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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria University College, Wellington N.Z. Vol. 21, No. 2. March 27, 1958

[Notes on Congress]

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"When a multitude of young men, keen, open-hearted, sympathetic, and observant, as young men are, come together and freely mix with each other, they are sure to learn from one another, even if there be no one to teach them; the conversation of all is a series of lectures to each, and they gain for themselves new ideas and views, fresh matter of thought, and distinct principles by acting, day by day ... the pupils or students come from very different places, and with widely different notions, and there is much to generalize, much to adjust, much to eliminate, there are inter-relations to be defined, and conventional rules to be established, in the process, by which the whole assemblage is moulded together, and gains one tone and one character."

—John Henry Cardinal Newman, Idea of a University. Discourse VI

Drawing of University Coat of Arms

This may be taken as the ideal of Congress; it remains to estimate how far this year's gathering came up to this ideal, how far it became moulded together.

The prime fault was that Congress 1958 was over-organized; two lectures a day with organized activity on more afternoons than not, led not to cultivation of the intellect and fruitful contemplation, but to over-saturation. It tended to force so much on the mind that the mind became clogged, unable to retreat and look at the lectures from a distance, because the distance had become occupied with another lecture. The organized activities, apart from lectures, also took up more and more of the time which could have been used in sorting out the mess, and consequently increased it. This over-organization was an error: as Newman puts it "the error of distracting and enfeebling the mind by an unmeaning profusion of subjects; of implying that a smattering in a dozen branches of study is not shallowness, which it really is, but enlargement, which it is not . . . all things now are to be learned at once, not first one thing, then another, not one well, but many badly . . ."

How far this over-saturation affected Congress at large it is impossible to say; certainly it must take the blame for a large number of the meandering contributions which followed upon each lecture, and for the larger number of those who preferred to wrestle with their complexities in silence. It must also bear some of the responsibilities for the contrasting enthusiasm with which the students entered into the social and sporting activities as a means of escape.

But for all that, it cannot account for all the meanderings; it cannot account for the intellectual defeatism which was present and although no sound does not necessarily involve no activity, it verges on illusion to conclude that all those who remained silent were engaged in contemplation. Further, good taste, in a number of cases, seemed more important than truth; and the abject apologies offered before some of the questions smacked more of guarding against an intellectual [unclear: danger] than of humility.

This general judgment on the standard of post-lecture discussions was borne out on the three occasions when the students could have been expected to contribute more intelligently than on the other occasions: the forum on University education in New Zealand, the Congress forum,