Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 15, No. 7. May 1, 1952
Dear Prof Hughes and Others ... — A Defence and an Explanation
Dear Prof Hughes and Others ...
A Defence and an Explanation
I have read Professor Hughes letter with care and I am sure that he and I (if I may be presumptuous) in great measure agree. May he excuse me if, in replying to him, I include some answers to other critics.
There are two accusations I must deny emphatically: first that I wish to tamper with academic objectivity; secondly that I wish the staff to inculcate the students with their ideas. Nothing I have written supports those two views Academic objectivity must be preserved for it is the basis of all learning. As to Inculcation to quote an editorial of mine "nor la the inculcation of absolute values desired." This should have made my attitude clear. I would go further and say that Inculcation of anything Is undesirable.
Another suggestion that I support a university wedded to a certain point of view needs comment. In my opinion universities so wedded are desirable only in a country where the population is sufficiently large to ensure that diversity of educational character is not imperilled. I would not, at the moment, support a religious university of any persuasion in New Zealand. Denominational colleges as they exist in Australian university would be desirable but I would oppose any move which would segregate any particular body of opinion entirely from the rest of the community.
It should now be obvious that the suspicion that I want a university to set out to convert students to a particular viewpoint la without foundation. It may" be that universities wedded to a particular viewpoint may convert students to their beliefs but is this any worse than the present, system which converts students to indifferentism.
No Religious Prejudice
Several years ago I published in Charts an address by Mortimer Adler entitled "God and the Professors." I am still accused, perhaps because of that fact, of not having thought out these thoughts for myself, of stating only what I have read or been told. This accusation makes my views no less valid. To this is added the criticism that my religion also prejudices me. Of course my reading and my religion do Influence me, as they should. As far as my religion is concerned my critics seem to be continually unaware of the controversies which are part of the life of the Church to which I belong. Papal infallibility is their cry. That belief is a great thing concerned with very limited issues, as George Bernard Shaw so clearly perceived in the preface to his St. Joan. The resemblance to Stalinist infallibility is superficial for in that philosophy control is far reaching enough to dictate the very trivia of life. To the views expressed in the address by Mortimer Adler I stick. If I cannot convince my friends the dogmatic positivists that my views are considered views I cannot prove it to them. They must take my word as I would take theirs.
It is presumptuous to use we and therefore I must repeat my accusation that since I have been at this university it has been unusual to encounter members of the staff who have any more than an historical approach to vital problems. Admittedly there is the danger that by revealing their own views the staff will run the risk of having them taken by the students as the approved views. There is also the danger that students will not think out their own solutions to problems—but do they under the present system? Is there not a great danger that lectured to by a staff who appear Indifferent to basic issues students will feel solutions are not important or not possible?
This does not mean that taking sides for the sake of taking sides has my approval. What I doubt is that the staff (students are equally to blame but should not this vicious circle be interrupted at Its responsible level?) examine the issues with a view to taking sides. Do they ever realise that there are Issues? Almost complete silence on such matters for so long tends to confirm my impression that most of the staff don't see the issues.
If any authorities are needed for my views they are Mortimer Adler, Sir William Moberly and Frederic Lilge (The Abuse of Learning) who are not Catholics. They see the danger in the present crisis of hiding lights under the bushels labelled "liberal impartiality." Our New Zealand universities are not notable for intellectual controversy or staff and student activity, unity or even disunity. Their teaching methods are, in my opinion, open for improvement. These failures stem from this overall attitude of indifference which is a negation of the tradition of universities.
To all my critics and to Professsor Hughes particularly, my thanks, for without them I would not have been able to have my say. Probably I have, as usual, said too much without qualification, but at least discussion has been provoked at long last and for that St. Thomas and the Lord be praised.