Salient. Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Volume 31 Number 16 July 16, 1968
July 16, 1968
Opinions expressed in Salient are not necessarily those of VUWSA.
The reading knowledge requirement in a foreign language for a Bachelor of Arts will have to be abolished. Everyone knows that there are major inequities in the present requirement. But an unbased, phoney and pseudointellectual snobbery insists that to be able to read a language other than your own is essential to a "respectably educated" person.
It is evidently not considered that there are other things which might equally be held necessary: a knowledge of simple mathematics, modern history or elementary sociology are probably all more necessary for a "rounded education".
The point is, of course, that there is no valid reason for choosing this particular corner for rounding. The requirement's only function is to make every student of every subject (other than a foreign language) think constantly "There are the rules; I must obey".
The Reading Knowledge requirement thus serves to assert the undeniable authority of the University's regulations, surely an unwise purpose in rules laid down to ensure a person has a liberal education.
It may well be that a three-year course does not give a person a high enough degree of education. But the extent to which a sketchy knowledge of the vocabulary of an obscure language will rectify this is doubtful. If our degree is inadequate—extend it to a four-year course. But do not simply attach traps to getting it.
The Education Officer of the Students' Association is preparing a case against the requirements, largely on the basis that it can waste a great deal of time for a person who otherwise has a good academic record. Loopholes have been made to allow the very best students to go on to study honours without completing Reading Knowledge, but this helps only a very small number.
There seems to be little doubt that some people have more success in languages than others, and the Education Officer's main case must be that the requirement is therefore discriminatory.