Thursday, June 21, 2007

Griffith Jones, Llanddowror: The Method of Teaching

Is it possible to learn to read in a few months? Two things helped the scholars at the circulating schools. The first was the enthusiasm of the scholars, and the second that Welsh is a phonetic language, with none of the subtlety of English when it comes to spelling. Equally, teaching was from the Bible and cathechism, texts with which the scholars were familiar.

The scholars were taught to recite the catechism by heart, along with verses from the Bible. The method was rote learning and memorization, a simple method. Given the goodwill of the clergy, it was possible to run the schools cheaply, local chapels or churches serving as school-rooms, lent gratis, or houses hired on reasonable terms.

The schools were not welcome everywhere, however. With the start of the Methodist Revival in 1735, some came to see the Circulating Schools as Methodist missionary agencies. Given that Howell Harris and Howel Davies, early leaders of the Revival, were both teachers in the schools. The common people, robbed of some of their companions in sin, would sometimes attack the schoolmasters, as in one case in Denbigh. Evan Williams, a methodist and teacher with the circulating school , Llyn, was told by local ruffians that he was not wanted. On Sunday, he heard the clergyman preach a sermon against the schools and methodism. On leaving the church, Williams was attacked, stripped and beaten.

Griffith Jones was told by certain clergymen in the Diocese of Bangor that his circulating schools were not wanted, as they caused people to worry about their salvation, and the masters were accused of being Methodists and Dissenters, or attacking the Church of England.
As a member of the Church of England, indeed, an ordained clergyman, Griffith Jones could not have supported such talk, if it was used. Indeed, the continuing Methodist Revival was proving difficult to the Circulating School movement.



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