Home' Independence : Independence Vol 31 No 2 Nov 2006 Contents Hitchcock film of the same name -- North
by North West. The blonde heroine, Eva
Marie Saint, is saved by the trembling
outstretched arm of the anti-hero, a close
brush with gravity, a reminder of the
weight of the past, a slim salvation.
The feeling we have that something else is
possible is a powerful motivator. If students
are asked to add all the numbers from 1
to 10 they will set about this task easily; if
asked to do this for all the numbers from
1 to 100, they will be convinced that the
method they know is inadequate. This
conviction leads students to discover a
way, or number of ways, to do this because
they cannot bear the tedium of what they
already know. They are convinced that a
new method can be discovered and, once
convinced, discovery usually follows.
Where there's a will there's a way. (It's hard
to resist the old joke about Shakespeare
being married to Anne Hathaway.)
They, in other words, are designing the
way forward. They are not stuck in
the past, working out why something
went wrong. They wish to advance,
acknowledging the past but recognising
that a solution will not necessarily come
from this source. The questions of what
to do with Sydney's cross-city tunnel or
the receding prospect of a desalination
plant are good examples of this "over the
shoulder", rearward kind of thinking.
Our schools must cultivate students who
cannot bear the tedium of adding all the
numbers from 1 to 100; they want to
advance in the new conditions, to say
what something should look like rather
than what caused it, a preference for
design over analysis.
The future will be secured by young people
who can think this way; those who can
conceive of a tomorrow driven by ideas,
by innovation, by a conviction of the
possible and the creation of a distinctly
Australian intelligence. These terms were
once thought to be mutually exclusive until
Barry Humphries defined an oxymoron as
a "Sydney socialite", presumably the only
ones now using the new tunnel.
The roses still need to be pruned, but let's
hope that there are some bright young
things out there turning new sods and
"stirring dull roots with spring rain".
Circle the word that doesn't belong:
red, green, heavy, blue.
If you circled "heavy" you removed the
item that doesn't fit; that is, "heavy" is not
a colour and therefore does not belong to
the set of things called colours. Right?
This question was one among many
others that were part of the original
Stanford-Binet IQ Test. These types of
questions are designed to test students'
ability to classify things, to group things
that go together and to separate those
that don't. This is more formally called
the "principles of collection" or, more
colloquially, "rules for making heaps".
These questions ask students to find the
rule or "pattern of consistency" so that
the bits that belong get included and the
bits that don't get thrown out.
There is a fairly well-known case where
a student answered this question by
circling the word "blue". Can you work
out why? After some investigation the kid
explained his reason. "Blue", he said, was
the only one of the four words which had
a silent "e".
The vowel "e" is pronounced as a short
"e" in red and "heavy" and a long "e"
in green but the "e" in "blue" is not
pronounced at all.
Your first reaction might be to think that
the kid is a bit of an egg-head or clever-
dick, noticing the structure of the words
rather than their meaning. However, his
explanation underlines an important
point about the way tests expect students
to respond, and what they fail to
measure. But according to that test there
was only one answer and the student who
circled "blue" had a lower IQ than all of
those who circled "heavy".
This example is not meant to denigrate
IQ tests: modern intelligence tests are
more sophisticated these days. The
Weschler Intelligence Scale for Children
(the WISC) is a reliable and valid measure
of a person's IQ. IQ was thought to
change very little between the ages of six
and 70, although new research suggests
that the brain is more malleable and IQ
can grow with practice. But the WISC
is nonetheless an important predictor of
a student's ability to do well in exams;
it measures verbal and mathematical
reasoning, speed and processing of
information, memory, general knowledge
Thinking about hats
They are convinced
that a new method
can be discovered
and, once convinced,
34 Independence Volume 31 No. 2
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