Eleven plus parents may sometimes be tempted to quote the claims of Dr J. B. Watson. He made statements and said that he was able to back up his theories by experimental science.
He systematically observed a large number of young infants. He found that he was able to provoke a limited number or reactions. He could make the infants kick, he could make them squeal and he could make them smile. He also felt that an infant would respond to a wink.
He is important to us today because his idea was that a child was a `tabula rasa’ – an open slate where anything and everything could be programmed. He said that this gave proof that all men were equal. Watson maintained that any difference between one human and another was due to environmental influences.
Dr Watson said that he could develop any infant to become an adult of a certain type. Do you want a doctor? Easy. Would you like your child to become a waiter? No problem. He felt that he could build a world of men and women of genius – and eradicate crime.
There was just one problem in his theorising. Although he was feted in the early days no one could replicate his ideas. In any case he was much too early in his thinking for any eleven plus parents because his hey day was between 1913 and 1925. It looks, therefore, as if parents of eleven plus children will need to rely on more than environmental stimulation.
There may be among us today some parents of pre eleven plus infants. These fond parents will be able to observe their children kicking, smiling and squealing – just like Dr Watson did. What our parents will struggle to do is to ensure that their very young children will be able read improving books, devour mathematics problems and enjoy a rush when faced by a verbal reasoning paper.
Parents of present day eleven plus children will know that early claims of genius are sometimes diminished when a child does not feel like doing any additional work. After all and half decent eleven plus child will be able to adapt intelligently to most given circumstances.
“Do you fancy a trip to the cinema?”
“Oh yes please. Do I have to do a paper first or can we simply go and have some fun?”