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Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 30, No. 2. 1967.


page 6


March 17, 1967

Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of VUWSA.

Arguments are plausible nonsense

Few would be so parochial as to argue there is no benefit in studying a foreign language. But, alas, there are many who argue that the benefit justifies the language requirement for a BA degree.

They argue the requirement brings a student into contact with another culture, provides a basis for advanced study in the student's main field, provides an understanding of our own language and has a disciplinary value. All are plausible nonsense. Of the four reasons advanced there is none more vague than that of disciplinary value. Maths would do the job much better. Similarly if a greater knowledge of our own language is so important, Latin should be compulsory. And who in all seriousness will pretend that a pass in a reading knowledge or for that matter a stage one unit, provides sufficient competence to do advanced studies? For this, stage three level or even the dizzy heights of honours is necessary—then we could all be linguists together.

That leaves contact with another culture. This is the only valid justification for the cruelty of the language requirement.

But the regulation presumes that language study is the best means of gaining such contact. On this there are many doubts. Surely the technicalities involved in learning a language, work against this presumption. Culture demands an appreciation of values and attitudes, an understanding of the historical development, and an insight into the peculiar art of a given society. Translating the story of the two mice (you know, one lived in the country and he went to see his cousin who lived in the naughty city) does not provide these.

A study of art and history would come much closer to this end, Yet today's opportunities for travel and the increasing contact of the world's cultures comes closest of all. More important this type of contact has greater imminence than analytical academics.

To establish their case the proponents of the language requirement must prove it offers benefits greater than those to be gained from a unit the student would study of his volition.

Such proof has never been forthcoming.

Human nature is against it ever coming.

It is only right to conclude that the enforced study of a language has no place in this university. It must be condemned as unworthy of academic freedom, as a hangover from Victorian times when it was considered an 'in' social grace.

Professors and administrators, enough have suffered the shortsightedness of this requirement. Admit it fails to achieve its purpose. Abolish it from the otherwise happy pages of our regulations. G.P.C.

Decision made by external power

The recent decision to double our Vietnam troop commitment clearly demonstrates the powerful external pressures operating on the Prime Minister and his Government.

During the past few months Mr. Holyoake has played host to Lyndon Johnson President of the United States, Air Vice-Marshall Ky the South Vietnamese Premier, and Harold Holt the Australian Prime Minister.

All were in favour of greater New Zealand involvement in the Vietnam war.

With the Malaysian force relatively idle now confrontation is over the Government had no excuse to procrastinate about increased military participation.

However as an Evening Post editorial (March 9, 1967) said, "The manner in which the latest decision was reached left much to be desired ... It had the effect of making the Government's early speeches sound exceedingly hollow."

Announcing the decision Mr. Holyoake again referred to "our obligations under the Manila Treaty" (SEATO). Again he overlooked the United Nations Charter which is the supreme international treaty.

New Zealand is not legally obligated under SEATO to send troops to Vietnam. And it is an open question whether our military involvement is compatible with article 51 of the UN Charter which says measures taken under regional defence agreements (e.g. SEATO) must be immediately reported to te Security Council.

Inevitably the war will end and New Zealand could well find itself out in the cold regarding its relations with Asian states.

By supporting the United States to the hilt in its Asian military activities we may be alienating ourselves from the very people with whom we wish to draw nearer.

Also the French President Charles de Gaulle is unlikely to view New Zealand favourably as a "special case" in the EEC negotiations over Britain's entry while United States influence on our foreign policy is so obvious.

Considering a settlement is not unlikely before the 1968 United States presidential elections, it is regrettable the Government should feel it necessary to commit New Zealand further into a war from which there is little to gain and so much to lose.