Friday, 15 April 2016

How SPaG ends up testing children's home life

On SPaG papers there are Qs where you have to link synonyms or antonyms. These aren't spelling, punctuation or grammar but a carry-over from Victorian vocabulary exercises. In theory they are testing some kind of dubious semantic principle that words have identical twins or true opposites. They don't. Words are different, in different ways and better to explore these than spot 'ideal' identical or opposite partners. 

Even so, if the test was to see if kids 'got' the principle, the test would use simple and obvious words. No, they put in hard words relying on a cultural background in wide sophisticated reading and talk. Here's one example from a SPaG test. The child has the following in a pool and has to pair up the words into antonyms: meandering sympathetic evade plausible confront unfeeling unbelievable straight.

So really what they're testing is the child's cultural background, it's mostly a Q about children's home life, actually disguised as something else. 

Pointless, useless SPaG rules ok.