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Precocious schoolboy behind the Ali G mask

HE may be the country's most famous celebrity-baiter, the foul-mouthed scourge of Posh and Becks and the man who once asked former education secretary Rhodes Boyson if universities should be open to "thick people 'cos they need it more".

But as a child, Ali G's alter ego Sacha Baron Cohen wrote of his enthusiasm for school and the chance to escape the damaging influence of...television, in an entry for a TES writing competition 22 years ago. The precocious eight-year-old was awarded a runners-up prize for his enthusiastic support of the educational establishment - albeit a slightly cheeky one.

In his entry, one of 11 published in The TES on May 9, 1980, when he was a pupil at the private Haberdashers' Aske's school, Hertfordshire, Baron Cohen writes that "school is a wonderful thing".

"My first lesson on Monday morning is English. This reminds us of the correct way to speak and write English. This is very important as most of the boys have been watching television and speaking with their parents all weekend."

However, his talent for mischief-making is already in evidence. "In history, for instance, I learn how the Stone Age people survived. This will help us through many bad English winters and strikes..." writes the politically incorrect youngster.

The entry is to feature in a Channel 5 TV documentary Ali G Before He Was Massif later this month, charting Baron Cohen's life pre-fame, including his time at Haberdashers' and Cambridge University.

The punchline for his TES piece does leave you wondering just how serious his youthful enthusiasm for education was, however. He suggests that adults should have to go back to school.

"That would make the world a better place, especially if teachers had to come back to school to learn again what it was like to be a schoolboy on a Monday morning."

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