Plato, much loved by educationalists, philosophers and thinkers, used a rather complex simile to explain one of his more profound ideas. We need to imagine human beings dwelling in an underground cave – which is open towards the light.
They have been there since childhood with their necks and legs chained – and they are only able to look into the cave. There is a fire in the distance – with a bank between the imprisoned men and women. There are moving figures behind the bank who hold various objects – images of men and animals, ikons of stone and wood.
There are only shadows – and the sounds are vague, confused and fleeting.
If, however, the denizens are dragged up the slope of the hill into the light then they would be blinded by an excess of light. Only a few are able to make the transition from illusion to pure thought. The successful are required to return to the cave and save their fellows.
Helping an eleven plus child can be like this journey. You are aware that your child has nearly grasped a concept. You feel that you have almost explained how to do the process to the best of your ability. You know that before the actual examination you will need to do lots more revision and consolidation. You are just waiting for your child to `See the Light’.
Your friends will look at you with envy and wonder as you describe how you and your family left the confines of the eleven plus cave and reached a state of glorious illumination. They will bow before you and look upon you as a true leader. In your heart of hearts you, however, will know that revision and nagging really did work!