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Saturday, April 02, 2011

The Eleven Plus and the Neolithic Child

To put the current eleven plus into perspective we need to look back in time. The men women and children of England used to be hunters and gatherers. Life passed by relatively peacefully for thousands of years.

One day some enterprising parents said to their fist born - a child of around ten years old: “You seem an intelligent child. Take these few seeds and plant them over there beside the river. Build a little fence to keep out the wild pigs. When you grow up you will be able to support your family because you have specialised and have learnt things that other ten year old find difficult.”

The child said, “Thank you mother and father for this wonderful opportunity. I promise to water my plants every night. I will go down to the river to collect water. I will not watch the other boys and girls playing in the water. I will collect my water and do my duty.”

Mum and Dad were so proud of their child and said: “When you get to eleven plus years you will be well known because you have specialised. You will have learnt that life at eleven plus years in no easy sinecure – you need to keep working and doing your extra crop work. We have faith in you.”

“I know that I am just a Neolithic child – but I have great aspirations. I want to be the best Neolithic child in our neighbourhood. I want to learn tool making, growing crops and one day I hope to understand how a wheel works.”

“You can aim higher than that my child. You may need to learn a little algebra – but your Uncle Sam is good at that. He can show you why two huts plus one hut makes a little village of three huts. He will show you how you can abbreviate this to 2h + 1h to make 3h.”

“I am so pleased. I had hoped that when I reached eleven plus years I would become more educated.”

“But dear, Neolithic education comes at a price. Books have not been invented so you have to use traditional paints. If you draw a picture of a man and beside it you draw a woman you could be asked to complete the analogy `man is to woman as boy is to …. ‘ Do not paint the picture of the girl so that the Ancient Britons, when they come along, will have a little problem to solve.”

“Oh this will be fun. Do you think that there are any holiday courses?”

“Well dear, when you were only eight you used to say that holidays were for having fun and playing with your friends in the river. Now that your eleven plus years are growing closer I am delighted that you do not seem to mind giving up a little time to spend on revision of crop rotation, tool making and drawing. It is a pity that writing has not been invented otherwise you may have enjoyed writing a story about what you are doing over the holidays.”

“This really is amusing. I feel I am having a grown up conversation for the first time in my life. I am looking forward to my eleven plus years. I know that civilisation marches on relentlessly. I hope that my children enjoy the eleven plus as much as I did.”

“Well done my child. As I said earlier – we are proud of you.”

“Thank you so much - it makes me so happy when you praise me. Once again thank you for this eleven plus opportunity. I am off to be a happy little Neolithic star.”

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