Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 28, No. 9. 1965.
After weeks of ill-informed chatter on the Vietnam question there comes, at long last, action of a worthwhile kind. This is the Victoria-organised teach-in, aimed at elucidating facts pertinent to the present situation.
The significance of this teach-in must not be underestimated. We have to date seen two television debates. One developed instantly into a petty National versus Labour squabble. The other was notable for the lack of any real thought on the part of three of the participants. (The fourth, Dr T. H. Beaglehole, had thought about the matter, but none of the panel took him up on his quietly-put provocative statements; they were too busy talking).
So television has given us very little information that we can use in reaching informed conclusions.
Admittedly the daily newspapers' main concern is with hot news and not so much with background facts, but even so many of them, and certainly the Sunday papers, could have done more than they have.
So, until the teach-in came about, what had we got? We had a paucity of facts, and a surplus of opinions. Argument and debate raged with the vigour and passion that is so often evident when the requisite knowledge is lacking. On the home front, 80-odd students gathered at an SGM, pooled their ignorance, condemned the Government, and went home satisfied with a "good job well done" feeling.
And yet they had done a job well—or at least, they had made it possible for a job to be well done by others, because they resolved that a teach-in would be held. All power to their arm for doing so.
And so the teach-in is with us. It is the first significant endeavour by University students in this country to gather facts on Vietnam and credit must be given to Helen Sutch for organising it. For the organisation has been planned intelligently: speakers present background papers to the question Before discussion of the Government's action is heard.
This means now that those students and members of the public who attended the teach-in should have an intelligent basis for reaching an opinion. It may well be that the opinions reached by the majority will be the same as before. Well and good. The difference will be that now the opinion will be based on a knowledge of more of the facts, and may consequently be worth listening to.
There was, before, the legitimate grievance that SGM Vietnam motions are non-representational and futile. Now, however, we must acknowledge that advance knowledge of the seriously-planned teach-in was given, and any person who does not attend this vital debate cannot complain at any motions passed in his absence.
—G. E. J. L.