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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Eleven Plus and the Long Neck of the Giraffe

How do you know if your child is bright enough to benefit from a grammar school education? Over the years many parents have followed the theory that there is a strong relationship between early training and the degree of intelligence or ability.

We can look at Thomas Babington Macaulay who became a poet, a historian and a statesman. He was educated at home by his parents before he was encouraged to go to school. Before he was seven he wrote a compendium of universal history. He started at the Creation and ended up with an account of present day events. When he was eight he wrote poems about historical characters.

It is thought that the majority of men and women who went on to do well in life were offered considerable support and help from their parents.  Some parents of the very bright took considerable pains to ensure that their children had learned their lessons.

The eleven plus, in its early days, was designed to try to find bright children from poor areas. It does seem as if some parents today feel that winning a place in a grammar school is an essential part of the development of their children. Present criticism of the eleven plus often seems to include the words: “A manufactured eleven plus pass.”

We went to London Zoo a few weeks ago. There were lots and lots of children from all over the world. We overheard one little one ask: “How did that giraffe get its long neck?” The mother answered: “From its mother.”

When I was a child we thought that giraffes developed their long necks when they were foraging for food. The really tasty leaves, for giraffes, were at the top of the acacia trees. Acacia trees are sometimes called `thorn trees’ – so a long neck was useful when gathering food. There was local folk lore that crushed seeds from the acacia tree were useful in helping with rabies!

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