Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume. 34, Number 14. July 21, 1971
Is it any wonder that the University Debating Society is on the verge of collapse. By any standards of judgement debating is a very poor form of spectator sport. Six mediocre and poorly-prepared speakers defending propositions often contrary to their own beliefs can hardly make for entertainment or even intellectual stimulus. Debating is little more than a hangover from the days when it might have proved a successful substitute for today's theatre and television screens.
By continuing to hold large meetings in the uncomfortable formality of lecture theatres, the Victoria Society is digging its own grave. Debating just can not hope to compete with film, music, and theatre for an audience. It is futile to arrange meetings with unknown speakers and uninteresting topics and hope to have full halls.
A radical reappraisal of the purpose and place of debating in the University is necessary.
In a modern context debating is really only relevant as an apprenticeship for public speaking. The need to speak and argue persuasively in public is as great as ever. So many New Zealanders are inarticulate in the face of a group. One need only look at participation in the average University tutorial or Wednesday's forum to appreciate this fact.
The Debating Society should reshape its thinking and have as its primary task the provision of a training ground for those interested in public speaking. A reasonably small group of between twenty and thirty people meeting at regular intervals because all wanted to learn to speak effectively would be the best method. Of course there could still be open debates - annual events like the sex, religious and Wi Tako debates. These could cater more for entertainment while the regular meetings held the society together.
It is worth a try. Workshop meetings have attracted reasonable numbers and there must be more who would like to try speaking in public but have never found the opportunity. The present policy of arranging open debates in anticipation of audiences can only lead to increasing disillusion within debating circles.
One thing is sure. If last weeks obituary is not to be accurate there will have to be a redefinition of purpose by the Debating Society.
There are many contentious points in Mrs Davidson's article on Abortion, but I will confine myself to two or three.
It seems to me that those wanting to "liberalise" the law in New Zealand are those wanting to impose their views on the majority of the population; the Society for the Protection of the Unboard Child - SPUC - which has 15,000 members (March 1971) seeks only to maintain the status quo, and it is significant that people like Dr Liley, who have studied the development of the human embryo, fully support SPUC.
I would not agree that a woman has the absolute right of life or death over her unborn child, without regard to the father. A pregnant woman is in a state of hormonal imbalance and is not always able to make a rational decision, especially in the first moments of blind panic. In spite of your tasteless cartoons, I believe that the incidence of suicides among pregnant women In New Zealand is very low. Many woman has become more than reconciled to a coming child well before the end of the nine months, which is not to say that I think we should wash or our hands of the problem. I would agree with Mrs Davidson that much more love and understanding and practical help is needed by unmarried mothers and those struggling with several young children, but I would most emphatically not agree that abortion solves any of these problems; it merely postpones them at the cost of innocent lives.
P. Morgan (Mrs)
It is interesting that under both the existing and proposed regulations for the B.A. degree at Victoria it is not easy for students to transfer from Waikato to Victoria and vice-versa.
For first degrees in the University of Waikato, students are required to complete 22 courses. This is equivalent to the nine units arts degree at Victoria. Thus, under the present system: 1 Waikato course equals 0.409 Victoria units and 1 Victoria unit equals 2.44 Waikato courses. Under the proposed 108 credit system at Victoria, I Waikato course equals 4.90909 Victoria credits.
Such a difficulty would be resolved if Victoria were to intoduce a 1188 credit degree, whereby each Victoria unit would be equivalent to 99 credits and each Waikato course equivalent to 54 credits.
The number 1188 has the duodecimal significance deemed so important by the Victoria arts faculty as well as incorporating the "Waikato number", 22. (It is of note that whereas the number 12 is arbitary, the number 22 is not; being the sum of the number of letters in the University of Waikato's, motto and the number of heraldic symbols of the University's coat of arms).
Such a suggestion should be received with great joy, for if introduced would provide almost limitless combinations for students to incorporate in their degrees. Eventually, it may be possible for students to have 1188 different subjects in their degree; what better argument could there be than the 1188 credit course to floor those who think university education too specialist-oriented?
I read with some incredubility the Obituary of the Debating Society in the last issue of Salient. While it was certainly a perceptive analysis of the grievous ills plaguing the Society, it was misleading in one important detail.
The Debating Society is Not Dead.
Whether the notice of death arose from a lack of integrity and scurrilous behaviour on Salient's part; or from an indecently hasty euthanistic desire to dispatch the Society; or was merely a justifiable mistake, I know not However, the Society is still alive and kicking, although it, is indeed suffering severely from "the distainful apathy... and ...spiritual and mental atrophy of the student masses" that you gave as the cause of death in your Obituary.
But be assured that the Debating Society has no intention of giving up the ghost in the immediate future.
In fact, there are indications that the Society still possesses a healthy instinct of survival. Earlier this year, for instance, we sent a 2-man team - Peter Butler and Hamish Hancock - on tour to the United States. Porbably the most formidable University debating combination in New Zealand, they debated 31 times in 20 states - all but twice against universities - and returned undefeated, earning New Zealand Universities and especially Victoria University an international debating reputation.
Later this month - the 23rd - we are holding Plunket Medal, an annual oratory contest for University speakers that has won much praise for its high standard.
A number of topical and provocative debates are also being organised. These include the classic annual Sex Debate, and religious and political debates with nationally known speakers taking part.
Some people allege that the Debating Society no longer serves any useful purpose in the University - that it ought to recognise that 'times have changed' and go under gracefully. But we believe that it is still relevant, despite the increasing number of forums of other kinds. For instance, being non-sectarian it can deliberately and impartially bring conflicting points of view together, as well as entertaining, and developing powers of verbal communication and mental agility. However, its success depends far more upon involved, alert participating audiences - somewhat scarce this year than upon the team members directly involved.
The Debating Society has its faults but essentially its success, indeed, its survival is in the hands of you, the members of the University.
John G. Blincoe,Secretary, V.U.W. Debating Society.