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Salient. Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Volume 31, No. 24. October 1, 1968

Pupils get own Association — Bruce Mason at meeting

Pupils get own Association

Bruce Mason at meeting

A Secondary Schools Students' Association, representing seven schools in the Wellington area, was formed at a public meeting on Sunday.

The idea of an Association was first discussed in August, and a pamphlet announcing the meeting was distributed by an interim committee of university and college students.

The meeting, which was addressed by playwrite Bruce Mason, was attended by more than 100 secondary school students, and about thirty adults.

These included observers from the Post-Primary Teachers Association, the Wellington Branch of the Education Institute, the V.U.W. Students Association besides secondary teachers.

Mr. Mason apologised for the absence of Mr Shallcrass, Senior lecturer in Education at V.U.W. who did not address the meeting for "professional reasons".

He said Mr Shallcrass would "inhibit educational research" he was doing in Wellington schools by active participation in the meeting.

Terming himself a "disinterested but sympathetic observer," Mr Mason said he welcomed the formation of such an Association.

"The secondary school system is too authoritarian."

Mr Mason said it was "barbaric" to retain corporal punishment in schools, and said it was "degrading to boys and administrators".

Referring to the Free Press, he said he accepted the assurances of the Association that the two were not associated.

"But in view of the publicity the Free Press is getting it may be wise to delay the formation of the Association until the New Year.

"This meeting will be widely equated with the attitude of the Free Press and its attacks on staff members," an attack, that Mr Mason said was "intemperate and illadvised".

Referring to another passage in the first edition, Mr Mason said it was remarkably similar in sentiment to part of an open letter he had written to Mr Dorofeev, the Russian Ambassador, which was published, "completely independently" in the Dominion that morning.

"I, a middle-aged man, was taking the same role as youth," he said.

A primary headmaster and former Fullbright scholar who was present said he had been impressed with the amount of democracy he had seen in similar schools in many states in U.S.A. and said this Association would have little trouble attracting public and parental support.

"I am reminded of Dr Leach in the Reith lectures saying that British public schools turned out an unimaginative, well-disciplined conformist."

"New Zealand schools are aping this," he said.

Asked whether the aims of the Asssociation were solely those laid down in the pamphlet, the organisers said further aims could be adopted when the Association got on it's feet.

An elderly woman then questioned the need for the Association at all because she didn't think pupils would have sufficient time.

"They go to school to learn." she said, and added that discipline was very necessary for children.

"I remember one of my boys coming home from a boarding school black and blue all over," she said.

" 'Billy', I said 'what have they done to you', and he replied 'I deserved it Mum.'

"Children respect you more," she said.

A Dutchman promptly arose and said that his school had one rule, punctuality.

"We respected our teachers and didn't have all the funny rules you have here," he said.

The rest of his remarks were lost in the applause.

A prolonged discussion on the desirability of the entire meeting voting on the formation of the Association, or just the secondary school students present followed.

Speakers favouring the former said it was advertised as a public meeting, and all those present should have an opportunity to vote, but most speakers saw this as dictating to students about their own association.

The uncertainty of the chairmen was exceeded only by the frequency of procedural motions, but finally the vote was allowed to students only.

Brisk debate was accorde a policy motion that "prefect; not be allowed to hold office or be elected to the Executive of the Association," before it was lost by a convincing margin.

Two further motions, that the Headmaster of Wellington College be condemned for condoning the assault by his prefects on two university students, selling Free Press, and a motion dissassociating the Association from Free Press met the same fate.

Students applauding a speaker who pointed out that a motion condemning Mr. Hill would detract from the effect desired by the disssociative motion were startled to find that they had voted down the two proposals "by acclamation".