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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 18, No. 12. September 6, 1954

Culture Page

page 6

Culture Page

Touche, Mr. B?

One of the fundamental rights of an editor of a newspaper is The right to refuse to print material submitted by correspondents which is vulgar, libellous, inaccurate or merely abusive. Hence I was surprised to see that you had permitted T. H. Beaglehole's letter to go into print, apparently in the same form as you had received it The first paragraph of that letter, which appeared in the last issue of "Salient," is irresponsible, abusive, and completely devoid of rational meaning. It is indicative of a type of critical outlook which University students should pride themselves on Not possessing. The whole construction of the paragraph would appear to contain an overtone of dislike and of irrational feeling, without any attempt having been made to justify that feeling.

It would seem, sin that T. H. Bcaglehole disagreed with your editorial on accrediting, and wished to express his disagreement in print. What then, is the revelance of the first paragraph of his letter? There is a legal maxim which I would offer for Mr. BeaglehoJe's consideration. It is this: "Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat." A translation would be: "The burden of proof lies on the party that affirms, not on the party that denies." T. H. Beaglehole has affirmed that an editorial of mine, and my reply to a letter written by David Scott, were childish and ill-informed. Even if such a conclusion had been supported by rational argument, these words would still have been abusive and in bad taste. But appearing as they do completely unsupported by any rational basis whatsoever, in the first paragraph of a letter which purports to be a criticism of your editorial on Accrediting, the words are more than mere bad taste. They are intellectual insolence—an impudent and irresponsible attempt at cheap wit at the expense of one of the basic principles of a university training. Which is the pursuit of the ability to criticise rationally and fairly. Such an attack ill becomes a graduate of this college. It is a poor reflection on his mental outlook, but more important, it is a poor reflection on his university, which would appear to have failed to inculcate in Mr. Beaglehole the necessary qualities of mind which are usually thought to be necessary to those who would attain to a Master's degree.

Emotive Methods

In the second paragraph of his letter, Mr. Beaglehole again uses unnecessary emotive methods in his attempt to state a case. We see the expression "the ill-informed public," and "headmasters too lazy to make the effort accrediting requires of them." Who are the members of this public who are so ill-informed, and about what? Who are the headmasters (If any) who are too lazy, and how does Mr. Beaglehole know this? We are not told, and no reasons are given to support these statements. The expressions would appear to have been lifted solely because of their contemptuous connotations. Later on in the paragraph we read: "Perhaps it should be explained to these gentleman that the Editor does not agree." I wonder, sir, what relation this sentence bears to a purported criticism of your editorial?

The third paragraph indicates a singular lack of common sense on Mr. Beaglchole's part. He says: "It is my impression that the only way of Judging the average person's capacity for benefiting by university study is to try it and see. . . ." This suggestion, sir, is uneconomical and impracticable. There are other ways of discovering whether the "average person" can benefit from university study, than trial and error. The "average person" has, by definition, an I.Q. of round about 100. And it is generally assumed that the aver-age I.Q. of Victoria University College students must be in the neighbourhood of 118 for them to be successful. Therefore, by intelligence tests administered at post-primary schools, and by aptitude tests administered before a university course is embarked upon, one can get a much better idea of a person's capacity to benefit from university study than we could from the method of "try it and see."

Such a method is also uneconomical. In his address at 1954 Curious Cove Congress. Dr. G. A. Currie stated that "fees from students represent in New Zealand on the average only 13.5 per cent of the total income of the colleges." The cost of educating a student ranges from round about £400 per annum for a dental student to 1120 per annum for an arts and science student, on an average. Dr. Currie states further: "There is little need to stress the obvious privilege the community extends to students in meeting the costs of such university training. . . . Not only do high standards for admission need to be maintained, but I believe that in cases of repeated failure, only very high fees should justify students in continuing university studies," (Salient, Vol. 18 No. 3, p.7.)

Thus Mr. Beaglehole's "impression" as to the "only" way of judging the average person's capacity for benefiting by university study, in both erroneous, unfounded and contrary to common sense. There are other ways than the system of "try it and see" "suggested by T. H. Beaglehole.

Irresponsible Criticisms

I do not wish to enter into any discussion concerning accrediting. That is not the object of this letter. My purpose is to show to what extent T. H. Beaglehole had, in his letter to you, relied on an irresponsible type of emotive criticism. Especially is this so in the find paragraph of his letter, in which Mr. Beaglehole has attempted nothing more than to dictate to us his opinions and prejudices, to be accepted without thought or reason. The writer's judgments in that paragraph are vague and emotional, and he has flagrantly neglected to back up those judgments. The style of writing in Mr. Beaglehole's letter is better suited to a political tirade than to a contribution to a university newspaper. "It is good for no one, least of all ourselves, to be exempt from criticism, if that criticism is a proper criticism and not something masquerading as a criticism." (The Control of Language," 1st. Ed. pl2C.) This sentence, I would suggest, sir, is one which Mr. Beaglehole could well take to heart.

D. F. Donovan

(The much-vaunted principle of freedom of the Press has led us to believe that all criticism, valid or not, should be published—If only to enable us to reply to the criticism. Headers are in a position to judge for themselves as to the merits and/or demerits of the letter in question. One thing is certain, that both Mr D. and Mr. B. spent some considerable time composing the letter, and Mr. Beaglehole is a busy man, judging by his activity and keenness as V.U.C. representative on the N.Z.U.S.A. resident executive. More strength to his pen nib! But, Mr. B. it was just a teeny eeny bit emotional, don't you thing? Mr. D. is also not entirely objective,—Ed.)

Te Aro Park reclaimed . . . it is understood from usually reliable source that the College Council has given the go ahead signal for the reclamation of Te Aro Park. Work will commence within five weeks.