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Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Eleven Plus and the Tarpeian Rock

There is a bit in Coriolanus (Act3 Scene 1) where Sicinius makes a bold statement.

“Bear him to the rock Tarpeian, and from thence
Into destruction cast him.”

You will recall, no doubt, your English teacher holding forth on the rock of Tarpeian. You will probably also remember who Tarpeia was. She was a vestal virgin who agreed to open the gates to the Sabines if they would give her what they wore on their arms.

The Sabines kept their word – but crushed her to death with their shields. She was buried in that part of the hill called the Tarpeian Rock. From that day on traitors were cast down from this rock and were killed.

The Sabines, as you well know, were the women who tried to stop a war by throwing themselves between the warring men. History tells us they were successful.

Some eleven plus children, when they see `that verbal reasoning book again’ may care to find a large hill. No self-respecting eleven plus child would do anything ill-considered like tearing out pages and casting them to the wind. No, the family would accompany their child to the summit. They would gather around in a strong family circle.

“Now dear, read number five again.”

“Oh! Do I have to?”

“We will do this together.”

“All right then. `Choose a number between one and ten that has the same number of letters when written in full as the value of the figure it represents’.”

“Any ideas?”

“Well you are my parents, and I respect your efforts. I feel as if I am between a rock and a hard place. I wish I did not have to do verbal reasoning. But if you promise to give me some bracelets for my birthday, I promise to try this question.”

“Come on dear, what is the answer?”

“How many bracelets? Can there be four?”

“Four! How can you ask that of us? I am not happy!”

“No, I mean `four’.”

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