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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Eleven Plus Good and Evil

During the period of teacher training would be teachers are encouraged to develop their education and attitude towards children. Almost invariably their attention is directed towards Rousseau who is often considered to be one of the early seminal philosophers of education. My Everyman edition of Emile goes back to 1966.

Emile evoked such strong feelings, back in 1762, that the book was banned and consigned to flames. For the next eight years Rousseau led the life of a fugitive – hiding from authority.

At the beginning of Emile he wrote: “God makes all things good, man meddles with them and they become evil.” He wrote about how a boy called Emile was to be educated. He then went onto to write about Sophy – the girl who Emile was to marry.

How many parents of eleven plus children will recognise this passage in their own daughters? “A woman’s judgement develops sooner than a man’s; being on the defensive from her childhood up, and entrusted with a treasure so hard to keep, she is earlier acquainted with good and evil. Sophy is precocious by temperament in everything, and her judgment is more formed than that of most girls of her age. There is nothing strange in that, maturity is not always reached at the same stage.”

He could have been writing about a number of eleven plus girls with these worthy attributes:

Good judgment
Understand the difference between good and evil

Sadly Rousseau was not able to write about how Sophy was able to cope with verbal reasoning questions.

It is likely that Rousseau would have wondered at the need for questions that eleven plus children have to take for granted.

Take the following numbers in a `What comes next’ series:

9 5 8 4 7 3 ___

It is easy to see that a successful eleven plus candidate needs ability, interest, staying power and aptitude. Having good judgment and being mature are surely bonuses. It does seem likely, however, that it is possible to pass the eleven plus without really having the ability to distinguish clearly between good and evil. Would this be a more valuable asset in a grammar school girl?

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