Natalie Solent

Politics, news, libertarianism, Science Fiction, religion, sewing. You got a problem, bud? I like sewing.

E-mail: nataliesolent-at-aol-dot-com (I assume it's OK to quote senders by name.)

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( 'Nother Solent is this blog's good twin. Same words, searchable archives, RSS feed. Provided by a benefactor, to whom thanks.
I also sometimes write for Samizdata and Biased BBC.)

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Tuesday, May 11, 2004
Some mild SATs paranoia. My daughter took her Key Stage 2 Writing Test today. (I was almost certain it was really called something posher than "writing test"; "literacy task graded functionality assessment" or something like that, but my husband says, woman, it's just a writing test.

Where was I? My blogging functionality self-assessment is dysfunctional owing to a mind/new Blogger interface adjustment timelag situation. Oh yes, I remember now: SATs.

The children were asked to write their opinion on a proposal to have the school day shifted earlier. Luckily for my daughter she had seen an item on the Children's BBC programme Newsround making the same proposal a few days ago and had sounded off about it then. This meant she had no trouble thinking of things to say in the test.

However she has advanced a theory about why this topic was chosen which at first I pooh-poohed in the way of a parent ever anxious to portray the world as full of Nice People (remind me - why do we do that again?) but which has begun to seem more believable as the hour grows later. It is this: the government are using the SAT test as the world's biggest unpaid focus group. She didn't put it quite like that, but you get the idea. And you know... it begins to add up. Consider:

  • The Newsround item was placed as a primer.
  • This would be a chance to take a snapshot of the opinions of an enormous sample - all the eleven year olds in Britain bar the small proportion at private schools.
  • The sample, or rather cohort, already has the right profile of social class and so on.
  • It surely wouldn't be hard to somehow get the markers to tick a box stating whether each kid was for or against, even though one assumes that a well-argued case for either side would get equal marks.

The main arguments that I put to my daughter against her theory were, "Why should they bother for such an unimportant issue?" and "Why bother with eleven year olds who are years away from being able to vote?" - but now as she sleeps I've come up with the answer to both: it's a trial run.

So if she's right we should expect to see future public examinations for near voting-age students asking questions about Europe or Iraq.

Incidentally, my campaign to convince my daughter of near-universal worldwide benevolence does not seem to have worked.