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Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 26, No. 9. 1963.

Students Dumb, Lack Purpose?

Students Dumb, Lack Purpose?


For people living in the city where the Volunteer Service Abroad is centred, and belonging to a community which is traditionally interested in such things, we have heard extremely little about it. One member of the staff is the Dominion chairman of the organisation and others have been involved in its formation, but apart from an odd note here and there, nothing much about it has appeared in Salient.

In the June 4 issue we were told, in conjunction with the visit of Ron and Anne Kilgour, a few brief details about an earlier (and still continuing) scheme for Volunteer Graduates. But as yet we have had no double page special on the whole concern. I can only deduce from this, that the matter of volunteering for service abroad is viewed by most students (if they have even heard of it) as a sentimental relic of nineteenth century missionary zeal, now secularised.

I wonder, however, if there is any relationship between this lack of interest and what seems to me to be the present malaise of the majority of students, a sense of purposelessness in their studies, apart, of course, from bread and butter considerations. One of the main problems of the University is the lower standards of work and the relatively high failure rate. There could be either of two reasons for this: lack of brains or lack of purpose.

While not wishing to underestimate the former, I believe the latter is more basic. To the question "What are you going to do when you have finished your degree?" the answer too often is "I suppose I'll end up a teacher!"

What is obviously needed is an ideal to aim at which will give a sense of personal significance and purpose. Is this where VSA for some students may be a solution, so that "being a teacher" may become something pointed and purposeful in the context of volunteer service?

Of course, today, we no longer think of such service as patronisingly one-way, going as a great white god to help the unenlightened masses. The contemporary pattern of our serving is as fraternal workers, complete with all the opportunities and frustrations which come from living and working in a different culture. This pattern makes greater demands on our idealism—but also gives greater returns.

In an article I read the other day about student affairs was this quotation: "The university community worries about the lower standards of improperly motivated students." In this job of proper motivation, it seems the Volunteer Service might play a significant part.

John Murray.