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Mansel
History, perhaps the subject closest to the heart of Time, is taught to everyone for the first three years. It seems to deal mainly with English History from the Norman Conquest up to about Henry VIII, and with the lives of Royalty. It might as well have been Egyptian History up to the building of the Great Pyramid. How many of these boys find anything in it to give them a sense of their place the world? There is nothing of Wales. Nothing of the ordinary people - the Gwerin. Geography, also, seems to ignore the fact that the school is in Wales. The Head of Geography is Mr. Thomas Evans, “Long Tom” whose domain is on the top floor close to the Staff Room and above the old kitchens.
The sciences are mainly represented by Physics, Chemistry and Biology, all in their own laboratories, presided over by Messrs. “Dalla” Jones, “Conchie” Williams and “Dai Cube” Davies respectively. There is the option in the fourth form to take Geology (Mr. “Jenks” Jenkins) as an alternative to Biology. Time smiles benignly on the content of the courses which generally feature facts that were freshly discovered in the nineteenth century or earlier. Einstein is not to be heard of. The splitting of the atom does not happen in Aberdare. Though a few boys may well know something of such things thanks to the town library.
And so we see a strange thread running through the whole syllabus: it is well designed to enable the boys to live in the past! There are echoes of the public school system that, it is said, prepared boys to run the British Empire. An Empire now also in the past of our boys. But they will in fact be forced by all-powerful Time to live in the future. A paradox. But it is an inevitable paradox, given that every generation refines from its experience those things that seem valuable in its own time, and passes them on as pure gold. However, by a reverse alchemy, the gold can all too often turn to lead and a dead weight. Time sees fathers teaching their sons the skill of archery in a world where the gun is soon to reign supreme; teach their sons the invaluable skill of home weaving as the great mills are starting up; teach them that a sure way out of the backbreaking labour of the mines is to become a Minster at a point where the chapels are about to close.