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Thursday, February 01, 2007

The Importance of The Eleven Plus

Verbal Reasoning and Non Verbal Reasoning tests look at aspects of ability, intelligence and performance. The very next time you begin to question your intelligence - and that of your child - try to remember the words of the great philosopher John Dewey.

Mr. Dewey (1859 - 1952) was a pragmatist. In our eleven plus terms this means that he looked at intelligence as a practical, matter-of-fact way of approaching or assessing a situation or of solving a problem. He said, some years ago:

“This intelligence testing business reminds me of the way they used to weigh hogs in Texas. They would get a long plank, put it over a cross bar, and somehow tie the hog on one end of the plank. They’d search all around till they found a stone that would balance the weight of the hog and they’d put that on the other end of the plank. Then they’d guess the weight of the stone.”

We are going to be rather hard pressed to find Texas hogs in England - unless some rare breed pig farmer has imported a number. Perhaps we can find local farmers who can rent us a pig for a morning.

Picture the scene. A car arrives at the pig farm. Father and mother climb out holding rope. Children climb out holding verbal and non verbal reasoning books. Dad takes the plank off the roof rack. Mum takes the cross bar out of the boot. Both parents lift the collection of heavy stones out of the boot.

The pig arrives. Dad says: “I am not picking that pig up!”

Mum says: “Just do it. No more talk - just get on with it.”

Children giggle.

While the pig is lying trussed to the plank the children read verbal and non verbal reasoning questions to the pig. (The farmer has already taught the pig to grunt once for A, twice for B, three times for C and four times for D.)

Parents carefully load the other end of the plank with stones. At last the pig and the stones balance themselves out.

Great cheers from the family. The farmer beams happily. The pig sighs contentedly. The stones stay silent. The reasoning questions are answered.

The family are in balance. For a few moments the importance of the eleven plus examinations in reduced to a pig lying on a plank. Bliss!

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