In a move expected to be marginally less unpopular and unworkable than most of his other ideas, Michael Gove has announced that from 2014 UK schools will revert to teaching in Roman numerals.
The idea is the brainchild of a conservative think tank charged by the Education Secretary with charting the causes of the drastic decline in school standards in Britain since the withdrawal of the Roman Empire in 410 AD.
‘Of course there are a number of disasters in education policy through the ages which caused the rot,’ said Sir Crofton Wheatley-Travers, who authored the report outlining the reforms needed. ‘The burning of the Great Library of Alexandria is one, and of course the fall of Constantinople another. All Labour’s fault. But I really think the turning point was the axing of the Classical numbering system – after that, you can trace a straight line to pot-smoking teachers, sex education and the end of flogging.’
Sir Crofton has a particular hatred for the zero, which he claims makes all the arithmetical processes too easy for kids. ‘Adding, subtracting and multiplying pages full of Vs, Xs and Cs – that was a real character-building exercise,’ he says.
Noted Classicist Boris Johnson has hailed the move as a step towards a ‘more sophisticated’ service sector and predicted that IT entrepreneurs will ‘rush to London like the forces of Lucius Hostilius Mancinus at the fall of Carthage’ to help British computers upgrade to the new format.
Former Conservative MP David Chaytor also supported the reforms, and argued that it should be extended. ‘We should certainly welcome this excellent idea,’ he said. ‘Parliament should lead the way – oh, I don’t know, maybe we could file MPs’ expenses in this format, and preferably itemised in Latin.’