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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Making Time to Talk

We like to think that the majority of our children are bright and talented. The problem we have is that not all of us agree as to what being bright and talented means. We can all agree that a nine year old heard playing the piano to a high standard is talented.

The same nine year old singing a Rock Dixie tune may not thought to be talented if the audience is expecting a Christmas carol. Being talented must, however, be more than individual taste. In the very early sixties the Beetles were talented and gifted musicians to some people – but not all. We recognise their talent now because they have been around for many years.

We all know stories of artists who were not recognised until well after their death. So is being gifted and talented a matter of style? A very wealthy banker with the ability to make lots of money is certainly talented in making money. We can naturally admire those talents – and the style in the way they live. But this is a very different type of talent to that extolled in the scriptures. The Holy Books – what ever the religion – talk about wise men and learned men. So is someone who is talented also wise and learned?

For many years schools have struggled to provide classroom experiences that encourage bright and able children. We want our children to be enriched in more that just academic ways. We want our children to be developed socially and emotionally. We want too some form of vocational guidance.

So we hope that a child with high intellectual ability has the opportunity to show talent and ability in fields far beyond attainment in mathematics and literacy. Not all children are good at music. Music can be taught but a child may not show signs of giftedness. In the same way areas like sport and other arts can be promoted and we can but hope that talent will shine through.

The problem with eleven plus examinations is that we feel we need to examine a child in great depth in relatively narrow fields. If we identify a child who can demonstrate the ability to move to higher grades and levels – then why can’t we allow some children to advance without undergoing special examinations?

If only the eleven plus examinations could also take into account wisdom and learning. How could you coach wisdom and learning? How would you test wisdom and learning? We all would like our children to be able to perform on a large stage, we also all want our children to be able to demonstrate good taste, compassion and indulgence.

If only we could follow the advice of the old Chinese proverb: “A single conversation across a table with a wise man is worth a month's study of books.” Surely we want our children to be taught and nurtured by wise and talented teachers and tutors. If only we could throw away some of the topics in eleven plus examinations and replace the content with discussion time. This would gift our children the opportunity to be able to access a wise person. I wonder if ten minutes a week of conversation with a wise person would not be of more use than being able to complete a verbal reasoning paper in 50 minutes - with a score of 96%?

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