The education world is reeling today from the latest kick in the teeth for modern teaching methods. The Education Secretary has given the country's schools a deadline of March 1 2014 to revert to Roman numbers.
The idea is the brainchild a conservative think tank which has been charged with tracking down the causes of the decline in standards in the school system.
“You could point to a few different disasters in education down through our history as being the point at which the rot set in”, says Sir Crofton Wheatley-Travers, who authored the report outlining the reforms needed, “but I really think the setting aside of the old classical numbering system was the turning point – after that, you can trace a straight line of descent to pot-smoking teachers, sex education and the banning 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 V's, X's and C's – that was a real character-building exercise”, he says.
Classics graduate Boris Johnson has hailed it as a step towards a better understanding of Britain's Roman heritage, and says this development will make London “the hub of the Roman-based computer programming industry”, as IT entrepreneurs rush in to upgrade the education system's technology to the new format. Former MP David Chaytor goes even further. He wants the system to be extended to Parliament, with all MPs' expenses filed in this form, and “preferably itemised in Latin”.