The 11-plus sensation

3rd June 2011 at 01:00
31 January 1958 - Newspapers 'lash the public into a frenzy' over selection

The 11-plus is being turned by politicians and newspapers into one of the popular sensations of our times, something always worth space, like the mesalliances of film stars or teenage vice.

The latest outburst was caused by the publication in a national newspaper of three questions in a general intelligence test that was going to be taken by Leeds and other schoolchildren that day.

Although there were 300 questions in all and it is extremely unlikely that Leeds' 11-year-olds are much given to reading newspapers at breakfast, the press seemed to think that a great principle was involved. Leeds and other Yorkshire education offices were besieged with inquiries about whether the examination would be cancelled and so on.

Of course, the newspapers have it on their side that the examinations are an eminently respectable subject and parents are undoubtedly and properly concerned about them.

But does the campaign to lash the public into frenzy about the inevitable procedure - for selection is bound to happen somehow - do anyone any good? What is the point of magnifying every little pinprick that life sends? Is a universal featherbedding what our newspaper vigilantes really want?

Some of them do harm to their own political allegiance, for selection at every stage and age is part and parcel of the opportunity state. Abolish it because of the squeals and the newspapers would soon be full of stories about the slackness of our education system and the brute ignorance of its products.

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