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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The logic of the 11+

We have all used the technique refined by Socrates of asking questions when we already know the answer.

At a very simple level the question: “Have you been a good boy today?” can be a really cruel question when you know very well that your son has just spent the afternoon playing on his play station. If you knew that he had spent the afternoon on his play station, why did you ask the question? Quite simply you wanted your son to take responsibility for his actions.

Socrates was very involved with the moral aspects of life. He used his question and answer technique to encourage people to think clearly and avoid red herrings.

Sometimes, however, the questions Socrates asked did not have straight forward answers. He might have asked, for example, “What is right and wrong?” This would give very different answers to a more specific question like: “What are the right and wrongs of playing on your play station when you should have been doing an eleven plus paper?”

I am sure we have all been told at one time or another that we should never ask a question if we did not know the answer. Socrates used questions to encourage a person to examine his or her beliefs. Once the beliefs have been `extracted’ then Socrates forced his students to examine the validity of their beliefs.

So once you have `extracted’ the answer about the reason why the afternoon was spent on the play station you then have to encourage your child to present a valid answer. Don’t be surprised if your ten year old has a perfectly valid answer:

“Mum, I played on my play station because we finished all the eleven plus papers last week and you said that you were going to the shops today to buy some new papers.”

A valid and logical answer! Socrates would have been proud of your son!

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