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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington N.Z. Vol. 11, No. 1. February 27, 1948

Our Academic Factory

Our Academic Factory

Have you ever thought of the University as a sort of badly-run academic factory, composed of departmental assembly lines turning out their yearly quota of individuals, crammed with semi-digested, unintegrated knowledge—the potential specialists, technicians and experts of tomorrow?

This may sound a little harsh but look at it this way. Today's world is urgently in need of the specialists, the technicians and the experts to help solve its problems of reconstruction, and it is the university's problem to satisfy this need. But it is one thing to provide an expert off the assembly line and another to provide an expert whose knowledge is integrated and who has some understanding of what his work means when applied to society, In short, one who has a social ethic.

Scientific management of industry with its attendant soup-kitchen problem, and the control of atomic energy with its attendant resultant destruction are but two reasons why the soecialist cannot allow his knowledge to be exploited without doing anything about it but weep afterwords.

Relating all this to Victoria we find that it was proposed in 1939 to commence a series of 13 introductory lectures to new students to meet the need for integration. Unfortunately the only record we have of this hesitant, belated, and abortive action was pertinent commentary by Salient's editorial of March 15th, 1939.

We quote:—

"It is almost unbelievable, for instance, that four lectures in a course of 13 should be devoted to medieval times, when there are so many immensely more relevant and important topics to be discussed . . . Here are a few topics suggested at random, which to me at least seem far more worthy of attention than many of those included in this year's list.

  • The Art of Thinking—an introduction to scientific method.
  • The History of Science—how science has influenced the mind.
  • Anthropology—patterns of culture.
  • Psychology and Everyday Life.
  • Economics Today — what is money? etc.

The Idea of Democracy—what it is and how it arose.

"The present set of lectures is a beginning—(it wasn't)—let us hope they will be widened in their scope and application until every university student will have a trustworthy and comprehensive knowledge of all the important intellectual, scientific and cultural achievements of our civilization."

The new primary and secondary school syllabuses have made an important concession to the need for a social consciousness with "social studies" but what are the universities doing? Nothing.

V.U.C. is creating a school of social sciences—we hail this with Joy. But why not go further? Set up a committee (or any workable alternative) to investigate and implement methods of integrating subjects and providing compulsory lecture or discussion periods whereby students may be given an opportunity to relate their knowledge and future work to society.

We shall have to replace "science for science's sake" with "science for society's sake."