Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol 1, No. 1. March 9, 1938
"Intellectually Pot-Bound" — "Freedom of Speech Essential"
"Freedom of Speech Essential"
Freshers approach the University with an almost pitiable veneration for ancient institutions—the sight of a Professor fills them with religious awe: the library is like a cathedral: Brookie remains an insoluble enigma; and putative graduates listen open-mouthed to the sonorous utterances from the lecturers' pulpits, convinced that they are being educated. "Salient" has interviewed the Minister of Finance and the Director of Broadcasting, in an attempt to disclose to freshers the truth about the University.
"'Salient wants the opinions of some competent outside men on the New Zealand University system, Professor." said our commentator.
Professor Shelley smiled. "I suppose you think I ought to be able to speak both as an outside and inside man?" he asked.
"What do you consider the proper function of a University?"
"One of the primary objects of a University is to safeguard and hand on the accumulated knowledge of the ages, and at the same time, to develop the technique of further pursuit [unclear: of knowledge."]
"What do you believe is the most effective method of ensuring this object?"
"The ideal method of developing thought and understanding, of ensuring the Integration of knowledge with human life, is by the free interchange of ideas, and the sharing of points of view by people meeting together in small semi-informal groups.
"I regard the lecture method as inadequate and uneconomic in relation to the educative functions of a University. The best method is for a group of six to twelve people to interchange their views in easy relations with one another, in the presence of someone who is supposed to have learning at his disposal, and who will bring arguments and thoughts back to the path of fact. This method would be more profitable in every way than the lecture method. The lecture method does not sufficiently stimulate intellectual activity in the minds of the listeners, who are necessarily in the attitude of mere absorption."
"What are your views on the subject of free speech at a University? You will remember that public discussion on sex and religion has been banned by our own University authorities."
"Freedom of speech depends upon the discipline of the minds of those entering upon the discussion. It is not sufficiently understood that there are two sides to a speech—its delivery and its reception by the listener. Freedom depends mainly upon the relation between the person who is speaking and his auditors. Where an audience is carefully selected, as in a University classroom, there is no objection at all to free discussion on the subjects you mention, but where the audience is indeterminate, as in a radio broadcast or at a public meeting, the position is entirely different. Freedom of speech is relative to the listener."
"Do you think University students are qualified to speak on international affairs or hold definite political opinions?"
[unclear: As Shattered]
"They are not qualified. Their disqualification does not arise, from any intellectual disability, but from the fact that they are not intimately enough in touch with the various facts involved. We are so far away that it is very difficult for people to understand the values of facts outside the actual environment where the events take place. Things which are accepted by another nation as natural and obvious in their cultural setting may be looked upon by our own people as ridiculous. I am not questioning the intellectual capacity of the students—I am simply saying that the best intellects cannot with any great value discuss such matters unless they are in intimate touch with the social setting of the facts. I think that University students should be more concerned with the discussion of the great principles on which international relations depend rather than the day to day moves that are made on the world's chess-board. I think the attitude of mind or the University students should be open and free, not holding anything in the nature of hard and fast views, otherwise they tend to become what I call intellectually pot-bound'—that is if they circumscribe their thinking with a particular doctrine and try to cram all the roots of human life into it—I fear I am muddling my metaphor—those roots will not be free to grow.
See next week's "Salient" for further interviews.
"The University should be mainly occupied in developing the free and open spirit of inquiry. I know that the tendency is for a person with a limited knowledge or the world—in which category I include the University student—to think that human problems can be solved very much more easily than they really can be and therefore to plunge into some ready-made panacea for the ills that flesh is heir to.
"If a perfect system were set up in a particular country, the young people of the next generation would inevitably try to overthrow that system, in order to satisfy their innate craving for action and adventure. In each generation the life tendency can be seen expressing itself in a different form, and the politicians of a particular era must become sensitive to the form it takes during their regime."
"What is the Government's attitude towards the University?" asked "Salient."
"The Government's attitude to the improvement of the educational system in general and the University in particular is that all facilities at our disposal will be provided, but so that the maximum amount of freedom will be given to the University authorities."
"Should University, students have the right of free speech at University meetings?"
"Certainly they should. The object of the University is to get people to think, and if they can [unclear: not][gap — reason: illegible] they think the whole work of the University is nullified. I would qualify that statement, of course, by saying that if a speaker uses language the expression of which is an offence against the obscenity law he should be stopped, but this is the only qualification."
Et Tu, Nash?
"Are University students qualified to hold political opinions?"
Mr. Nash laughed.
"Well, what opinions can be held other than political opinions?
"There are religious, social and philosophical questions, and problems of conduct. One of the objects of the University is to provide the environment, together with the material, for the mind to function. Upon the functioning of the mind depends the good or ill of the community. The opinions of University students, however, should not be respected merely because the holders of those opinions are University students—although they may have more facilities than the ordinary man—but should be valued according to their own Intrinsic worth.
Statement, not Status.
"It is my belief that the weight of a certain person's statements., should be judged not only by his status but by [unclear: the] value of the statement Itself. But University students are potentially more qualified than the average man in that they have more information at their disposal. However, book-learning is only one of the factors; life and experience are important in the formation or political beliefs. I do not of course, mean that all a student gains from a University is book learning."