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Monday, August 11, 2008

The Eleven Plus Cuddle

Back in 1912 Marie Montessori wrote a book called `The Montessori Method’. She was born in 1870 and was the first woman ever to be granted a medical degree by an Italian University. She worked with children who were considered `defective’ and raised their academic standard to the levels reached by normal children. She then went on to raise academic standards in normal children. I have a copy of the 1964 edition.

What would she have made of our Eleven Plus children? We are talking about our bright, well educated children who have been offered every advantage at home and at school.

In Chapter One of `The Montessori Method’ she had the heading:

Stationary Desks and Chairs are proof that slavery still exists in schools.

While she was writing about tables and chairs she wrote: `Here we have striking evidence of the errors of the early materialistic scientific pedagogy which, with mistaken zeal and energy carried the barren stones of science to the rebuilding of the crumbling walls of the school.’

An Eleven Plus parent naturally can say: “Go to your room and do some work!”

An Eleven Plus parents can also say: “Let’s sit on the carpet, turn the T.V. off and work on this together.”

Is this what Marie Montessori was talking about? Should we be able to expect a bright eleven year old child to be able to work quietly on a paper? Is telling your child to do some serious work in the bedroom a form of slavery?

Montessori goes on to talk about the sorry spectacle of a teacher who has to `pour cut and dried facts’ into the heads of scholars. She is concerned with the education of children who have to have the intellectual contents of school programmes `poured into their intellect’.

Our Eleven Plus children do need to learn some cut and dried facts. Our Eleven Plus children do need to have prescribed programmes `poured into their intellect’. Organised programs of work are necessary to help our children pass the examination. But every parent knows that a stolen ten minutes of going over a problem, while lying on the carpet, can be the highlight of the day.

I imagine that every single Eleven Plus parent is really good at the celebrated `Eleven Plus Cuddle’.

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