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Thursday, August 07, 2008

Eleven Plus Gentlemen

Be yer of oure Lord, a pousand prehondred foure score and fyue, of the secunde kyng Richard after pe Concuest nyne, in all pe gramerscoles of Englelond children leuep French, and construep and lurnep an Englysch.

This can be translated into:

In the Year of Our Lord 1385, in the ninth year of Richard 2nd, in all grammar schools in England children are abandoning French, and are construing and learning in English.

Our fixation with Grammar Schools looks as if it goes back a long way. Long ago `civilised’ children were taught in French - as if it was the speaking of French that made a person into a gentleman and a scholar.

At our local Grammar School, Gravesend School for Boys, over eighty boys, who are about to enter Year 7, are on a week long course where they are immersed in French for a week.

I wonder if the reason is to make the boys into gentlemen or if it is to give the boys a good start in French.

When Henry the Fourth seized the throne in 1399 England gained a king whose mother tongue was English. In the fifteenth century very little French was taught because it was no longer the native tongue of England.

If anyone has any firm evidence that boys who enter Grammar School are likely to become Gentlemen – please share it with the rest of us.

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