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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 11., No. 9. 28th July 1948

On Writing Something Oneself

page 4

On Writing Something Oneself

So "another one has gone," Mr. McLeod has Informed us, and if then we do not like what Salient prints to overcome copy shortage . . . then we are urged to "write something yourself."

Now with that hope-cum-command from the Acting Kelt for I would have no quarrel if—the trouble being that I am unable to see why it is that every time that Salient runs short of copy it must print such hand-picked nonsense. This last issue for example?—an article rushed in as a reply to Mr. Grace's contribution, a little piece of one-sided comment on the Itallun elections (from the Daily-Trojan) and yet again news of the W.D.F.Y. In the second to last issue there is another reprint in the same tone from the Dally Trojan. Are there no other items worthy of reprinting in the pages of the 35 other papers with which Salient exchanges?

It will not be a Mr. Nash for someone to be a Neville Colvin to and open myself to cries of reaction, for there is clearly a shortage; but that does not mean that it is reasonable to fill Salient with unreasonableness just to be internationally minded. To suggest that Salient ought to be censored is childish and for this paper to become just concerned with a scat of learning up on the hill would be just as foolish. There is surely, a happy medium, a medium that is not a dull mediocre resulting in no opinions at all.

Through the years Salient has been abused at all sorts of levels for its bias, unfairness and other crimes. Now while Salienl does seem to be editorially one track, especially in reprints and editorial comment (e.g.. the special issue Vol. 11, No. 3) there is no doubt that there paucity of subscribers has more basic reasons for its existence than Salient's own peculiar brand of radical internationalism.

The main reason, as I see it for Salient's subscribers shortage is that few people wish to say anything. Self evident perhaps but worth comment. The question is why have they nothing? Some may cling to the idea that "in this mess, old boy, politics and religion are never discussed." No one to my mind has ever given a sound reason why this should be so, and if discussion of either of those subjects is dangerous or improper then what fundamental issues may we discuss? Politics we may get in Salient, religion parely If religion is what it claims to be then it is worthy above all things of discussion in the light of reason. But the fact is that recent controversy in Salient has neither been fundamental nor widespread. Some few indulge in a little argument sometimes.

We are being educated in a world which cherishes knowledge, and too often knowledge for itself. Without a degree the professions are closed and although degrees are not a true indication of an educated man they are our hallmarks of education. The result of knowledge and more knowledge is, in too many cases, a person who has no critical faculty and very vague ideas as to right and wrong. This person has nothing to say because he is unable to judge events or ideas, or is indifferent to the fact that such a judgment is necessary. Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch had this to say of his sort of education:

"The man we are proud to send forth from our schools will be remarkable less for something he can take out of his wallet and exhibit for knowledge than for being something, and that something recognizable for a man of unmistakable intellectual breeding whose trained judgment we can trust to chose the better and neglect the worse." That does not seem to be our type of education.

The majority of students may know a great deal when they graduate, but the majority of them think only a little. Under the present system the aim is knowledge and not education. The student crams his subject to pass an exam and get on in the world, usually at the expense of the thinking mind. The pursuit of knowledge then and the neglect of the necessity for thought is one of the reasons why I think Salient lacks copy.

Not that the student is to blame—not wholly to blame. The average lecture group is not critically minded for the atmosphere is not a critical one. Lectures are not places of truth seeking but of knowledge absorption, even though there is often room for wide discussion. Lectures are to be noted, learnt and remembered; but except for cafeteria and common room discussion there is little criticism of lecture material. Students are not interested in the ideas presented, their value and their reasonableness, but with covering the syllabus before finals.

What the solution is I am not prepared to suggest. The problem of overlong courses (law for example) and the exam fixation (which of course is necessary in some degree I am only criticizing the present emphasis) and the general lack of vigorous thought among those who are being educated is a complex and serious one. The number of graduates may increase each year but is the average 'graduate educated or merely learned?

Because I think that the system is wrong, or at least needs revision I think Salient will continue to be short of copy. The impetus for discussion, the statement of viewpoints and criticism and commentary comes not from college life itself and while this is so few students will be interested in helping the editor of Salient or any other university publication.