three R's

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three R's

The fundamentals of education, as in It's a terrible school; the children are not even taught the three R's. It is widely believed that Sir William Curtis, an alderman who became Lord Mayor of London, once presented a toast to the three R's-reading, riting, and rithmetic-thereby betraying his illiteracy. In any event, the term was picked up by others and so used from the early 1800s on.
See also: three