GOOD MEN LOST
RESEARCH AND UNIVERSITY
Rutherford might have returned to New Zealand, instead of going to Montreal in 1898, but he knew very well that there was no hope of continuing and developing his research here. New Zealand has lost opportunities, in recent years, of attracting and keeping established and distinguished workers from Europe; opportunities from which many other countries are at present benefiting greatly. The widespread defeatist view, which at present dominates appointment policy, that New Zealand cannot afford to keep' a good man, must be given up. We hold that New Zealand cannot afford to lose a good man." This is the outspoken view of a group of University teachers in a statement issued on "research and the university," signed by Prof. R. S. Allan, professor of geology, Canterbury; Prof. J. C. Eccles. professor of physiology, Otago University; Prof. T. G. Forder, professor of mathematics, Auckland; Prof. P. Packer, professor of chemistry, Canterbury; Dr. H. N. Parton, lecturer in chemistry, Canterbury, and Dr. K. R. Popper, lecturer in p]-ilosophy, Canterbury. No attempt was made to secure a large number of signatures as it was thought desirable to avoid delay in the publication of the statement. University's "Inescapable Duties"
Those responsible for the statement say that they agree with A. Flexner, an American writer on university education, that research and teaching in the university should be "conceived as hovering on the borders of. the unknown, conducted, even in the realm of the already ascertained, in the spirit of doubt and inquiry." They regard research and teaching not as separate functions of university teachers, but as complementary parts of a single activity.
' "The university has inescapable duties to the most talented members of each generation, that is, to those capable of making contributions to the development of knowledge," they continue. "The university fails in this obligation if the teaching it provides is not imbued with the spirit of inquiry as it is embodied in the tradition of research. Teaching not linked with research is on a lower plane, and does not stimulate the best intellects of successive generations of students."
Both activities of the university should be fused, they declare, and fusion is natural, because most research workers have a strong desire to teach. The real research worker feels the urge to hand on the torch of which he is the bearer. At the same time, teaching on a high level is impossible without research. The commonly held view in New Zealand that the university is primarily a teaching institution should be abandoned, say these teachers, and the university should be looked upon as an institution in which the spirit of free inquiry is preserved and cultivated.
Basic Requirements Basic requirements which must be fulfilled if the university is to play its proper role as a research institution, they point out, are: (1) It must be supplied with adequate finance; (2) the academic staff must be large enough to ensure individual members sufficient freedom from teaching to undertake serious research, which often demands continuity of effort and may temporarly absorb the whole energies of the worker; (3) provision of the necessary space and essential apparatus, and of technical and clerical assistance; (4) adequate library facilities, nd, in iferticular, periodical literature on a greatly increased scale; (5) a breakaway from isolationist tendencies, that is, recognition of the need for contact with colleagues, within and outside New Zealand, by attendance at conferences and congresses, by visits to other research centres, and by regular sabbatical leave; (6) means of publication of research by a university press, or by monetary assistance; and (7) recognition by controlling bodies that research activity should receive due reward in such matters as status and pro-, motion. Besides these basic requirements, -they hold that the right spirit must be present. In a comparatively new country where research traditions are rare they must be imported, either by sending promising research workers abroad or by importing research scientists from overseas. An excellent example of the successful importation of a research tradition into New Zealand they say, is the establishment of the Otago School of Geologists by Professor W. 'N. Benson.
Examinations A Failure "In order to' remedy the situation in New Zealand- a complete change of attitude is required," say these leaders. "A specialist might achieve a much greater educational result by teaching his specialty, than by spreading his teaching over what is traditionally considered the balanced content of his subject. The view that it is the task of the university to hand to students a definite body of examinable knowledge must be discarded." . , , They therefore regard complete revision of the examination system as essential, and add that the role played by examinations in the university is at present greatly overvalued. In their view the educational task of the university must be taken much more seriously than its role in gradmg students. What they seek is nothing but the belated realisation of principles laid down in the Reichel-Tate report of 1925, which described the 'proper interaction of teaching and research" as the very essence of the highest education, said that "teacher and student in a university should be engaged jointly in a voyage of discovery in search of truth, and that "a teacher of science who is untouched by the research spirit is incapable of fulfilling the higher ideals of his position." . "We believe that the great influx of students now in progress endangers university standards, they conclude, in stating that the present is an appropriate time to recall and endorse the Reichel-Tate findings.
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GOOD MEN LOST, Auckland Star, Volume LXXVI, Issue 173, 24 July 1945
GOOD MEN LOST Auckland Star, Volume LXXVI, Issue 173, 24 July 1945
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