Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 1, No. 13 June 29, 1938
Since this Congress provides annually the widest and most representative held of intellectual expression available to the students of the Unversities of England and Wales. I would like particularly to emphasise, and I hope you will and an interest in it, the viewpoint of the student. In so far as the student seems to have a viewpoint in this country and in so far as it was expressed here for there are a number of serious qualifications to be considered when accepting these views as representative. There is no question but that a very large section of the student population belong to the non-thinking section of the community: their motto is the old one of "huntin' shootin' fishin'," their railying cry "the old school tie," their principal contirbution to community life the O.T.C. and their only serious concern the economic necessity of getting a degree as quickly as may be. The attendance at the Congress (which was open to all) was 150 out of a total student population in the country of aproximately 100,000: if this is eloquent of one thing above all others it is so of what was termed the hopelessly apathetic attitude of the average student towards the world around him or so it was suggested although it does seem to me that there may be an excuse because in this mad world the student instinetively forsees one of two things—either that his life is going to be a short one and therefore he will make it a merry one, or else that he is going to have to face bitter competition and therefore he must get as good a start as possible with an early degree. Is it not a case of the world around him going to the dogs between these two conflicting obsessions?
But that is another story: suffice it to say that at this Congress there were present only what may be termed an intellectual minority, a factor that did not fall to receive attention—it coloured all that was said and for an observer at any rate created a sense of apprehension in all that was decided. Space will not allow of a consideration of the activities of the different commissions and sub-committees set up (a full report will be found in the Report on the Congress which the N.Z.U.S.A will shortly have) but in the general discussions, which were very animated, opinions ran very true to form—where everyone a few years ago used to see a new panacea in a "scientific" background to education, everyone now saw the same panacea in a still more vague "philosophical" background—as far as I could judge there was no very certain contact with the hard facts of modern life—although there was a very sincere striving after ways and means in which the student body could find stimulation for its dormant interest in the community and an outlet for its youthful enthusiasm when once this has been aroused.
Great stress was laid on social service work, boys' and girls' clubs were to be visited and organised and particularly and above all else an effort was to be made to get among the unemployed and the working classes generally: the enthusiasm for what was to be learned from the working-classes was unbridled and listening to it I gathered that between the very rich and the very poor. If there is anything at all it is only an arid waste with the community is concerned—there was so much that the workers of anything that a middle-class (if such existed) could do for us: this is where I criticise the delegates. Where I part company with them, and where I feel that they give themselves away as mere idealists, immature and out of touch with essential conditions of which they have never had the need to become conscious. For the rest the results of the discussions could be regarded as nothing but praise worthy: the conclusion—seemed to be inevitable, that authoritarian rule will most probably lead to war that in any case it will destroy freedom of expression which is the life-blood of learning and of the University, that the one way to evade it is by a wider educational policy requiring a re-orlentation of the University syllabus, first in the direction of greater emphasis on public affairs, and secondly to allow of the student spending more time in contact with the world around him—this must be done quickly since, as H. G. Wells has put it, "Civilisation is a race between education and catastrophe." Would the New Zealand student concur in these conclusions? If not, why not?
—A. T. S. McGhie.
And these your professed politicians, the only true practical philosophers of the world (as they think themselves). So full of affected gravity, or such professed lovers of virtue and honesty, what wretches they be in very deed.