The cruelest cut

The cruelest cut happens in the UK at age 11 or 12.  It happens to boys as well as well as girls.  It happens when they have to take the 11 plus.

 The envelope comes.  Your mother opens it. ‘Oh’, she says. He voice drops.  ‘You’ve failed’. 

 That’s it.  You’re 11-years-old and your life is over.  Yes it is.  Set for you to become a plumber, a nurse, a secretary.  All noble careers, but careers that will be achieved through failure not success. 

 The 11 or 12 plus creates an immediate and life-long population of second-class citizens. It creates segregation between communities, within communities, and worst, within families.  The sister passes, the brother fails.  That’s it. Forever different.  She’ll go to the grammar.  The school with the certain colour uniform.  The uniform of success.  He’ll put on the other uniform. The other colour. The colour of failure.  She’ll always be the achiever.  He’ll forever be the one who isn’t. And everyone will know.  All the family. All the friends. All the neighbours. All future universities. All future employers.

 Sure.  They’ll tell him he’s good at art, at theatre, at whatever.  But he’s forever at the losers’ school. On the failed track.  With no chance of parole.

 Why can’t we all be in the same schools, in different streams?  Have a chance to be in the top stream for one subject, the bottom for another. Or whatever’s right for the individual who’s good at different things. Have the chance to be the best in something.  In music, in art, in design. To be the best in the whole undivided school community.  

 And have the chance to get better at other things. To improve. To be motivated by the chance to move upstream.  Have a chance that is always there. 

 But not there if you’re segregated into another school.

 Set me on the path to being a plumber, or a nurse, or a secretary, but let me get there through pride not failure.  Believe me, I’ll feel better about it.  I’ll be more motivated. I’ll do a better job.  There’ll be less resentment, less elitism, less division. My family, my community, my country will benefit.

 Don’t do it UK.  Don’t cruelly segregate your people.  I know how it feels, what it does.  It happened to me.