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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Who really is the `Clever Clogs'?

We have all played the game `20 Questions’. Various forms of the game exist on radio, television, in homes and schools. In a formal setting the questioner has the name of an article on a card. The players are allowed 20 questions about the article to discover its identity. If the answer is guessed correctly then a point is awarded. At home the word is held in the questioner’s mind. I am sorry to report that this word can be changed in mid game depending on the pressure from the other players!

One of the most helpful questions is: “Is it animal, vegetable or mineral?”

Our average eleven plus child would easily distinguish between these three areas. When questioned about oil, for example, we would say `animal’ because oil is thought to have formed from small marine organisms.

The eleven plus child is, however, sometimes recognised to be a `clever clogs’. So if your loved one suddenly thinks of the word `protein’ do you call unfair? We know that proteins are compounds made from carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen. The proteins are present in small quantities in foods so therefore a protein is _______ .

So when the game breaks up in an uproar, and all around there are sulky faces, harping on about unrecognised genius, as responsible parents we simply pull the plug and start a different game with different questions.

What about: `We need food to grow. There are many people in the world who do not have enough food. There are some rather inhospitable areas on our earth where food is not currently grown. Can you think of any crops that could grow in parts of the Artic and the Antarctic?’

We pose the 20 Questions type of question because we want our children to think, argue, discover and enjoy a game.

The question about crops, food and Artic conditions requires a different type of thinking. If we become so blinkered that we tend to concentrate precious time on completing 50 verbal reasoning questions under specified conditions, then we may be stifling creative thought.

What could your child learn about growing food in cold conditions in the same amount of time as he or she would need to spend writing an eleven plus paper? How are you going to contribute to your child’s social conscience if you spend key growing up time working through papers?

We may not need to have much creative thought to be able to pass eleven plus examinations. We know that the examinations are looking for children who have ability at the top end of the scale. Some adults will live happy and fulfilled lives working at worthwhile jobs, and being wonderful parents, and be perfectly content not to have to solve problems about growing food in the Antarctic.

But as parents we do need to be able to quell a battle in the middle of 20 Questions when we have to argue why `corrosion’ is or is not a suitable word. What about the word `pollution’? Is it animal, vegetable or mineral?

But then we know that all parents are `clever clogs’. All parents know the answers to everything. Parents know how to stop fights and arguments. We don’t need a twenty question test to work out just how clever parents really are.

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