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"There's no Welsh DNA. It's not genetic."

Comprising much of South Wales, from Cardiff to Swansea and the Valleys, Glamorganshire was one of the thirteen historic counties of Wales and a former administrative county. Its County Hall was the Edwardian 'Glamorgan Building', situated in what is now Cardiff’s Civic Centre in Cathay’s Park. The building has long since been sold to Cardiff University and is currently residence to the School of Social Sciences and the School of Planning and Geography.

I have come here today to meet with Dr Kevin Smith, who has recently published his book, ‘Curriculum, Culture and Citizenship Education in Wales'. Dr Smith's natural affability places you immediately at ease and he has managed to arrange for himself a very advantageous view of Bute Park from his office window. After having to inevitably explain that his distinct American accent is from Ohio, we sit down to discuss his family's relationship with Wales and his thoughts on citizenship education in his adopted country.

Can you tell us what first brought you to Wales?

It is a long story but I’ll try to be as succinct as I can. My Mother is from New Tredegar originally, and she emigrated to the States in the ‘60’s. She met my Father and that was that. I have two siblings but I was the only one who associated myself with Wales and Welshness and what not. You know I was always just fascinated that my Mother was different from the rest of the family. But she would say I’m not English, I’m Welsh, and I’d be like what does that mean? So growing up I’d try to get these distinctions from her, and of course talk to my Gran and Grancha*. Because they were in the Rhymney Valley they were almost incomprehensively Welsh while we were on the phone. So it was very romanticised with me growing up.

I was working as a 'Business Development Specialist' for a marketing company, but I just wasn’t happy. When my wife asked "what’s the problem?" I said "I don’t think it’s the vocation I think it’s the location, I think we need to pull up stakes and go somewhere, and I think we should try and go to the UK". So I set up job interviews in Cardiff and in London and on September 10th 2001 I flew out from Salt Lake City and we had an announcement on the aeroplane saying that there was weather in New York City and that we were going to lay over in Ohio. In Cincinnati the next morning I’m standing at the gate and 9/11 happens. So I’m calling my wife and we said: "I have no plans, I have a high-school diploma and then that’s it. If something like this happens again what do we have to fall back on and what do we really amount to as a couple and as a family?" So we made a decision that I’d go back to school. I did my Bachelors degree because I’ve always wanted to be a Teacher, and then I thought maybe I should do a Masters and a PHD. And when I was trying to figure out what I should study, I kept getting pulled back to these thoughts about my mother. I was talking to her about: "what was your schooling experience like in Wales? You say you’re not English you say your Welsh, but then I never hear you talking about things that young people growing up would talk about in terms of representations of their country and their culture and everything like that"? And she said: "we never learned about Wales we learned about England".

That’s what brought me to my doctoral thesis, a critical discourse analysis of the guidance for the 'Curriculum Cymraeg'. They call it a curriculum, and I struggle with that. I think it’s more of a philosophy or an initiative that tries to create an ethos in schools that children and young people feel like they’re going to school in Wales. So anyway, all of this stuff led up to me getting my PHD and we still tried to get to Wales. I sent out 75 job applications all across the world and I had a hand-full of interviews but ultimately we ended up going to the University of the South Pacific, and living in Tonga for 2 years. When I was working there, I was working with thirteen Pacific Island nations and putting together educational policies for Teacher registrations and certifications. And believe it or not, I’m in Honiara, Solomon Islands, at the airport, and I hear a Swansea accent. We got talking and they said: "there’s a job at Cardiff University you should look into". So that brought me here in 2013. Long story but there you go.

Your new book, ‘Curriculum, Culture and Citizenship Education in Wales’ was published in April I believe. Can you tell us a little about that?

It’s a short book that summarises about seven years’ worth of research in different areas of schooling, culture and curriculum basically. But also set within the wider auspices of citizenship education. Because the main vehicle for citizenship education in Wales – you have a three-pronged approach – you have the 'Education for Sustainable Development and Global Citizenship' (ESDGC), then you have your 'Personal and Social Education' (PSE), and then you have the 'Curriculum Cymraeg'. So the ESDGC and 'Curriculum Cymraeg' sits on top of the school organisation as these sort of blanket initiatives or policies that are just supposed to shape the way you think about what happens in schools. So everything that you do should be sustainable, should lead towards a global outlook, should be engaged in a kind of citizenship discourse. 'Curriculum Cymraeg' also has those aims, but then they also specifically address two things. One, that the 'Curriculum Cymraeg' is supposed to allow the pupils to develop their own sense of Welshness, whatever that means; the second is that they will appreciate living and working in Wales in the twenty-first century. Then the PSE curriculum sometimes serves as a catch-all type of subject. The kids learn about Health and Safety, STI’s and sex education, they learn about citizenship, those kind of things. It’s not a bad approach but it’s not amazing. If you think about citizenship, for instance, it’s such an important concept and we’ve kind of chucked it in to this weird lesson that doesn’t always address what it means to be a citizen and what are the duties, responsibilities and rights. How do kids know what their rights are if we don’t build a space into the curriculum for them to be cognizant of those rights and understand that they can express those rights? Or that schools should even have to acknowledge those rights?

In 2008 I did 50 ethnographic interviews with some students out in West Wales. They were Year 13 students and I asked them: "What is Welshness?” The findings from those interviews basically came out with young people had a very difficult time articulating Welshness, let alone culture in general. They didn’t understand what was the value of culture, what was the role of culture. Because they didn’t grasp those larger philosophical concepts about what culture is and what it does, they were mobilising very tokenistic ideas of what Welshness is: “On St David’s Day we eat cawl and I put a leak on my jumper”. So we had to excavate past all that surface stuff into talking about: “how do you and your family, you and your friends, make meaning out of your lives, out of your lived experiences here in Wales?”, and “how might that be distinctive set against other cultural ideas that we have”? So a lot of it was these kind of ideas about communitarianism, very strong communities, strong family relationships. Welsh language was popping up quite a bit but they also emphasised that even though they were compelled to learn Welsh they didn’t speak Welsh. They also didn't feel like they had to speak Welsh in order to feel Welsh. So it was complicated, but I think the main take away from those sort of things was that we needed a more sophisticated approach to talking about identity in schools.

So then fast-forward a few of years and I’m working at Cardiff University for the 'Wales Institute for Social and Economic Research, Data and Methods' (WISERD) – they really wanted that acronym right? We went into schools and we asked the kids all sorts of questions, but I was concerned about, of course, 'Curriculum Cymraeg'. So I took the two aims of 'Curriculum Cymraeg' and I wrote the survey questions: "How much do you agree with the statement that school helps me living in Wales?" and "how much do you agree with the statement that school helps me develop my own sense of Welshness?". And when the data came back less that 40% of the Year 8 children agreed with either, and it is less than 35% for the year 10 children. We can’t prove anything, this is only about their perception. But it’s an important distinction because the 'Curriculum Cymraeg' is supposed to be embedded in schools. You would think young people would be aware of it.

So in 2013 I went back into schools to talk to the Head Teachers. It's interesting, the primary sector Head Teachers were far more aware and far more engaged in creating a culture in the schools. Part of that is just the nature of primary schools. They are more plugged in to the schooling experience and an holistic approach. Secondary schools, in my opinion, are being forced into almost like a corporate model where their Head Teachers are being dragged into this sort of CEO state where they’ve got to run it like a firm. And they’re not teaching anymore and educational attainment only means what are our GCSE’s? What are our PISA results? It’s being instrumentalised to the point where things like ESDGC and the 'Curriculum Cymraeg' kind of fall by the way-side. When I interviewed the Head Teachers in secondary schools they understood the 'Curriculum Cymraeg' as primarily a language policy. I said: "how well is it implemented?" and they said "we do it really well". I said "how do you know it’s done really well?", and they would say: "well we use ten welsh words throughout the day". Bore Da, Dosbarth ‘waith, those types of things. So you can see it’s a very surface level sort of thing.

So then we went back with later questionnaires and we asked questions like: “Do you agree with this statement: If I could live anywhere in the world I would live in Wales“, or "When you’re an adult would you live in Wales? Definitely? Definitely not?" And the numbers tanked. You can imagine as the kids are coming out of primary school they’re very positive and as they go through secondary school they're attachment, their affiliation, with Wales erodes. You can expect that to a certain degree because their horizons are being expanded and they have dreams and aspirations. But you should think about this concept of 'Hiraeth' for instance, this concept of affiliation, of wanting to belong. Young people in their adolescent years want to belong. And so we have these challenging discourses kind of fighting each other, and it’s not being addressed in school. In my opinion, the 'Curriculum Cymraeg' is extremely inaffective as a curriculum, as we can see from the data and the way that the Head Teachers are talking about it.

So I went back into schools in 2014 and I interviewed PSE Teachers because I was concerned with how citizenship was being discussed in schools. How they might treat ideas of cultural identities and Welshness as a national identity. I interviewed twelve Teachers and they were saying that we don’t specifically address the idea of Welsh identity. Some Teachers said "I’ve got more important things to talk about, I’ve got to look at GCSE’s, I can’t worry about whether these kids feel like they’re Welsh or not". Some Teachers were great, saying they were having discussions about what it means to be Welsh and how children can access being Welsh. But they wanted more opportunity, more resources, to dig into this idea of an active Welsh populace, active in politics, active in their culture.

But the funny thing is you ask people what is Welsh culture, how is it different from English culture and it’s harder and harder to talk about the differences. And so we have these great Welsh traditions that were stamped out during the restoration with Cromwell, where they had Pagan roots to them. From about that point on through to the industrial era you can see this sort of emptying out of Welsh culture in Wales, where you kind of wonder now what kind of organic practices are there left that are recognised as being typically Welsh. What about the Lady Mair**? They do that at Christmas time and that’s a practice that goes back centuries? There’s another cool tradition – I can’t remember the name of it now – where kids go round and they throw a bunch of water around and sing and pick up sweets and stuff – I think that’s around Christmas time too***. You just don’t hear about these sort of really old traditions that go way back. I know those things are in a lot of ways sort of window dressing for culture. But they’re also expressions of culture. I think they evoke things too. When we think about what our heritage is, and when we can look at those practices, it gives it a sense of coherence and we just don’t see those things anymore. I’m glad we still have the Eisteddfod and I think that’s amazing. But it seems like that’s a bright star in an otherwise dark sky. There should be other points of light that kind of carve out that Welshness for us.

So you've spoken about how there was a period of English cultural influence upon Wales in the centuries leading up to the Industrial Revolution, and how this may have impacted upon a specifically Welsh culture. What do you feel that the Welsh Government could do to improve the situation as you describe it?

Hoooo! You know, the education system was used as the vehicle for the Anglicization of Wales and for creating the English state. When you think about England as a colonial power its first colony was Wales. That happened in the thirteenth century. But it operated in kind of a strange way because you still had this monoglot country that still had these traditional practices. Things moved along for a while up until industrialisation. And when we saw things like the charity school movement happening in Wales, in the 1500's and 1600's, you can see that once those educational discourses start being introduced, certain ideas start becoming embedded within the consciousness of Welsh people. So you can start to see class being narrated through these charity schools and SPCK schools, where they would have to sing a song, 'All Things Bright and Beautiful'. There was a stanza in there that says: "The Lord in his manner, the poor man at his gate+". But those are being inculcated. And then in the 1800's William Williams, who was a politician at the time, he commissioned a report called 'Brad y Llyfrau'. 'The Treachery of the Blue Books' is what the English is, I can't remember the Welsh++. So these three Commissioners come in and they tore Wales apart, the schools; and it is an absolutely deplorable situation. They talk about how eager the young people are to learn, but they say the problem in Wales is not poverty, it's not being excluded from England, it's not being treated as a colony, the problem is the Welsh language. So that's where eventually the 'Welsh not' stuff came by~. 'The Treachery of the Blue Books' basically said that we've got to start teaching in English and that we've got to drum out the Welsh language.

Language is not just a method of communication, of expression. Language is how we understand the world. None of this means anything. When you see it it doesn't mean anything. It only means something when you name it. So we know something is something because of the language we apply to it. If you know more than one language then you have more than one lens from which you can understand the world. That's why I like bilingualism so much, it's a tool. So if we see that education has been used as a tool for drumming down culture and eliminating culture then we can also see it as a method through which culture can be reproduced and can be promoted.

That's what the Welsh Government has tapped into. But, in my opinion, some of their policies are actually doing more harm than good. So I like the idea that there should be a 'Curriculum Cymraeg' type of approach. But what needs to happen is instead of prescriptively giving young people a concept of Welshness, which is what's been happening, they say here's some Welsh things, go experience this and tell us what you think. How could it be Welsh? Do you understand it as being Welsh? So there needs to be a larger philosophical engagement with concepts of national identity and cultural identity.

The other thing they need to do, in my opinion, is on a linguistic scale. You know they've made Welsh language compulsory, which I'm fine with, I think it's brilliant. But we just did a bunch of research with WISERD with Dr Mirain Rhys, and it turns out the kids don't hate Welsh - everyone assumes that kids hate Welsh - they like it; they hate how it's taught in schools. 75% of young people that we surveyed say they like Welsh and they want it to stay a living language, 60% of them say it's important to learn to speak and write it. But 24% like Welsh lessons, so 75% don't like Welsh lessons. The kids say: "we are being taught to learn Welsh to pass a GCSE, we're not being taught for oracy". So they're like: "if you're going to make us learn Welsh, at least get us to the point where we can communicate in it". And if they can communicate in it they'll use it, you know?

For young people the Welsh language is symbolically important, it has a level of prestige that gives them a distinctive element to their identity. I think it raises the status of Wales in their minds as an institution and as a nation. So Welsh Government needs to change. One thing I would like to see is that if you want to take a GCSE in Welsh that should be your option - but we don't grade lessons, we just have them participate, and we do maybe a spectrum of oracy where you go in there and you learn how to speak through conversation approaches like what the 'Welsh for Adults' situation is, which is very good in comparison to what happens in schools. You are marked on how much progress you make, but it's not punitive, which it currently is, and it actually leads to language acquisition, which it currently doesn't. But if you went through the same system you would know?

I went to a bilingual Junior school and I can tell you from painful personal experience that bilingual education does not work in terms of teaching you how to speak Welsh. They teach you how to ask to go to the toilet, they taught me how to count, and my pronounciation is very good apparently. But I haven't learnt Welsh until the last three or four years where I learnt online via a speaking Welsh course called 'SaySomethingInWelsh', which I would recommend to any adult who wants to learn Welsh. I can speak Welsh now far more than I could have hoped to in the past. After Junior school I was determined to go to the Welsh language Comprehensive school. I think I lasted three months because I just couldn't understand what was going on.

Bilingual education here hasn't worked very well, but there are other models in other countries. Particularly the Scandinavian countries and South American countries where you can see that the kids are switching back and forth. It's a truly bilingual environment, where as here it's a manufactured bilingualism that's constructed primarily through curriculum. So you have Teachers who maybe don't have the confidence, or maybe again the discourse around the language is punitive for pupils. It's got to be something that's normalized, embedded and given freedom to ride organically from the institutions.

We have a new curriculum coming out soon which is exciting, and a lot of the rhetoric about it is very hopeful, and the way they're organising it feels very resistant to previous approaches. It's very similar to Scotland's curriculum. Graham Donaldson did Scotland's curriculum and now he's brought it down to Wales. It is new, but the problem I see is that we're bringing in a new curriculum which has new approaches and new understandings and new practices associated with it, and unless we change our education philosophy we won't be successful in transitioning entirely into a new curriculum. We'll have embedded discourses and practices from traditional approaches that will be at odds with the more progressive ideas that are being incorporated now. So where they're saying that the Welsh dimension is crucial to this new curriculum, Donaldson has put that forward, and they've built it into the curriculum. [But] if we still take these archaic practices where we see Welsh as a cultural citizenship...cultural citizenship would be someone who says that I'm Welsh because my Mom's Welsh or my Grandfather was Welsh. Look at people who say: "I'm half-Welsh" - well that's ridiculous! There's no Welsh DNA. It's not genetic, you know? So those types of approaches where we see it as heritage or bloodline or something like that, if they remain embedded, we will never be successful at really creating a stronger cultural identity~~.

You look at Scotland and they have been far more successful at it because they don't have it living in the individual so to say, they're not implementing it or inculcating it in individuals. It's a much broader discourse. You come in to Scotland and you can be a part of Scotland. And when we come into Wales we need to create that sense of - people who come here, whether they do things a little differently or look a little differently - they can still be Welsh and be a part of Wales, and have this idea that we look at affiliations, of similarities, as a way of building a cultural identity.

So what we're talking about here is what they are calling in Scotland a form of Civic Nationalism. The Welsh Assembly is now in its fifth term and we have never had more than 50% turnout at the Assembly elections. How do you think that a civic education might contribute to an improvement in attendance at Welsh Assembly elections?

I think we have to be purposeful in helping it to improve, because the general timber of politics right now is that there is such a level of disenfranchisement. That 50% number is indicative of that. If we allow citizenship education to remain this sort of ambiguous discourse that is never really engaged with in schools, then we don't really allow for conversations about: "why should we be civically engaged? What is a civic attitude or disposition?" There's this great educator named Paulo Friere. He was in Brazil in the '60's, and when they had all their political problems he was exiled. What he was doing is going around in the countryside and doing adult literacy programs because so much of the populace was illiterate. But he wasn't using the government propaganda reading materials, he was creating culture circles where the people were reading materials and producing materials from their own environment and kind of critiquing what was happening and stuff like that. From this experience he said schooling is like a bank. You have a Teacher who is the authority figure in the classroom, and they represent all knowledge. Then these young people come in and they are objectified because they are treated like empty receptacles. The Teacher is just meant to deposit information into their brain, and the students have no time to stop and think about what they're receiving, why they're receiving it, where it's coming from and what they should do with it. So they just passively "learn", but really just memorise and regurgitate facts as needed. I think a lot of that is what's happening in school right now, particularly with an emphasis on how we assess learning and how kids are supposed to perform their knowledge. It aligns very closely to that.

Because where in schools can a student stop a Teacher and ask: "how do you know that? How can I trust what you're telling me is true?" Or if somebody says something about Wales, like Wales is an intolerant nation now because of post-Brexit. Where in schools can they go and say lets break that down, lets dialectically discuss this concept of Wales being intolerant? What's it mean to you? Why do you think people feel this way? Who is perpetuating these discourses? If you look at the curriculary language it always says: "young people in Wales will be prepared to...", it's never: "young people in Wales will engage in or demonstrate their current knowledge of...". So there's this binary where you have young people who go into school to be developed and when they end school they are suddenly developed. Which is rubbish, because we are being and becoming all at the same time.

So we need opportunities where young people in school can express their current lived experiences, their current knowledge about things, and be allowed to critique the curriculum, be allowed to chew and understand and really dig into concepts with their Teachers. So the Teachers are learning what they're teaching again from the students, and the students are teaching what they learn. It's an interesting concept that a Teacher isn't teaching until they're learning what they know again.

So that's how I think it can happen. Henry Giroux is an American-Canadian Philosopher and Education Professor. He looked up the way that citizenship education is typically done. There are these rationales from which curriculum is developed. The first one is the technical rationale which says that there are objectified truths and essential characteristics about citizenship that are just perpetuated and regurgitated over time. Those can be really harmful because it sets up this dichotomy of 'us and them' and 'you are, but I'm not', those kind of ideas. Then there is the hermeneutic, which says we can discuss and talk about these things. It's less objective and more subjective but it lacks a critical analysis component to it. Currently, I think, Welsh education is stuck in a hermeneutic rationale in terms of citizenship education. It feels tranformative, it feels enlightening, but it's still lacking that kind of element of tranformational change to it. So he [Henry Giroux] says when we move on from the hermeneutic we can go to the emancipatory. It's emancipatory because people are expressing their freedom, their autonomy, their critical processes in trying to understand, trying to remove the vale that obfuscates our reality so to speak. So if there are political, social and cultural discourses at if you look at the Brexit vote for instance and you look at the idealogical positions of each camp, we can critically analyse their discourse and reveal what their intentions might be. We can do that with anything and if we had more opportunities to do that in school then people wouldn't be feathered by a false reality placed upon them. They would develop what Paulo Friere calls their political literacy, their conscientiousation.

So what you're talking about is developing a form of 'Critical Thinking' into out education system right?

Yeah. When we talk about 'Critical Thinking' in schools we talk about it in logical terms, this Kantian sense where we're understanding the relationship between bits and pieces, the mechanics of a problem. Which is great! But that's still ground in a hermeneutic rationality. You may have a much more complex, or sophisticated understanding of a situation, but you won't be empowered as an agent of change until you incorporate, critique and then take that critique into the public sphere. So this idea that emancipatory rationale means that you're critiquing stuff but ultimately you're going back out into your lived experiences and delivering that in the hopes of creating change.

Finland is doing that now. They do really well, but they have the most unhappy pupils. I was at a conference in the autumn, 'The European Research Conference', and I was speaking to an educator from Finland. They said that they are switching their curriculum now so that the focus is on how the learner learns. So it's less about the facts and more about how do I come to know a fact? What is my learning process? Why am I being taught this? And I said: "Are you aware of Paulo Friere?" and they said: "yes!".

We need a critical approach. We need a populace that is thinking and active. We're just not going to get it with a traditional approach.

The #WeAreWales campaign seeks to represent a Wales and a sense of Welshness with a more internationalist focus, which you've spoken about the need for today. What has been your personal experience of that living in Wales? Do you think that it exists?

I do. I think that all things exist at once in Wales if you look at popular discourse. So that's always difficult to maintain because who is promoting it? How is it being promoted? But over the years, as I've been coming back and forth, I have felt that this welcome in the hillsides has been pushed to the background. A lot of people - and this is happening in the States to - a lot of people are thinking: "I just need to focus on taking care of me, lets just focus on taking care of ourselves". So while I still think that this cosmopolitan Welshness exists, and this tolerant and welcoming nation exists, it is being challenged, it's being tested. And I think a lot of that comes from over the border and it's political. Not over the border specifically from England, although I struggle when I see UKIP, with their Neil Hamilton's. They don't even fucking live in Wales. I think if you're going to represent Welsh constituencies you should live in Wales. I feel like the Welsh populace is being high-jacked by concerns from outside Wales, but concerns that don't necessarily directly relate to Wales. So we have to engage in a much larger discourse about what Welshness is. I think people feel Cosmopolitanism is a danger to that, that it will somehow undermine that. I think that they're thinking too narrowly about what Welsh identity is. Jonathan Scourfield did an amazing book where they were asking kids how they think about the Welsh identity, and for them it's racial/ethnic. It's not grounded in political discourse, it's not grounded in cultural discourse, they think of it in terms of bloodlines. You will still see that. We have to shift the conversation. It seems scary to a lot of people to think of this idea that I can share my cultural identity with someone, because they feel like they will end up losing something. But in my experience you will gain things from it. In Utah we have an enormous immigrant population, Mexican immigrants, Latino immigrants. When I was in Tonga, I was an immigrant and the people there were so sharing with their culture. And coming here I don't feel American. I would like to feel Welsh, but I don't quite feel Welsh, primarily because of how it's reflected back at me. My Americanness is constantly being brought up. But I know a lot of things about Wales that maybe some Welsh people might not know. Anyway it's a complicated relationship you know what I mean? So in terms of that I just feel like if we can maintain a civil discourse of empathy and willingness to share...that doesn't mean let's not be careful or let's be reckless, it just means that we should be engaging.

What are your future plans in terms of your relationship with Wales? Do you plan on staying here or do you plan to move on?

No I think the goal was to live and die in Wales. My wife and I have been married for 26 years this year and in that time we've moved twenty times easily. So we were hoping that this was our last move. When we arrived I was curious to see how our idea of living in Wales might match up to the reality. And things like Brexit, things like UKIP - because my dispositioningly Left-anarchal-sinicalist kind of ideas - to see the rise of the Right, it frightens me that it might make a Wales that I just don't recognise anymore. But in practice I just don't see that in a way that's really threatening. I spend most of my time in the Valleys, I live in the Valleys, my family is from the Valleys, I feel like a Valleys boy so to speak. I prefer going to pubs in the Valleys - The Smiths Arms in Pengam is one of my favourite places to go. You sit down and you have real talks with people and they have different ideas from mine about Brexit for instance, they have different ideas than mine about immigrants. Even though the Valleys has an enormous history of immigration, and tolerant immigration too. You don't hear about racial violence or anything like that because there's an ethos, there's a culture, in the Valleys, like there is in other parts of Wales. So that's still intact. I think it's being threatened by reckless political discourse, the kind that we see with Trump. I think that Farage and Trump are kind of cut from the same cloth. I just feel that we need to mobilise a grass-roots response that is focused and grounded in the hope that we can produce something better, that we can heal, that we can project a healthy and engaging and productive idea of what Wales is, what it means to be Welsh. It's got to operate separately from the Assembly and other political machinations because they're doing it in a much different way. It's not a cultural thing so much as it's a political thing obviously.


* 'Grancha' is a regional term for Grandfather specific to Rhymney.

** The Mari Lywd was a tradition in which groups of people accompanied a symbolic horse made from a horses head and sackcloth around the community. The group would visit local homes and engage in singing before hopefully being invited inside for food and drink.

*** Calennig took place on New Year's Day, from dawn until noon. "Children in early 19th century Wales would go from door to door, singing rhymes, splashing people with water and asking for Calennig, which were gifts of small change".

+ The rich man in his castle,

The poor man at his gate,

God made them high and lowly,

And ordered their estate.

(Cecil Frances Alexander)

++ 'The Treachery of the Blue Books' is the derisory name used in Wales for the Reports of the commissioners of enquiry into the state of education in Wales' ,,which was first published in 1847. The Welsh translation, as indicated by Dr Smith, was 'Brad y Llyfrau Gleision'.

~ The 'Welsh not' was a disciplinary method employed in some schools in Wales, during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, to discourage children from communicating in Welsh. A stick, inscribed with the letters 'WN' would be hung around a 'naughty' child's neck if they were caught speaking Welsh during the school day. It is suggested that this contributed to a sense of shame amongst the children, and that this shame later caused them to choose not to pass the language on to their own children.

~~ Dr Smith has asked that the following information is shared as he forgot to mention it during the initial interview. I have shared it here as an addendum as I don't want to disturb the flow of the original interview:

There’s a great documentary called 'Race: the Power of illusion' ( In this film, they talk about race, and define race as biological differences between people. We make judgments about people racially based on perceived, physical differences. However, research has existed for decades that shows people from the same “racial” group have as much DNA variation as people from different “racial” groups. So, if race is based on difference, but we all have the same DNA variation, then we can see that race is a social construction –we are all humans, but humanity has socially constructed black, white, etc. to mean certain things. Now think about Nationality and cultural identity – those are removed from an even further degree. There are no physical, “essential” qualities to be Welsh. You can’t look at someone and say “they’re Welsh,” because these ideas of identity are socially constructed. For me, cultural/national identity is navigating how you choose to affiliate with, and not affiliate with, certain socially constructed groups – but ultimately, it’s a choice, and has nothing to do with bloodline.


Dr Smith's book, ‘Curriculum, Culture and Citizenship Education in Wales' is published as part of the Palgrave Studies in Global Citizenship Education and Democracy, and is available at all good book stores and online. You can also download the book directly:

You can contact Dr Smith directly through his Twitter account, as well as his page: Mr Smith is eager to have more people read and discuss his research.

If you are interested in being interviewed for this series then you can contact me via the website, or else on Twitter @WalesBLOGlet. I want to meet people from throughout Wales and I'm happy to travel.

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