Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 11, No. 5. April 28th, 1948
The Student And The World
The Student And The World
"The University must bring the student to ask himself: 'Why am I here?' Ideas shape the destiny of nations and the lives of individuals. It is faith that makes nations great. The University must develop a spirit of service to the country, and a spirit of faithfulness to the students in the universities of the world."
This was the idea which concluded the address given to the students of this college by Dr. John Coleman, Secretary of the World Student Christian Federation. He is a young man with a vigorous personality and a world outlook. His views are largely those with which most people will agree, whether Christian or not.
The Principal presided over the meeting, which was attended by a relatively small number of students, a fact which reflectse the apathy that exists in many countries and that is responsible for the lack of interest in fundamental questions which is apparent in those countries.
Dr. Coleman began by descriping the physical conditions of students in the world today. Universities in all countries which were involved in the war are all affected to some extent, but it is the countries of Europe and Asia where conditions are desperate. The work of World Student Relief and its constituent organizations is well known here, but support for it has decreased considerably in the last two years. There is no justification for this. The need for relief is as great now as it ever was. Forty per cent. of Greek students are showing active tuberculosis, and the incidence is alarmingly high in most European countries. The shortage of books makes it seem incredible to us that studies can continue at all. Hungarian students, because of WSR. are able to cyclostyle textbooks.
A recent addition to the World Student Relief Committee is the much discussed International Union of Students. It is, of course, concerned with many questions other than relief, and in its early stages it was obvious that the main impetus came from the countries of Eastern Europe. Dr. Coleman was able to tell us of some new developments in the International Union. At the time of the crisis in Czechoslovakia, where IUS has its headquarters a commission was set up to investigate the demonstration at Prague, where students were fired on by the police. The commission reported in terms which directed no criticism at the Czech Government, but the two Americans on the IUS Executive objected to this report and have left Prague. American students, through their National Students' Association, were proposing to affiliate with IUS, but it looks as if this will not be carried through. IUS is the only one of the constituents of World Student Relief to which N.Z. students are affiliated through N.Z.U.S.A. but, of course, the N.Z.S.C.M. is a member of the World Student Christian Federation.
The Mind of the Student
Dr. Coleman has found that there is a great difference in the mental outlook of students in European countries from that of students in the English speaking countries. Liberalism is no longer a live force on the Continent. In a conversation with a Hungarian. Dr. Coleman discovered that the choice there is between Feudalism and Communism. Students in Europe take a live Interest in social, religious, and political questions. In Germany the issues are seen most clearly. It is becoming apparent that Germany's cultural tradition—learning for learning's sake, art for art and science for science—has not brought the nation success and happiness, and there is a growing concern with the fundamental issues of life. Thoughtful Germans want to face these issues, and there is evidence of a return to Christian principles. A German girl who had spent some time in Sweden was glad to return to Hamburg, in spite of the great difference in material standards of the two countries.
It has taken the war to bring about this change in outlook in Europe. It is a change must must occur in all countries if the universities are to fulfil their proper function.
All the Worst Points
On Saturday evening, April 11th, for a group of S.C.M. Vic and Training College Students, Dr. Coleman pulled a few Canadian holes in the University, and they proved remarkably familiar. Dr. Coleman's complaints were gathered from English, Dutch and American sources—but mainly from the U.S.A. where both faults, their investigation (and it was implied, everything) are gone in for in a big way. The four major faults of the modern university, as set out by a recent American Commission are: 1. Over-specialization. 2. Lack of co-operation between student and staff. 3. Unsatisfactory relations between the University and Community. 4. The lack of a fundamental basis or unity in University life and aims. Approximately the same views were reached in Holland during the Occupation by small allied groups of illicit students meeting to discuss the reform of the students' approach to the University which had formerly meant only a materially profitable training ground for a young man entering the professions. Today, unfortunately, as war-inspired vitality dies down. Dutch students are for the most part slipping back to this view, common place in all Universities including our own. The question of over-specialisation was treated with its implications, and examples of attempts made to overcome it, such as the introduction of five arts units into our L.L.B. course, subjects to be worked through as rapidly as possible so that the Law Student may begin his real work of "Law." The same attitude prevails among American students who must spend two years acquiring general culture out of the six required for training as the general medical practitioner, or a similar proportion of their studies in other courses. Such reforms, even if their aim is unappreciated, do tend to guard against that type of specialist encouraged in Nazi Germany, as being very useful in his work, but incapable of forming a balanced critical judgment of the society in which he occupied a well-understood but well-defined slot.
Basis of Studies
The discussion took as its main point the lack of basis in University studies. Scholarship in the Middle Ages pivoted on the Church, whether the approach was orthodox or heretical Today that over-all and underlying connection has vanished but nothing has taken its place. The majority of students leave the Universities as liberal rationalists, but this is a negative creed, if it may even be regarded as a creed. Christianity as a basis has not been denied, but rather disregarded, Professor and Lecturer implying in their subjects the non-relativity of Christianity to the student's life and aims. Such an implication, claimed Dr. Coleman lies in the up-till-recently-taught law that "Matter is indestructible."
Two answers to the problem were suggested. Feeling a need for unity among his students, President Hutchings of Chicago University, developed the idea of making philosophy a compulsory subject, and thus the basis for University education. To the question, "What philosophy?" he answered that he believed St. Thomas to be the most recent great philosopher with a comprehensive approach to life, A second solution was that the professor should at the beginning of his course outline the assumptions on which he based his teaching, whether these were Christian or otherwise, awakening the student into the realisation that a choice between various beliefs exists, and not instilling in and unconscious acceptance of Liberal Rationalism, so that any choice of creed he may later make must be conditioned by his earlier limited conception of life. This suggestion, actually adopted by an American professor of sociology, was accepted doubtfully as a valuable but not probably, a complete answer. Most of the group felt that the necessary stimulus must come not from the professors but from the students themselves.