Back in the early days in Rome most teaching took place in the home. The early Romans followed the ancient custom of passing on literature and commentary through word of mouth. Children used to sit at the feet of their parents to learn.
Boys used to go with their fathers to their places of work. They learnt the business from the bottom up. Boys were encouraged to conduct themselves in the same way as their parents. Girls learnt the art of home management from their mothers. Early Roman education was vocational and practical.
Later on the Romans embarked on a series of wars. Some become rich and acquired slaves. Some of the slaves from other lands were highly educated. A number of the slaves were Greeks. The Romans thus acquired the language of civilisation. The roots of the eleven plus were born!
We know of grammar schools being established in Rome around 230BC. It was only a few years later (around 160 BC) that grammar schools teaching rhetoric and philosophy were established. Not everyone in Rome was pleased about the way the grammar schools were educating – and around 96BC some grammar schools were closed because of the way they were teaching philosophy in Latin!
We can see that were divided opinions about grammar school that began many years ago! The Romans wanted a practical education while the Greeks advocated a more cerebral and academic education. No wonder that the Romans thought the Greeks were effeminate, while the Greeks thought that the Romans were barbaric.
In today’s world it is possible that some children from comprehensive schools would perceive some grammar boys as being effeminate – while a few grammar boys possibly think that elements within the comprehensive are barbaric!
Recent developments within schools still reflect different opinions on how children should be educated. Some of the more traditional comprehensive school are being broken up and are re-emerging as specialist Academies. Grammar schools too are becoming specialists in a variety of guises – from science to maths and computing while others are enjoying specialism within languages.
The days of grammar schools relying on Latin, Greek and rhetoric are long gone. Any self respecting grammar school will offer a bouquet of courses. If there are subject combinations that cannot be satisfied is always recourse to facilities at nearby school. Schools do not cater for the ability of a boy or a girl to be able to wander around after mother or father learning the trade from the bottom up.
We see in corner shops children sitting on counters watching their parents selling newspapers and bread to the general public. But these children do not grow up to work with their parents – they go onto university to become doctors and dentists.
It is unlikely that the Eleven Plus will every return to the `Good Old Days’ of Latin, Greek and rhetoric, but some children, I should imagine, would welcome a break from the bland diet of eleven plus paper after eleven plus paper.