Easter reflections on NAPLAN Online and Safe Schools

Easter signals a time of new beginnings, a celebration of the spring Goddess (antipodes). Some think of the Germanic Ēostre, the Greek Eos, or the Roman Aurora. There are other characterisations. However one regards Easter, it is a time for spending time together and reflecting.

Easter, like spring, celebrates the possibility of the new. Transition from an old to a new is progress, but regression from the new to the old is also possible. These transitions have traditions too, the Greeks had the vanquished Titans and the victorious Olympians. The Olympians had the fabulous Dionysiac forces of creative-destruction; forces appropriated for capitalism by the economist Schumpeter.

The old is associated with violent struggles exemplified in Greek mythology through the authoritarian Cronos who wielded the harvesting scythe. Christian mythology has the one vengeful god of the old testament. In each tradition, the new is associated with plurality and greater shared understanding.

The Easter festival of spring brings hope for a new way of being. A hope to move away from the old violent confrontation of the Titans, towards the pluralistic understanding of the Olympians. A transition talked about by Confucius when he asks never to impose on others what you would not choose for yourself.  This maxim has had variation over the centuries and is a sentiment that asks us to consider a range of narrative traditions other than our own.

I have been reflecting on these things since reading Nietzsche’s Birth of the Tragedy over the weekend, it is a book that draws on the Dionysiac tradition of Greek theatre. I have been reflecting on what these myths can tell us about the NAPLAN online, and about Safe Schools.

Over a decade ago, I was fortunate enough to find myself leading a team implementing the first computer-based assessment in PISA. It worked, as no one was watching. The technical innovation was mainly created by university students, who made it look easy. The project brought together item developers, film directors, animators, software developers, psychometricians and field operations experts. It worked because experts in each field recognised the needs of experts in other fields. For me, it demonstrated the plurality of Olympus, and the plurality of the new testament. This project allowed me to glimpse in what the future might look like.

Off course, the future did not arrive. Instead of progress, there was regression. There was money to be made and the Titans with singular interests returned.

While I have no details, I imagine ten years later NAPLAN online is still stuck in that destructive battle of the Titans.  NAPLAN online is a task eminently doable, it could have been done several years ago. But I imagine that people are fighting for their own vested interests, with an unwillingness, or an incapacity, to consider the perspectives of others.

Regression is also evident in the battle over safe schools, a failure of one to see the point of view of the other. A failure to see a plurality of views, regressing to a clash of the Titans.

To save NAPLAN online, to save Safe Schools, we all need to morally develop so that we understand a plurality of perspectives.  And while the mortal Titans fight, the Olympians’ unquenchable thirst for laughter will remain.


Approach drawn from

 Olympus Inc : Intervening for Cultural Change in Organizations – Neville & Dalmau
The Birth of Tragedy –  Nietzsche 

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