Salient. The Newspaper of Victoria University College. Vol. 20, No. 1. March 22, 1956
New Zealand theme at Curious Cove
New Zealand theme at Curious Cove
"Congress? Well, there's swimming, snorkelling, diving, walking up the mountain, bows and arrows, volleyball, tenni-quoits, and bowling; talking in the evening and fishing in the moonlight. Yeah, there's [unclear: plent] on at Congress, enough to keep you going. How do I keep going? Me, I get on nicely, sleeping at the lectures!"
To the superficial observer that comment on Congress, from, incidentally, a play all about Congress, gives a pretty fair picture of the seven days, the seven daze and of course the nights at the ever Curious Cove, sun-drenched in those high hills of Marlborough's Queen Charlotte Sound. But it's only snperficial. There's plenty on at Congress, true enough, but it runs a little deeper than athleticism and sunshine.
While the off-beat fun is what one remembers over the years rather than the erudition of the talks and the discussion, looking back on Congress and congresses, one forgets that the ideas we talked about, had thrust at us, listened to, sometimes absorbed or digested only slightly, these often new and sometimes startling concepts became more part of us than we thought at the time.
For instance, the key idea of this, the eighth congress, was New Zealand. Within that framework congreasers thought about what sort of character the average New Zealander joker was, did some little soul-searching on their own account, thought about religion, the university man, education, radio, economics and university politics all in the context of New Zealand.
They discovered, for instance, that they thought New Zealanders were easy going and sports loving, but university students were lazy and reserved. While it would not be wise to draw too many conclusions from such a strictly limited survey—even though it was conducted by Canterbury's psychology professor Dr. A. Crowther—it shows a trend in the thought of the sort of people who are prepared to come to the Cove each year who are more or less typical of the New Zealand university student.
Religion in N.Z.
The isolation of religion from everyday life in, New Zealand was deplored by the Rev. Malcolm Wilson of Knox Church, Christchurch. He felt that the time had come for religion to be more integrated into our society and suggested that objective teaching of religion in schools by trained teachers and chairs of comparative religion and Old and New Testament studies at the Universities would be one step along the way.
Knowledge, in itself, was not enough, of course. Equally if not more important was for each New Zealander to examine the claims of, the Church and to live Christianity within it, he stressed. No nation can achieve a depth or greatness without faith and without religion, he said. The inference, for New Zealand, is appallingly clear.
The common idea of the University man as a good New Zealand joker who can mix his concrete or dig his ditch as well as any labourer during his vacation, came in for disapproval from Professor E. Percival, Canterbury's zoologist. He thought that the long vacation job had become an undesirable convention. When it was not financially necessary the student was far better in spending time advancing his own work, said the professors.
The student who would never be a working man was not going to benefit by knowledge of the working man and his habits. The student had a different purpose in life, he said, and it was better for him to concentrate on that.
Rather an interesting opinion nicely calculated to raise the hackles of the decent New Zealand jokers, which it did, and something worth thinking about.
Both Prof. Percival and Mr. J. Leggatt, head of Christchurch Boys, agreed that students were no duller than they used to be in the "good old days." Mr. Leggatt pointed out that with larger numbers being educated right through secondary schools and the universities instead of the select few, the average level of ability was bound to fall. It was one of the concomitants of mass education.
The dispersal of brains because of zoning was decried by this forthright school teacher. Instead of having the upper crust of the really bright school children scattered through different schools he would like to see them brought together more so that instead of them riding on the wave of their brilliance while their schoolfellows floundered behind them they would have more competition at a higher level.
Radio Scripts Wanted
For the would-be writer Talks Director. J. H. Hall of the NZBS, had some helpful words. He described how short was the New Zealand market for radio plays and especially serials. Here was a tailor-made and virtually untapped source for a bright adaptable pen, he told the congress. Mr. Hall also outlined the present broadcasting arrangements with its division into YA. YC. ZB and latterly YD He spoke strongly of this ad hoc arrangement, going so far as to call it chaotic. Sometimes I'm inclined to agree.
Speaking in a delightful Scots burr Dr. A. Douglas, Medical Officer of Health for Canterbury) spoke of the vast need for preventive medicine and discussed some of the avenues in which money could be well spent.
Asked by Chairman Danks, the earthy economist, what he would do with a few million, Dr. Douglas was not quite equal to the occasion. He did, however, assure Prime Minister (for the time being) Danks that the money would be spent most profitably, aye.
Chairman Danks Superb
The chairman superb was Prof. A. J. Danks, Christchurch, economist, notorious for his expose of the fallacies of Social Credit. Master of the trenchant phrase and possessed of a truly delightful sense of humour, he never let the reins of control slip from his expert hands as he steered discussion after discussion through the Scylla of verbosity and the Charybdis of sententiousness.
I have seen many Congress chairmen, but none was better than Danks. His achievement, for that is what it was, will be remembered as possibly the best thing about the '56 congress.
In his ex eathedra address to the faithful he guided the unwary through a maze in search of economic man and through them to the conclusion that man's power to behave as a free economic agent-had disappeared with the workings of the Welfare State. An enlightening but at the same time sobering thought,
This congress was also notable for the presence of 20 or more Australian students for most of the time. All of them created a good impression and contributed something tangible to the success of the congress in the way of Trans-Tasman observation on the [unclear: s] Kiwi.
They described New Zenlanders as easy going, hospitable, friendly and sociable, which if not very profound was a nice thought to remember when we next meet an irate tourist.
This was the first large contingent of Australians at Congress since the student exchange began. It is to be hoped that even more will come in the future as there is much to be gained from a mutual exchange of opinions in the convivial surroundings of Congress.
On the lighter side the entertainment was no less diverse. Good weather produced the usual crop of burnt bodies, aqua-ski neophytes, snorkel addicts and phosphorescence exploration. (For the benefit of the unscientific the plankton in the water at the Cove causes a most unusual effect at night, when the water takes on a weird luminescent glow.)
Brilliant Congress Play
One of the brilliant highlights was the reading of Peter Cape's play, "Under the Wooden Mountain." Closely modelled on Dylan Thomas's "Under Milkwood," it was a colourful chronicle of congress, vigorous, extravagant and witty.
Sample quotes: "Kahikatea mountain, Kike-a-teer mountain, the wooden mountain, butter-box slab-side steep, stone bone-browed like a lecturer's skull. ..."
"... the sea slick as a cat in a morning coat nuzzles its paws and waits for the wind. . . ."
". . . the afternoon is full of flash and sunshine, beetroot bodies and sea-water. . . ."
" . . and the sun like a pat of butter slips down the frying pan sky. . .," . . o such a clattering and a shattering, a piecemeal pellmell brain-belting brawling of sound, berating and bedevilling the breakfast tardy boys of hut 18. . .."
In spite of the fact that there were seven days this year instead of ten the congress did not seem to suffer from truncation, It did lack, however, the stimulating intellectual atmosphere of some earlier gatherings.
The discussions were good as far as they went, but they never reached great heights. This could have been partly due to some of the subjects, interesting certainly, and well presented, but not the sort of stuff you get wildly enthusiastic about. The theme of New Zealand, after all, has most definite limitations.
But this is a question largely of comparison. There have been better congresses, I think, but no one went home from this one dissatisfied. Intellectually, socially and in every way it was—as it always is—the best holiday for everyone at university. If it sometimes fails to reach the heights one has known, one does not complain. Each one has its special attraction that makes it unique, and for that we must be thankful.