Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria University, Wellington N.Z. Vol. 22, No. 8. August 3, 1959
Random Harvest — Too Many Lectures?
Too Many Lectures?
Do we have too many lectures in our universities? Are many of them rather humdrum and routine affairs?
It has been suggested that our modern lecture system is a residue of medieval times when there was a grave shortage of books and students had to rely to a great extent on the lecturer for the acquisition of knowledge. In these circumstances, of course, It was essential that all of the prescribed field should be covered by lectures.
But today, with books readily available, it would be desirable to modify the present arrangements, to have fewer lectures and to devote more time to seminars. Such subjects as philosophy, political science, history, psychology and education are no doubt more suitable than some others for the discussion method.
For instance, there really isn't much point in a man giving a general chronological survey of the French Revolution in his lectures when there are several competent general works on the Revolution.
Surely it would be better if students were to spend a couple of days mastering one of these general works. Then there could be a smaller number of lectures dealing with specially difficult or important topics.
Some progress in this matter has been made in at least one department here, where there are no lectures at all at Stage III and Honours levels; instead, students themselves read short papers (10 to 20 minutes) which are followed by discussion. Stage II students, at any rate, should be mature enough to have fewer lectures and more seminars.
Besides giving more responsibility to students, such a move would enable our overworked staff to devote more time to research. At present, some lecturers publish very little, and although nobody would want to see publication emphasised to the same extent as in the United States there could well be a little more activity in this direction in New Zealand.
There must be many persons who have started to read a book on, say, international affairs, but whose initial enthusiasm has soon disappeared when they have become bogged down and confused by a mass of abreviations, especially initials and composite words.
If we open our daily papers we see such conglomerations as BUP, ARP, GATT, PM, TAB, PAP, NEC, NAC and PAYE. Then there are the ALP, DLP, ICI, TUC, AASCM, M-O, RSA, ANZUS and UNO. If we read a student paper we meet such creatures as COSEC, GMPR, NUASU, NUSAS, UGMA, to say nothing of AGM, SCM, CSG, and WUS.
This results in lack of clarity and irritation when it concerns organisations—often the abbreviations are not even explained at the beginning of the account—and "depersonalisation" when it is applied to human beings.
No doubt it originated in a desire to save space (and time) but the actual space saved cannot really amount to very much—perhaps two pages in the average book and a quarter or a third of a column in the average newspaper.
One result is that many persons do not know what certain well-known abbreviations mean. They know their denotation but not their connotation. It is doubtful whether six out of 10 Wellingtonians could say what the letters D.I.C., A.D. T & G and a.m. stand for.
It may be fanciful but I also seem to detect a note of arrogance and perhaps even of snobbery in the way certain organisations try to impose their initials on people's minds.
Thus British Petroleum nearly always call themselves BP ("everyone knows us") and the makers of a certain cigarette have recently reduced the name of their product to initials and even tell prospective buyers how to pronounce them ("say dee-ar"), as if they were morons!
Some abbreviations have doubtless come to stay, but we should make an effort to reduce their number and not to increase them.
New Zealand's self-styled Hereward the Wake, Mr Holyoake, is awake at last. After being criticised by the Constitutional Society for the implications of his pronouncement that the aim of the National Party was "to restore a greater degree of personal liberty than New Zealand has known in the last 25 years," Mr Holyoake nevertheless repeated this promise.
But recently he said that "the next National Government will establish greater opportunity for greater freedom than has been given the people since 1957!"