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What is going on in Australian schooling?

By Phil Cullen - posted Thursday, 11 February 2016

When the Australian education system was hoodwinked into copying the New York testing-based system in 2008, it did not know what it was letting itself in for. Our leading politicians at the time, Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard and their neo-con. followers just accepted the word of a New York lawyer who assured them that fear-based techniques in schools worked best. He, Joel Klein, and his wife were staked to a travel down under by Australia's banking and large corporate high flyers to persuade other high flyers and their attendant politicians that his ideas worked. Politicians dared not question.

Put simply, his scheme was based on tests of those parts of the school curriculum that are easy to test. It had no legitimate educational, learning nor teaching basis beyond the ancient British Grammar School cum Gradgrind bang-crash-wallop gathering of data in a way that is sometimes described as 'instruction'. There would be punishments for those teachers, principals and schools who did not measure up . The NY organisational set-up made it easier for the fear-based-mode to work in that city, than the system did in Australia; that's why Mr. Klein could sweet-talk our Minister so easily. It also meant that the Murdoch press, and his ambitious neo-con politicians and hybrid testucators had to plan and scheme cautiously for Australian conditions. There was a risk at the time of introduction to Australia that the ethical members of the teaching profession would come out fighting with good old-fashioned Aussie spirit, but 'client capture' worked well on them. They were a push-over.

There was no protection for the full holistic curriculum, the life-sustaining, aesthetic, creative, mental and physical-based subjects. They are now ignored or down-played from January to May each year.


Things have worked well on all fronts for these Gordon Gekkos of the world. The raison d'etre for the system was that the sales of computers, testing papers, routine test-passing procedures, test-practising booklets and well as copious allied curriculum material would be on sale far beyond Manhattan. NAPLAN testing has nothing to do with school reform nor improvement nor does it have an Aussie teaching flavour of the kind recently described by quality teachers such as Kathy Margolis and Beatrice Stroud on recent talk-back shows. It is purely a money-making system, now kindly described in current literature as corporate education. Many people believed that it was a good way to smarten-up the system as it was; and would make schools and teachers work harder and become more accountable.

It is doing its job well on behalf of its owners, particularly Rupert Murdoch, who hired the founder of the New York and Australian systems of schooling, Joel Klein, to take over the running of his test publishing empire called Amplify. [His salary: $2.4 m p.a.] It has made billions of dollars for his organisation since it was incorporated, but cracks are starting to appear and there will be ramifications for Australia. Make sure you read this blog. or google "Bloomberg Klein"

The expected New York collapse of its fear-based schooling could have a positive impact on Australia as it should now no longer restrain News Corp outlets in Australia from printing the whole truth nor prevent its journalists and commentators from speaking out. This mushroom strategy has worked well for businesses like Amplify and Pearson, up until now. The absence of views expressed by dominant educators and learned societies from all over the world has allowed the hundreds of paid lobbyists in Canberra to tell politicians whatever they like; and to leave the general public uninformed. The lack of media comment on the 'virtues' of NAPLAN has been noticeable. At no stage has the press informed parents that they have a choice. Principals of schools are under orders not to do so; and even the scandal of this kind of administrative misbehaviour has not received a mention. The press have clearly supported the lie that the Tests were 'expected' to be done and that they were part of school routine, when, in fact, they were rudely dumped on schools by arrogant politicians. Very few present day parents know that they have a choice. As well, the media have been slow to lead discussion on the credentials of computers, said to be introduced to increase the speed of data processing. Someone might ask the cost; whether the money was a waste.

The 'controlled silence' has not encouraged the kind of debate which must occur before any further genuine learning-inspired steps are made.

Some genuine teachers have been shaking the captive chains. Unions and 'professional' groups are too frightened. Quality teachers, such as Kathy Margolis and Gabriel Stroud each with a strong professional conscience are coming out and expressing their ethical feelings. Now, the public might start taking an interest in the Treehorns of this world whose condition is ignored by Australian adults.


It's a good time for parents and teachers to have their say. It's election year . Politicians who ignore the present condition of children at school should start looking for another job. If they are not interested nor vocal about Australia's future ...its children...they should not have any such decision-making role.

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About the Author

Phil Cullen is a teacher. His website is here: Primary Schooling.

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All articles by Phil Cullen

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