The Spike Golden Jubilee Number May 1949
I have to thank the Principal of Victoria College for this opportunity of communicating (per medium of The Spike) with old students and to assure them of my continued interest in them and their work. May they all go forward to enlighten the minds, strengthen the bodies, and cheer the spirits of a clientele well worthy of their best efforts.
The period ending in the Jubilee of Victoria College has been a vitally important one for the teaching profession. At the beginning of the century the University had little to offer the teacher beyond the cultural subjects of the ordinary degree Course. While the doctor and the lawyer had special professional schools the teacher had to be content with Mental and Moral Philosophy, the only subject that directly touched the fundamentals of his Trade.
It is true that one of the accepted text books was Sully's "Outlines of Psychology with special reference to Education." (1884). In his preface the author says "If the teacher approaches the subject of Mental Science with the supposition that it is going to open up to him a short and easy road to his professional qualifications he will be disappointed." He was disappointed because the course was too narrow and the treatment too academic. A great improvement was ensured by the later addition "Experimental Psychology" which was introduced first in Victoria College.
The move to have Education made a definite University subject was naturally opposed on the grounds that the already strained finances of the Colleges could not reasonably bear the added cost. Mr George Hogben, who was then Inspector General of Schools, arranged for the Education Department to finance the scheme—the Principals of the four Training Colleges were appointed lecturers in Education, a syllabus arranged, and the new subject started in 1910. Later provision was made for a "Diploma of Education" on lines somewhat more technical than those of the Pass course. This arrangement, however, proved quite unsatisfactory owing to the double work entailed and the large number of students. (Victoria College had 300 in the Educational class). In 1924 the Education Department again generously provided the funds and four Professors of Education were appointed and the Principals of the Training Colleges relieved of the University work.
So far "Education" had been confined to the "Pass" stage, but, having now attained full recognition for M.A. and Honours, much discussion arose as to the scope and limits of such a course entailing, as it did, alleged overlapping with old established subjects. Professor Sully had contended that an elementary knowledge of Psychology was the only pre-requisite to his course. If Education is a preparation for life it must touch on all its aspects and in turn be itself modified by them. Biology, Psychology, Sociology, Ethics, Art and History should therefore all play their part—the emphasis placed on such being determined largely by the outlook of the teacher. Critics did, and still may, dub this Education syllabus a Farrago. Such it might be, were it not dominated by the silver thread of its purpose—the understanding of the development of a human life through its environment, heredity, needs, aspirations and possibilities. The teaching profession in New Zealand is indeed fortunate in having the opportunities offered by such a syllabus, supplemented as it is by the assistance provided by the New Zealand Council for Educational Research and its local Institutes. It is to be hoped that our teachers will avail themselves more of the help of this Council. Are we merely preaching a counsel of perfection? Many contend that the University has little to do with the training of the teacher, but surely of all professions, his is the one that should not be confined to the narrow limits of a purely technical institution! University life provides one in which the student rubs shoulders with the keenest minds in all professions. Both church and school may suffer grievously from a narrow outlook. This fact, I presume, accounts for the recent appointment of a barrister as head of Rugby school. University training is a means, not an end, and when the graduate goes out to his life's work, the school should naturally become his laboratory and his pupils material for intimate study and understanding. How many lives have page 66 been wasted through lack of that understanding on the part of parents, teachers and employers! We rightly place much of this responsibility on the teacher because he has been trained for the purpose of preventing this wastage. "Democratic Government postulates citizens, enlightened, free, honest and patriotic" (Amiel)—if that postulate fails in any respect such Government becomes a dangerous farce. Our country rightly looks to the teaching professions to prepare such citizens—the most effective bulwark in a torn and bewildered world.