and their wumps on the other. They don’t bother to check things out. It’s too much. They let superior kleinists get away with it.

Eichmanns lack a mind of their own. Like Adolf, organiser of Germany’s program of elimination of the Jews,  they  whimpishly ‘do as they are told’ and let others concern themselves with issues of basic morality and social justice. They don’t want to distress their bureaucratic superiors or their political masters.

Then there are Real Teachers who believe in kids and care for them, empower them, have high expectations of their personal achievements and ensure that nothing will interfere with their quest for developing each child’s love for learning. They believe in the sanctity of the pupilling processes. One day they will reveal themselves and liberate children from the farcical numbers game.. Their views are ignored at present.


To illustrate……

Cheap varieties available….

 KLEINS   –  hard and bitter.

MUGWUMPS – grow well on both sides of the fence.

EICHMANNS – easy to control.

Children should be kept clear of these varieties, if possible.

They are toxic.



1.Thank you Mary Mackay of Amsterdam for the illustration of the tee shirt.

2. Previous Treehorn [“3Rs on Steroids”] was circulated by Allan Alach, Primary Principal. Diane Ravitch picked it up’ and included it on her twitter to 20,000 fans. Onya Allan. Thanks Diane.

Phil Cullen

41 Cominan Avenue

Banora Point

Australia  2486

07 5524 6443

Ask your local state and federal member if he or she know how much Naplan testing costs….publishing, administering, including salaries of operators.

Go on. It only takes a few minutes.

I’d like to see the reply.

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Parents Opt Out

  Until  Naplan is “dead, buried and cremated”…

The  Treehorn Express

Treehorn is a little primary school lad who kept shrinking. Nobody took any notice. Treehorn concluded that adults don’t take any notice of what happens to young children. They just don’t care. We can find endless examples to support Treehorn’s view. How  many adults, for instance, gave two hoots when [then] Minister Gillard changed, in 2009, from the well established, highly–regarded Australian system of schooling to Joel Klein’s NY system of fear-driven schooling. Nobody worried..It was a dramatic transformation….changes to a country’s schooling system by fiat. The effects on children’ s learning and classroom pupilling have been profound. [See Florence Patty Heidi: The Shrinking of Treehorn ]


Parents Opt  Out

As a former state primary school principal, I have been concerned for many years how children’s learning is handled in Australia. Briefly, I had imagined that, by the year 2000, children would be taught to be so keen on learning and achievement and accepting learning challenges of all kinds, that they would be bursting a boiler to get to school each day, because of the learning opportunities there. They would want to share their learning efforts with parents, friends and teachers constantly because learning how to learn is important too them. Even though there are some great schools, it didn’t happen generally; and things are certainly moving away from my sort of dream. Kleinism crushed it.

I had, quite sincerely, thought that Principals would hold on to their professional and ethical dignity when Kleinism moved to Australia from New York and tell our political leaders, who introduced it, where to go. They, I thought, were our major pupil/parent- protectors. I have to say that, despite my high regard for the work of school principals, that I am bitterly disappointed.

I shouldn’t lose heart. There is a large number of parents in the USA who are distressed because of what NCLB and Race to the Top [Naplan clones] is doing to their children. 8000 of them marched on the White House recently; and their friends included notables who know what they are talking about. They have been there, done that, and can articulate their feelings.

Allan Alach, a New Zealand primary school principal, told me of a wonderful organisation that is determined to do something to help their own and other children. Treehorn will be amazed and thrilled. It is called UNITED OPT OUT which is encouraging every parent to just write a letter to their school’s principal withdrawing their children from any state-wide testing program. It doesn’t take much. UNITED OPT OUT is located in all 50 states, and their extended outreach is about to extend down under. Here’s Allan’s description of the establishment of a South Pacific link. I hope that you will be enthusiastic as I am and will make sure that you participate to the full….until fear driven national testing disappears from the face of the earth.


Recently, as part of my prowling around the internet looking for ammunition to support our battle against the national standards nonsense in New Zealand, I came across a USA website called :

“United Opt Out National: The movement to end punitive public school testing.”

A quick skim revealed that this was a new site and that it was set up, and administered, by some ‘heavy hitters’ on the US education scene. Some more quick research found that this group also ran a Facebook page:

OPT OUT OF THE STATE TEST: The National Movement .

Two things developed rapidly from this point. I sent an email to Phil, drawing his attention to the United Opt Out website, while at the same time I asked to join the Facebook group.  The response was quick and I then posted a message:

“Hello from New Zealand. This is an excellent resource, to accompany your website. We’ve got a similar battle on our hands, trying to stop the government’s agenda to impose national standards on our schools, with the accompanying ideology that is clearly being imported from USA. At the moment, we are dodging a nationwide testing regime but I think that’s only a couple of years down the track. An equivalent Facebook page to this has now been set up to give parents and teachers a voice to counteract the misinformation coming from the government which is propagated by compliant media.”

This also included a link to two New Zealand Facebook pages, that have recently been set up to facilitate our own battle against standards:

National Standards Must Go

Protect (Parents’ Rights On Their Educational Choices Today)

This approach was very warmly received by many people on the Opt Out Facebook page, and led to other similar USA Facebook pages:

Uniting for Kids

Parents & Kids Against Standardized Testing

I posted the same message here, and the response was equally warm, with the same astonishment about the situation here in New Zealand. The rapid connecting of educators with similar concerns led me to the realisation that using Facebook, and other social media, could be a very powerful tool to build a world wide group of educators and parents engaged in the battle to protect public schooling. The image  that came to mind was that of a snowball growing in size as it rolls, not that I’ve ever seen this. Already I have made many new Facebook friends from the USA and we are sharing resources and supporting each other. McLuhan’s global village concept is being used to grow the battle to prevent corporatisation of public schooling wherever it rears its head! How wonderful.

At the same time, Phil had left contact details on the website, and the response was equally swift. Both our approaches were received very warmly, albeit with a considerable degree of shock that both Australia and New  Zealand, long viewed as setting the exemplar for progressive primary school education, were now going down the very limited, restricted assessment/standards based road that this group were fighting.  This was accompanied by an equal shock that the USA was exporting the testing/standards mania to other parts of the world. This concept, it seems, had not entered their awareness.

Phil raised the possibility of a specific section set up to connect to the South Pacific. This was rapidly approved and set up, so that there is now a tab on the United Opt Out website called “Global Outreach” and through that there is a subsection: South Pacific Outreach: Australia and New Zealand. This is still in development, with the aim being to provide a forum for two way sharing of related issues and concerns.

Things have moved very fast over the last week, to the point where Australia and New Zealand’s move to standardised, assessment focussed education featured as a key part of an eastern USA radio show. Listen to this, because there is gold in here.

Such is the power of the interconnected nature of our world, that our Australasian battle is being publicised in the USA, which can’t be bad, and hopefully our support from down under will help our American colleagues in their similar battle.

So much has happened, so quickly, that the potential of this is very clear. I encourage everyone to visit all these Facebook pages and either ‘Like” or ‘Join” as appropriate. Let’s build a huge world wide movement. We don’t yet have links to similar Facebook pages from Australia, Canada, and England, as well as other countries with similar issues, so links to these would be a great boost to growing this ‘snowball’. Together we have great strength.


Thank you Allan. Please don’t miss any of the references. There is some super material.

Thanks to the wonderful staff at for allowing those of us in New Zealand and Australia to join you

Phil Cullen

41 Cominan Avenue

Banora Point

Australia  2486

07 5524 6443





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