PROFESSOR’S WARNING AT GRAMMAR SCHOOL PRIZE DAY
Demands of science must not narrow education
WE WERE CONSTANTLY being told of the need for technicians these days, and as a result, the demands of science and technology were such that specialisation was being pushed further and further back into our schools, said Professor Emrys Jones, Professor of Geography at the London School of Economics, speaking at the distribution of certificates ceremony at his old school the Aberdare Boys’ Grammar School.
Now, with the schools producing embryo physicists and engineers, students reaching the end of their grammar school careers already had their minds narrowed to half the world of learning.
“There is a danger that science in the specialist sense is beginning to breed a snobbery that is the antithesis of education,” said Prof. Jones.
Schoolboys spoke of being research-physicists and they were aiming for that long before they got to the university — as if they had already absorbed everything else that education could offer.
He did not blame the schools entirely. They were at the mercy of the requirements of the universities, who dictated very specific requirements in the scientific field — for example, anyone wishing to become a chemist had to study physics and mathematics.
Prof. Jones felt that if the amount of knowledge was growing so quickly in these subjects, universities should extend their period of training rather than expect schools to produce embryo scientists or engineers.
He continued: “It would be nice to think that at this stage you would not have to bother with the narrow demands which specialisation will make on you later. After all, knowledge is one indivisible whole. It is we who have pigeon-holed it into subjects; drawn lines between one compartment and the rest, and to such an extent have we done this that at higher levels we cross these lines at our peril — it is like walking into enemy territory.
“At your stage your minds are expanding, and really they should have as much freedom as possible, and be able to sample as many branches of knowledge as possible.”
FEET ON GROUND
Having stressed the width, breadth and freedom of education “until our heads were well in the clouds,” Prof. Jones reminded his schoolboy audience that when they put their feet on the ground once more, that ground was in Wales — in Aberdare.
What did this mean to them? It meant that however wide one part of education was, the other was quite narrow and restricted. They were being educated outside school as well as inside it, and he added: “This is what makes you belong to a place. Half an hour at a Latin Grammar is balanced by half an hour with the ‘Western Mail’ or the ‘Aberdare Leader’, a glimpse through a geography book is balanced by hours of rambling on these lovely hills, and your acquaintance with the world’s peoples will be very slight compared with your knowledge of the South Wales collier.
“In the first place you long to the Aberdare Valley and a Welsh heritage. This isn’t something which you must throw off, but something which is to be accepted in order to enrich your education.”
The tragedy of Wales was that its secondary and higher education was born at a time when Welsh speaking was looked upon as something to be ashamed of.
Deploring the fact that no one had taken Welsh at A level during the year for which certificates were being awarded that day, he said: “It is very sad as we prepare ourselves for a technical future embracing the cosmos that so very few in Aberdare can ever understand the rich heritage which could have been yours.”
His final word of advice to the students was: “Don’t ever forget the local and national environment in which you were nourished, to which you owe so much — your contribution to the life of the community will be all the richer and better for it.”
He thanked the headmaster and governors of the school for inviting him and his wife to take part in that year’s distribution of certificates ceremony.
“I would have deemed it a privilege to have been asked to do this at any school, but at my own school I consider it a great honour,” he said. “I can look back at the time I spent here with gratitude and affection.”
Expressing his pleasure at the fact that the school was maintaining its reputation, he reminded the present pupils of, the splendid tradition they belonged to.
Aberdare took its academic successes in its stride, because it and the country it was part of were “nourished on learning.”
After Prof. Jones had concluded his speech, his wife presented the certificates. She, too is from Wales, born in Anglesey. Although their two children have not lived anywhere else other than London, they are both fluent in the Welsh language.
This year’s chairman of the Valley Education Executive, County Coun. Jabez Jones, referred to the better education facilities which had existed in the second half of this century, and the opportunity it gave people from the most humble of homes to reach the very top of the ladder in so many spheres of life.
“Education is not a commodity you can buy — you can only achieve it by hard work,” he added. “Learn, learn is my advice to you — it will pay dividends in all things of life, and I am sure the County Education Committee will help you in all ways.”
He welcomed Prof. Emrys Jones as an Aberaman-born man, who was one of a pair of Aberdare cousins who had become professors. The other one was Prof. Alwyn Williams, of Belfast University, who would probably be asked to speak at a future Prize Distribution Day.
A speech was also made by the Chairman of the Glamorgan County Council, Ald. Tom Evans, J.P., Pontardawe, who recalled his first visit to Aberdare as a lad, and the splendid welcome and hospitality he had received here on that occasion and every time he had been here since.
At the commencement of the proceedings, County Coun. Jabez Jones referred to the death, following a car crash, of the County Director of Education, Dr. Emlyn Stephens.
“Dr. Stephens had a wonderful career,” he said. “He rose from the pit to be one of the giants of the education world.
The audience observed brief silence at the conclusion of County Coun. Jones’s remarks.
OLD BOYS WHO HAVE WON DISTINCTION
THE headmaster, referring to Professor Jones’s visit, said: “Those of you who attend these functions year by year will have noticed that in recent years we have not needed to go outside the confines of the school itself to find men qualified by personal distinction and the offices they hold to deliver the address.
“This year we have returned to the University world for our distinguished past student. The London School of Economics, University of London, is recognised as among the paramount university institutions in the world, and no one but an acknowledged master in this field can hope to attain professorial rank on its staff.
“Prof. Jones’s appointment brought distinction not only to himself, but also to the school which educated him.”