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We Were Active... Senior Discussion Group A committee was formed early this year by 6S3 to organise and run a Discussion Group on the suggestion of Mr. S. Newman. The aim of this group was to invite people from outside the school (expert in their fields) to speak on subjects connected with our studies and interests. The original plan was to invite these experts to speak for about 10 minutes on controversial subjects, which would stimulate perhaps half an hour’s subsequent discussion. It was also our intention to fit these meetings into the lunch hour in order to gain the maximum freedom of choice in speakers and topics, for if school times alone were used, the College might be held responsible for any “rebel” opinion expressed. However, we found that the lunch hour was not long enough for our purposes, so by putting the pressure on in the right places, it was found possible to sacrifice an English period to supplement the time at our disposal. We feel this should be a regular feature of future meetings though the upper sixth should be willing to give some of its time to these meetings in order to preserve the right of choice of speakers and topics. We procured these speakers on the following topics: Mr. Richard J. Gordon, “The Racial Problem in U.S.A.”; James K. Baxter, “Teaching of Poetry in Schools”; Mr. Howard L. Trotman, “Freedom from Hunger Campaign Aid”; Dr. W. B. Sutch, “Education in New Zealand”; Messrs. M. Lockwood and S. Toogood, “Advertising Keeps the Wheels of Industry Turning”; Mr. S. H. W. Hill, “Overseas Education Systems”; Mr. Bruce Mason, “The Failure of Criticism”; Sir Kenneth Gresson, “Censorship in N.Z.”. We found that some speakers were intent on presenting a case, rather than provoking an argument, and these tended to stimulate discussion better, especially in the cases of Dr. Sutch and Messrs. Toogood and Lockwood. However, the meeting which these advertising men addressed, which promised to be one of the hottest discussions in the history of the group, was aborted because of lack of time; a case when the extra period would have been very valuable. Proof of this also lies in the success of Dr. Sutch’s talk, when the extra time was indispensable. We think that more periods should be devoted to extra curricular such as this. Dr. Sutch advocated less specialisation in secondary schools in order to produce more versatile people. The tendency, he said, was to train people for a particular subject rather than to educate them. He told us that by 1980 New Zealand’s population will be about five million,

Committee: A. N. Small (Chairman), R. W. Smith (Secretary), J. A. Wedde Staff Adviser: Mr. S. Newman


and in order to maintain or improve our standard of living we must emulate prosperous countries that have about that population now, i.e., Switzerland or Denmark. To do this we must create a more extensive and more skilled industrial complex and this can only be successfully achieved by a well-educated society. In the case of J. K. Baxter we found that he was so wellversed in his subject that his comment upon his poem, “To a Spider Making Its Nest in the Corner of a Lavatory Roof” was above the heads of most of the boys. However, a small group of boys who stayed afterwards found that with a more intimate group Mr. Baxter was a stimulating and down-to-earth character. One of our most successful speakers was Bruce Mason, who spoke on the failure of criticism. As one who is subject to much criticism, Mr. Mason found that although he was interested in the criticism levelled at his works, he took little notice of it. In New Zealand, he said, there were too few dedicated critics and most criticism took the form of consumer reports without evaluating the theme. A critic must decide what a work is saying and whether it is worth saying. Then he can decide whether or not it is put in a “lively” manner and thus an estimate of its entertainment value. All discussions depend on group participation A speaker always has to put in a certain amount of thought and preparation. It is only fair, then, that the group should do the same. This could be carried out as a class activity in deciding what problems arise from a known topic and thus some pertinent questions could be raised at the group meeting. Although teachers have a syllabus to get through, it is also their duty to educate their pupils. Discussions and other allied activities form a necessary part of the “discovery” method of teaching. As a student-run activity, we feel that the discussion group has so far been a great success. If the venture had been run by a master, its value would have been lessened. This is because a master would perhaps have invited speakers to talk on subjects biased towards our studies rather than our interests. Furthermore, the speakers were to stimulate discussion between boys, not between boys and masters. Besides this, it is well known that the enthusiasm of the master in charge of a group like this is often forced, and when the group loses its initial interest so the master loses his initial interest. For these and other reasons we believe that the sixth

1965 Wellingtonian  
1965 Wellingtonian