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Salient. Victoria University of Wellington Student's Newspaper. Volume 31, Number 1. March 3 1968

Our President is shocked

Our President is shocked

Doug White. President of VUWSA. is a member of a group of Far East Student Leaders who are a( present touring the United States on a programme sponsored by the U.S. State Department and organised by the Experiment in International Living. The group visited San Francisco in January. Here is his story:

The wet streets were littered with dog offal, paper, and people. Those who inhabited the area as selfstyled outcasts from society were, as we expected, longhaired, dirty and "traditionally" dressed.

The area takes its world-renowned name from the intersection of Haight Street with Ashbury Street. We took a 15 cent bus trip from our hotel to Ashbury Street in the company of several "commuter" hippies who apparently shed respectability for a day's business in the area.

It was Sunday and wet with scattered showers which did not add to the pleasantness of our surroundings. On our way to find a drugstore for a light breakfast we passed several groups including one hippie who discordantly strummed his guitar to the liturgy of "my mother doesn't like me to come here because of the tourists".

The drugstore was reasonably dirty and the coffee was quite warm. The rest of the clientele seemed to be a cross-section of earnest pipesmoking pacifists and "Indian" fakirs as well as a two or three year old white child who was wheeled in by a negro, placed in a chair, and told to eat her own breakfast of water. She had a piece of white tape across her forehead.

Our post-breakfast walking took us to a shop where I was offered a grinder or a black banana "especially imported from Mexico and not gassed as other imported U.S. bananas are". I declined the offer, but was amused to learn that the shopowner knew of New Zealand as a nation of sheep.

Other shops sold postcards, posters, hippie artifacts, and the everlasting buttons with the usual catchphrases such as "Legalise Spiritual Discovery". 'Take a Viet Cong to Church this Sunday", and "Nasser is a Feeble-minded Pharoah". One assumes that the cult of the hippie was not established to make money, but the area is certainly commercialised. Indeed the owner of one shop told me that he ordered self-designed enamel peace badges from an Auckland manufacturer.

The underlying presence of drugs was blatantly obvious. Glassy-eyed automated hippies moved along the street unaware that they were on earth, while others sat hunched in doorways or just on the sidewalk staring at nothing. We were offered drugs by people who whispered "acid" as they brushed past. Others asked for money and the youthfulness of one girl "beggar" was horrifying. It is said that some of these outcasts could afford to buy the area.

We were there out of season because, according to one shopkeeper, in the summer it's like Broadway. The happy flower people whose creed is love were not to be seen. One could almost sense the hate in the air engendered by these people who unsuccessfully used drugs to escape from reality. There was no friendship only oppression There was no brightness or enjoyment, it was impossible not to feel disillusionment. For me the image of a glamorous hippiedom, as played up by the news media, was shattered.

I think we were all somewhat relieved to catch a bus back to downtown San Francisco to the reality of the problems of race and war which face the United Stales today.

For Flowers . . .

Waughs Flower Shoppe Ltd

5 Bowen Street

Tel. 40-797

(Atfer hours 44-068)

Margaret O'Connor Studio

Private Tuition Daily

Beginners only every Monday, 7-10.30 p.m.

Admission 5/-

58 Lower Cuba Street

Telephone 45-818

page 6

"I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked ..."

—Allen Ginsberg, Howl.

It may seem a little ungrateful of me to quote these words on the topic of university education. It is not very polite to be critical of one's alma mater. But courtesy is a poor excuse for complacency, and the time for reform of New Zealand's universities is long overdue.

By failing to keep up with the changing educational needs of the community, the university is becoming an introverted and stultifying prison of the intellect. Under the increasing pressure of numbers and the accumulation of knowledge, it tends to reward lack of imagination, rote learning, and a certain low cunning.

Most of the major defects can be traced to the examination system, the system whereby students are selected and assessed; and it is the examination system that must be either abandoned or radically reformed.

Of course, to expect a full-scale revolution may be unrealistic; but, in the increasingly self-critical atmosphere which has followed the publication of the Parkyn report, extensive changes are inevitable. This report deserves careful consideration.

In 1955 Mr G. W. Parkyn, director of the New Zealand Council for Educational Research, was asked to investigate problems of success and failure at university. With more than one third of all first-year students failing, the universities were concerned with the wastage of money, time and effort.

The first volume of the report, dealing with the standard of entrance qualifications and the academic performance of first-year students, was published in 1959. Volume-II, which reports further investigations into the causes of failure, was published last year.

Like the work of most experts, the report's reasoning is precise at the expense of being tedious, and its conclusions remain scientifically tentative. Beneath the jargon and the statistics, however, Parkyn has produced a sharp indictment of the present system.

The main implication of the first volume was that "a large proportion of the actual failure was unnecessary, in the sense that it was not inherent in or predetermined by the ability and attainments of students on entry to the university" ed in the second volume supports this conclusion, and shows that any selection procedures is both unnecessary and undesirable. Almost every student who enters the university at present has the innate capacity to benefit from it, and it is impossible to predict potential failers with any accuracy. In order to halve the present rate it would be necessary to exclude more than half of the present entrants, and those excluded would contain as many potential passers as potential failers.

Farkyn then looks at several factors which might the failure rate. Few relate significantly. Full-time students do better than part-time students, not cnly in the overall number of units gained per year, but also in the proportion of successes per unit attempted. However, the part-time/full-time factor "accounts for only a small part of the variance of performance in first-year students."

Nor is the student's course-load an important element in his failure: while some students may be attempting too much, by and large "there appears to have been a fairly accurate adjustment of load to ability." Other factors, such as accommodation, travelling time to university, and socio-eeonomic background, were similarly unrelated.

Poor teaching may impair a student's performance considerably. But Parkyn devotes little space to the effects of teaching methods, since hardly any scientific evidence is obtainable. He comments only that "in recent years several university departments in New Zealand have demonstrated to their own satisfaction that a marked improvement in the work of their students could be brought about by improvement in their teaching."