Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 5, No. 2 April 23, 1942
In our last Editorial we stressed the need for closer contact with the world outside the University, and as that world is to-day largely controlled by the army, it is our job to see if array life is all-sufficing. After a careful consideration of the work done in England, the United States, South Africa, Australia and Canada as regards an army educational service, "Salient" is of the opinion that immediate steps should be taken by the Government, under the guidance of the University authorities, to establish such a service in New Zealand.
We understand that the University together with the W.E.A. and other authorities on education have been stressing the importance of such a project for several months but as yet their recommendations have not born fruit. In England educational opportunities for the troops were considered of such importance that Mr. J. B. Priestly was commissioned to investigate and report on the matter, while in Australia there is a permanent Army Educational service established with a lieutenant-colonel in command as planner, full time unit educational officers, discussion and correspondence courses, and a weekly journal of the digest size, which is issued free to the men. As in England, Australia has a movement for having the service made part of routine training.
While men in camp were being trained for service overseas, the problem of supplying leisure time activities might not have seemed to pressing but now the mobilization of large numbers of home defence soldiers makes such a service imperative. Not only were many of the men in the middle of a specialised trade and professional training when called up, but others, and these deserve special consideration, were at a formative period of their lives, they were beginning to adjust themselves to adult life, beginning to accept and reject ideas, in other words attempting to set their mental house in order, when suddenly they were wrenched from a familiar environment to one where an entirely new set of values held sway, and they have yet to make the necessary adjustment. Those whose training has been interrupted Should be given the benefit of trade instruction not only to keep them in touch with their chosen occupation but also to assist them toward the day of their civilian rehabilitation. While those who have not yet commenced their working life, should be given opportunities to study economic, and sociological problems in the light of present day events and thus keep in contact with the civilian life they must live after the war.
Not only will such a service be an important contributing factor to civil re-establishment but military advantages have also been found by other countries to be derived from an organisation of this nature. In the United States General Pershing spoke of the service there as being of undoubted value in increasing morale and in giving concrete benefit to the individual soldier and officer. What the army needs is an alert, quick thinking soldier who is prepared to use his initiative, and a life which consists of little besides camp routine and route marches cannot be said to produce such a man. The Red Army learnt this important fact during the last war and it was the job of every soldier, after his period in the army, to return to his village as an agitator against ignorance and backwardness and to help to spread the appetite for self-improvement. During recent years, with education and progressive ideas firmly rooted in the villages, this has not been necessary and army education has concentrated much more on military tactics etc., but there has still been plenty of leisure for general sport and entertainment. The Red Army orchestras, singers and dancers are not merely amateurs but are amongst the most skilled and sought after performers in the whole country. Moreover each unit has a Political Commissar who is responsible for that unit's welfare. He supervises political education, the spreading of news, and the various discussions, which take place after manoeuvres of any military operations, between officers and men. Such discussions develop initiative and create better understanding and coordination between the command and the rank and file.
New Zealand, who has prided herself upon her progressive educational ideas, has much to learn from overseas. The sooner advantage is taken of the existing organisation of adult education in New Zealand and a utilisation of its service, as a nucleus around which schemes for extending, education to the army could be grouped, the sooner we will produce an army capable of withstanding the most powerful of aggressors. For an enlightened army can produce an enlightened society.
In Canada, Australia and Britain both languages and trade instruction has been given but while we agree that both are important aspects of army education "Salient" feels that a course of lectures on economics (not the economics taught at University), sociology, contemporary history and political science, followed by discussions, should also be an immediate consideration of those who are interested in boosting this project for care must be taken to see that the vocational angle is not over-stressed.
The war seems likely to continue for some time and more and more men will be called into home defence units, surely then we as students must put in our weight behind those who have been agitating for army education since the war began. While we take advantage of the comparative freedom of student life let us remember that education is not encompassed in a university degree.