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Monday, March 15, 2010

Eleven Plus Looks

Will it ever be possible to work out whether a child can pass the eleven plus by simply looking at his or her physical characteristics?

Way back in 1940 W.H. Sheldon put forward a rather elaborate scheme based on clinical data and body measurements. He was trying to find the correlation between endomorphy (roundness, softness of body build) and sociability - along with comfort loving. He also tried to find a correlation between mesomorphy (hardness and muscularity) and how vigorous, assertive and physically active a person is. Sheldon also tried to find the correlation between ectomorphy (a linear physique) with a person being reserved but mentally active.

Is a comfort loving and rather lazy person – who is mentally alert – likely to pass the eleven plus? Or is it a vigorous and active person? Is a child who play cricket for the country – and is in the top maths group going to be a better candidate than a softy who reads books and laughs at weak jokes?

Way back in medieval times phrenology was thought to give accurate measure of the worth of a person. Facial characteristics have long been thought to be important. The formation of the skull was also thought to give clues towards temperament and character.

If, and only if there was enough current proof of these theories, eleven plus children could submit a digitised photograph along with the application form for the eleven plus examination. The faces of the children could be analysed – and the results used to predict future success at the eleven plus stage. Dr. Martin Gruendl, of the Chair for Experimental and Applied Psychology, at the University of Regensburg, seems to have software that will allow a face to be analysed.

A computer would then scan the photos of the eleven plus candidates and then pick the faces that seem to fit the eleven plus model. This would save children a whole lot of hard work. A quick visit to a photo booth could be followed by a letter offering an eleven plus place.

One advantage of a scheme of this nature is that parents would not need to look for intelligent and hard working spouses – they could just go for looks. Brad Pitt `look a likes’ would not need to sing good karaoke – but could attract partners simply by being good looking and rich. Quasimodo, however, might have struggled a little as potential spouses worried whether his physical characteristics were passed on.

All this talk of beauty and analysis may seem to be very fanciful and nonsensical – but what about children who fail their eleven plus because they can not answer a question like:

Which is the odd one out?

3 x 8; 6 x 4; 7 x 3 and 12 x 2

As you child goes to bed tonight rub your hand in an affectionate manner over his or her head. Feel the bumps. Offer loving words of re-assurance:

“Yes dear, there is little need to worry; you do have the proud head of a successful eleven plus candidate.”

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