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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Twitter and the Eleven Plus

We must all, at one times or another, wonder at the sheer effrontery of the some of the verbal reasoning questions that our children are some times exposed to. Naturally every one reading this statement will be horrified to think that the words sheer and effrontery can appear side by side in a sentence. Perhaps we need to look back in history.

There was a Professor of the History of Philosophy in the University of Rome back in 1913. He (Gentile) wrote: “A text book is a text book: when it was written, and if the author was capable of thinking and living in his thought, it too was a living thing.”

The roots of Eleven Plus questions were founded fifty or more years ago. It is doubly sad that some of the questions do not seem to have changed. After all there has been an explosion of thought and volcano of new ideas about education, but the sober and sterile question much loved by the authors of eleven plus text books and papers still lives on.

If the early authors of eleven plus thought were capable of being alive I am sure they would be horrified to see just how little as changed. It is almost as if the constructors of todays `real’ eleven plus tests have simply not moved on ay all in their thinking.

When the children come to actually sit the examination they are sitting an examination prepared by experts at the height of their profession. These experts, we presume, have not been charged with finding new ways to select children for a changing society. Because all the selection material we are offered are remarkably similar, we must presume that the examinations are similar.

So what can the expert do? Invent a new kind of eleven plus test? Why not? Twitter was not around fifty years ago – yet I bet any self respecting eleven plus child could use and apply the concept in seconds. There would be little need for the child to sit through endless papers that cover much the same ground. Twitter would allow new strains and stands of thought to develop in the build up of the examination – and this could in turn influence the actual composition of the paper.

Perhaps Twitter is not the answer – but we do need to have a rethink of value of the eleven plus.

Gentile tells us (almost a hundred years ago}: “A pedant is the teacher who pins his faith in repetition and memorising.” It is a sorry thought that we need to rely so heavily of repetition and memorising to help children pass the eleven plus examinations. Perhaps we all need to have a far reaching twitter – and then we may have something that could be of real use to our children.

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