The Allegory of the Seminar Series

Andy Landolfi

We brush away classes we deem meaningless, not out of spitefulness, but out of necessity—when the crowd moves one direction all must follow or risk exposure. Exposure is danger; grounds for crucifixion in a highly social environment. To get lost in the rapids of social conformity provides comfort—but not all comfort is created equal—accompanied with inherent perils.

As the university prepares to revamp the QU Seminars Series, most rejoice, and those who do not, remain silent—quieted by the cacophony of the majority.

They may say, “Do away with the annoyance. Free me from the burden of writing and reading and thinking involved in the Seminar Series and let me focus on the job at hand (or the preparation for the future job at hand).”

Cases exist in which some students endure professors who fail to educate them in QU 101, but these stories are generally few and far between. Untold are the stories of professors who accomplish their mission and create a course that successfully teaches the core ideas and concepts lying between the covers of  “The Individual in the Community” anthology. But these stories remain dormant while student’s herald tales of failure—inadvertently (or maybe not)—propagating supposed wide-held beliefs about the course; the exception becomes the commonality.

Students enter QU 101 with preconceived notions regarding what the class will entail; they begin, trapped in Plato’s cave, unaware of the sunlight shining at the surface. As they gorge themselves on the common sentiment, the shackles are tightened around their wrists and ankles. We feed on the negativity of others and then reciprocate the negativity toward others.

Some may recognize the value of the stories and ideas and lessons hidden in the texts of course readings, but these students stay silent. Quietly, the shackles loosen around their wrists and eventually fall away from their ankles.

These students scramble toward the surface and away from the legions happily playing with the shadows—starring contentedly at their ignorance. That shadow must be an elephant, and that one must be a monkey; it must be.

On the surface, meaning is clear: Form accompanies shape and shape composes actions that convey actual ideas and thoughts. Reality glistens quietly above while name play continues noisily below.

Those on the surface dare not enter the chaos below; for a guardian to call attention to the truth assures total social destruction. Hostile ideas continue propagating below while the timid few make the all-too-lonely trek to the surface—a walk that too few endure; the majority opinion smashes the minority opinion.

Those below spew ideas and beliefs without justification while those above sit idly by. And then the day comes when a reference to a course reading surfaces and the majority questions the merit, and those who made the trek, despite the social calamity, nod in knowing approval.