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Sunday, March 07, 2010

The Eleven Plus Gang

“I leave the eleven plus stuff to my wife.”

“I don’t do the eleven plus. My husband does all the work.”

“My mother is a retired teacher and she does all the eleven plus work with her grand daughter.”

Some of the more entertaining of the eleven plus questions must pull all of the family in. Parents have the ability to do well at most eleven plus questions because they have wisdom and experience. These are great substitutes for burning desire and ability.

The role of an observer to the eleven plus journey is not always straight forward. The word ethnology springs to mind. An ethnologist is a person who studies the many facets of other humans. One such man was the sociologist William Foote Whyte. He made a study of an Italian slum corner just before the Second World War. He met up with the leader of the gang and gradually became assimilated into the gang’s various activities.

Whyte learnt to speak Italian and took part in many of the gang’s activities. He was taught how to gamble and to bowl. He also engaged in other activities that have no part in the rambling of an eleven plus blog. Gradually he became more and more involved in the life style of the gang – and then he suddenly realised that he was no longer an observer – but was an accepted member of the gang.

Much the same feeling of `incorporation’ must occur during the approach to the eleven plus examination. Bit by bit members of the family have to become involved in the `eleven plus gang’. The eleven plus gang has to learn new and old facts. Work has to be done on papers. The question of timing becomes important. Forgotten skills and attributes have to be revived and brought into the open for scrutiny.

There will be a gradual shift of priorities where the observer becomes a participant. Once this paradigm shift is in place, the roles of the various members of the family will change. It may be that `mother’ has a hitherto unknown ability in solving anagrams and codes. The `father’ may be a true and sustainable expert in withstanding specious arguments about the value of study and the worthiness of reading. The younger sibling may have a more comprehensive knowledge of tables.

What the eleven plus child has to cope with is a shifting of the roles within the family. Some of the shifts could be seismic –almost like the displacement of rocks at a fault. Imagine that grandpa can do more than play golf and moan – he is really good at maths – and he can make jokes about how much to study! Auntie Isabella is not just the quickest slurper of a Martine in the family – she is also good at non verbal reasoning questions.

Little bit by little bit the eleven plus will become part of the history and the fabric of the evolving family. The family, for example, may start with assumptions about the candidate – and then find new facets that can be burnished and polished. The child may have categorised the family into different and discrete `units’ – and then finds that he or she has to re-evaluate and re-think his or her role.

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