SMAD. An Organ of Student Opinion. 1934. Volume 5. Number 6.
B. A. — What Does the "A" Stand For
What Does the "A" Stand For
It has been said that there are three types of men; those who cannot think at all; those who can think only when they are talking; and those who can think when they are alone.
For the most part they fall into the first category; not because they are stupid or unable to think, but from choice.
The man who boasts that he works so hard that he cannot find time for thought or reading, stands self-condemned as a man who is too frightened or too lazy to think. The idiots who rush home in the evening after work, swallow a hurried meal, and career back to the office, followed by the anxious but admiring cries of their parents, possibly indulge in a little self-congratulation, but in reality they are using the work in the manner of an anodyne, a drug deadening their minds, and tiring their mental mechanism.
Show me a man who has spent his leisure time bent over a book of calculi or Greek Roots and you show me a man whose mind is so atrophied that he is incapable of constructive thought.
The mountebank of fifty who spends his time pursuing butterflies, or collecting stamps has arrived at the same end, but through different means. He has passed the age at which he is able to occupy his brain with witty questions on the Gerundive Attraction of the Binomial Theorem. All good things come to an end; and he got his Degree. The question of what to do in his spare time, other than to read a book that makes his brain work, looms large on his mental horizon. It never occurs to the man that, having gained his Degree and satisfied the social powers that he was a man of some ability, he could now occupy his dunderhead with something useful. So he mopes and groans about the house in the evening, until his wife, shrewdly realising that he still has the mind of a child, suggests that he should find something interesting to do, he finds it in compiling the statistics of of the number of points scored by individual All Blacks since 1874. He is now happy. He has passed the crisis, and is now able to enjoy himself with no thought. In using the word, "thought" I do not associate with the true meaning of the word, such mental sopofirics as adding figures or cataloguing Lepidiptera; I mean it in the sense of "pure" thought, such as would be induced shall I say by Montaigne's Essays, or if one prefers a contemporary, Aldous Huxley's writings; better still, I mean it by that class of reasoning that is needed for such writers to write their works. Let these middle-aged children read such books—we must start them off on the easiest path first—read them thoughtfully, and if they are led off by the author along a by-path of thought let them not be afraid of it. But I fear it is in vain to assume that at thirty-five or even thirty a man would be able to manage it.
Put the same gentleman amongst a mixed crowd of men, all in their naked nakedness, one-half of them criminals and the other half bishops or public benefactors, and he is almost certain to put the criminals as pillars of the church and the holy gentlemen as safe-breakers. Mot through any worldly cynicism, but because he has studied human nature so little that he is incapable of separating the tares from the wheat.
Regarding the B. or M.A., with a Classica' education: the average guttersnipe of fourteen is more able to fend for himself than the graduate of a University: It is for this reason that one finds the products of Universities leading sheltered lives, in libraries, teaching infants, drawing up bills and torts, but how few men with degrees are soldiers, successful business men, or even politicians.
The fact that there are no men with University Degrees in Parliament is not the fault of the social system but of the graduates themselves. They would be unable to gain a seat. They could not persuade an electorate of half-wits to return them, to say nohing of a crowd of semi-educated, critical men.
On attaining their degree they shift their dim eyes from their books, and peer forth at the world, only to find themselves dazzled by the unexpected brilliance of the light. They cannot face it; a few make a pathetic blundering attempt to meet the position, and then go back to their books or postage stamps. All this for the reason that, for the most part, they are incapable of constructive reasoning.
In rebuttal of this, one may cite the hundreds of incipient barristers that rush forth from this seat of culture, to do battle in the world, but they only serve to bear out my point, because the knowledge they have been gaining is not cultural, it is essentially of the world, and practical, and for this reason these graduates fare much better and are more fitted for the scuffling and cheating of life than are their colleagues with their Arts Degree. In learning dead languages they themselves become dead. William Hazlitt says : "Any one who has passed through the regular gradations of a classical education and is not made a fool of by it, may consider himself as having had a very narrow escape."
Said a certain young hostess called Jean,
"Will you come to my party, old bean?
But be certain, by gosh,
That you have a good wash,
For I do like a man to come clean."