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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Pigs, Horses and the Eleven Plus

Some children appear to be able to sail through an examination and `take it in their stride’. Other children seem to fear an examination. Is eleven plus fear to do with what will actually happen in the examination – or the consequences of failure? Could it be a combination?

Fear is as old as humans have been on this earth. There can not be a culture or a creed where fear does not play a part. We can think of babies fearful of loud noises. Fear of the unknown must play a part through the lives of most of us. Some very fortunate people are able to block fear. Others seem to thrive on fear and go on to achieve great things.

In some ways we are fortunate man does not needs to rely on fear as much as animals and birds appear to. Yet as adults we sometimes use fear to try to mould and direct children. I once heard parents telling their child that if he did not pass the eleven plus he would be sent back to the `home’ country to live and work in a boarding school. I know of a different family that actually did that!

Fear has many manifestations. The story goes that there was once a group of wise men and women at a state dinner who argued about the number of teeth in a horse’s mouth. The topic came up because the dinner included a pig’s head on a plate. The teeth, in this case, were there to see. None of the guests were prepared, at that moment, to find a horse and count the teeth. Some of the guests may have been prepared to put their hand into a horse’s mouth to count the teeth – others may have been a little more fearful. The mouths of how many horses needed to be counted?

All this to say that no matter how carefully some parents try to convince their children to banish fear in the eleven plus – the fear may continue. Eleven plus fear may diminish in time through doing papers and exercises but for some children the fear of the act of writing the examination may continue before during and after!

Some parents may care to ask their child about eleven plus fear. Is it easier to open a horse’s mouth, press the tongue to one side, and count the teeth or struggle with a few eleven plus questions? Ask your child how many mouths would have to be opened before deciding that the teeth counting results were fair? Ask too about how much age had to be taken into account. Does a foal have the same number of teeth as a mature horse? Will an eleven plus paper dribble all over you? Can an eleven plus paper bite? Ask your child if he or she would rather count teeth in a stuffed pig’s head on the dinner table or in an open field with a semi wild horse? Ask then if an eleven plus paper under examination conditions may not be an easier exercise.

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