My teachers taught me too well...

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I was startled to hear the news over the weekend that two children, or erstwhile children, are suing the school they attended for not giving them sufficient education, which I presume means not enough GCSE certificates. The reason I was startled is that I am engaged in exactly the same lawsuit with my old school, except that it is in reverse.

I am suing my old school for over-educating me.

Yes, my claim is that by giving me too much information and instruction my old school has tended to make my life a misery.

A simple example: my main interest at school was in modern languages. I was especially interested in the origins of words, and was delighted to find when I got to university and started doing medieval French, that the evolution of words linked up with my memory of Latin - that is to say, that you could trace a modern French word like "navire" meaning ship right back to Latin "navem" through all the intervening stages.

("Navem", as I remember led to the medieval word "nef", meaning a ship, but this got shortened and eroded, and was replaced by a longer diminutive of the same word, which gave us "navire". Much the same happened to the Latin word, "apem", meaning a bee, which gave the medieval word "ef". Any word as short as "ef" is doomed to extinction, and it was duly replaced by "abeille" which comes from "apiculam", whch is a diminutive of "apem"...)

I can remember, too, learning a short list of words which are the only remnants in modern French of Celtic words which actually predate the Roman invasion, and which have thus survived two thousand years and which were there before the Romans brought Latin in. One of them was "luge", the name for that ridiculously large sledge in whch people use gravity to get from nowhere to nowhere...

If the reader is by now nodding off at this recitation of dusty and probably misremembered philological facts, you can imagine what sort of a conversational bore I have been in my life at dinner parties, book launches and Millennium celebration committee meetings. I only had to bring the subject of word derivations up for my friends to begin to yawn and wives start to speculate about the French word for decree nisi. "I see that the Norwegians got the gold for the luge again," I would hear someone say, and I would be off before you could stop me.

I blame my education. There were things I was taught that I should never have been taught, and which have blighted my life. Among the many other subjects which I blame my old school for over-educating me in are ...

1 Maths. I was taught the basic rules of chance, and the law of probability. For this reason I am doomed never to have the fun of buying a lottery ticket, as I know the odds are too heavily stacked against me.

2 English. I had the basic meanings of words like "refute" and "infer" and "disinterested" dinned into me, and now I cannot hear them misused without either having dyspepsia or feeling the urge to correct the misuser, which often leads to a biff on the nose.

3 English literature. I was introduced to Jane Austen by an over-enthusiastic teacher when I was 12, which was far too young for me to appreciate them, and I have never been able to face her since, as my favourite auther in those days was Conan Doyle, whom, indeed, I still prefer. As a result I cannot watch costume drama on TV these days, as we are fed a non-stop diet of Emma this and Elizabeth that when I would much prefer Brigadier Gerard or Rodney Stone.

4 Games. I was taught at school that rugby was a fast, flowing, skilful and exciting game, or at least that that was the way to play it, and am thus unable to watch what passes for the game today with any pleasure at all.

5 Logic. I was taught the basic rules of logic, and thus cannot listen without nausea to Any Questions, the Today programme etc, as on those programmes they conduct what passes for conversation without any question ever matching any answer.

6 French. I ended up speaking passably good French, which means that the average Frenchman has more fun pretending he cannot understand me than he would with someone he really cannot understand.

I blame my over-education for many other things ( for instance, I blame many years of forcible chapel-going for the fact that I am now a devout agnostic ) but that will give you an idea of how my law suit will be argued. I will let you know how I get on...

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