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Salient: An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 12, No. 1, February 23rd, 1949.

Lost Sheep and Communist Bell-Wethers?

page 2

Lost Sheep and Communist Bell-Wethers?

Rarely does Salient accept an outside article as an editorial, even when it is written by someone with so high a reputation Mr. Combs. If we break our tradition this time, it is because we feel that such a reply is [unclear: mitigated] by the publicity which [unclear: Rev]. Sullivan's remarks received.


A Reply to Rev. Sullivan

"Students behaving as if their minds were closed . . ."

What does Mr. Sullivan mean by a "closed mind?" Does he mean, for instance, that I, a Socialist, who have spent years in reaching certain "leftist" convictions will as the result of a few hours' discussion, be prepared to abandon standpoints of which I have long-been convinced, merely because they are challenged in argument? And does he mean that he, as a Christian, will similarly be prepared to abandon tenets he has for years regarded as essential to his faith?

I am sure he does not. Why, then, does he expect communists to do so? To put it mildly, the mind of a communist stubbornly adhering to Marxism is no more closed than that of a clergyman cleaving devoutly to the Apostle's Creed. The communists at the Congress were quite prepared to have their philosophy run the gauntlet of criticism, and in my opinion they by no means had things all their own way, even if a forward-looking group of young people concerned, in a rapidly changing age, for the future, did register a swing away from an orthodoxy which the eighty-year-old Mr. Shaw termed a "huge mass of obsolescence."

"A Vocally Strong Minority Carried the Day"

Guided by the four days I spent at the Congress, I must flatly contradict this statement. It is, of course, true that the speakers, bound to be a minority at any such gathering, did voice the feeling and outlook of the majority present, though not, I should opine, those of Mr. Sullivan. This taken for granted, however, the Congress was the most democratically conducted affair of its kind I have ever attended. Following on an address, it broke up for group discussions and then united again to criticise and question the speaker. It is perhaps to the point to say that my own very radical views of university reform were both drastically and ably criticised and that, had time permitted, they would have been even more faithfully dealt with. This being so, Mr. Sullivan's suggestion that most of the students were sheep easily led, is wide of the mark. Moreover, the manner in which the discussions were sustained—quite a good deal by animated dissentients—and the interest shown by the audience, renders Mr. Sullivan's allusion to "most of the students" as appearing "inarticulate, woolly-minded, or dumb," entirely out of keeping with the facts. As already said, it is, of course, true that most of the speaking was done by a minority, but it was not a small minority. Has Mr. Sullivan ever attended similar gatherings where this was or could be otherwise? I have not.

120 Students Attended out of 11,000. Could this Quota Have Been Increased?

Such a small attendance as the above, Mr. Sullivan considers "a poor reflection on the average student citizenship." So do I. Indeed I go further and consider it a reflection upon our whole education system from primary school to university college, a system which can turn out "muddied oafs" and "flannelleled fools" by the thousand, but does shockingly little to harvest in its full ear a mental prowess potentially as great. I hope that Mr. Sullivan, as part of his dedicate service to collegiate life, will not rest till he has seen this condition of affairs greatly improved. But this said, how does this painful fact regarding the 11,000 reflect on the 120 who did attend the Congress and energetically participated in its work and its play? Surely Mr. Sullivan has involved himself in a non sequitur here.

A "Press Release" Hard to Excuse

On admittedly slight acquaintance, the writer took Mr. Sullivan for a good companion bent, as part of his sacred-office, on furthering the cause to which he is ordained. As did all others at Curious Cove, he mixed on terms of friendly easy mutual confidence with his co-attendants at the Congress. He was, too, a member of the management committee. Then it would seem he felt in honour and conscience moved to drastically criticise the Congress. So far good; but how on earth did he fail to inform the management committee on which he sat, of what he intended to do, thus causing all who thought the Congress had done well and was an augury of Congresses better still, to feel that it had been smeared and that they themselves had been tripped up from behind?