Madeline Respeliers, Contributing Writer
The University of Dallas students are such a peculiar breed that I more often hear them complain about the superficiality and banality of textbooks than I hear them complain about being asked to read approximately 500 pages of dense Plato. Perhaps that’s just because I’m a senior, but I think it owes more to the fact that UD students – as a stereotype – come here expecting to delve deep in search of immutable truths about life that merit the effort to find them. This search, as a rule, requires two things: a desire to find the truth, even if it isn’t comfortable, and an utter rejection of hearsay, with the consequent reliance on primary sources. Anyone not in accord with this ideology had best transfer out immediately, especially if he’s a professor.
Now that the heretics are gone, I address this plea to the rest of you: UDers, consult more primary sources. I’m not talking about academics; I’m talking about life. A small campus is a wonderful blessing, but it also comes with its own problems. Like Detective Monk’s OCD, “it’s a gift, and a curse.” It is a gift when we take the time to get to know our fellow students for who they truly are, and, consequently, constantly encounter people we respect, love and admire in every corner of campus. It is a curse when we abandon our prior commitment to primary sources and are content to rely on hearsay for knowledge of our classmates. We may know all our classmates by name, but unlike in ancient Hebrew culture, our knowledge of their names is in no way tied to the knowledge of who they truly, interiorly are.
This is not to say that you must reject all hearsay – sometimes it can be useful as a starting point or guide, but we should never be content with mere hearsay and nothing more. In our very first year at UD in Lit Trad II, the annotated essay taught us to treat published scholars as our peers and not merely to take their opinions as our own because they had a “Dr” before their names. Whether anyone of us actually followed that mandate is another question, but hopefully by senior year something of that attitude has sunk in.
It is more difficult to go to the primary sources, especially when they are living, but anyone who came to UD looking for the path of least resistance is a fool. It is only from conflict that we are able to grow, and we never experience conflict if we do not feel the obligation to engage our environment in search of primary sources. It merits you nothing to read Plato if you read it expecting to find exactly what you were told would be there. It also merits you nothing – in the greater scheme – to read SparkNotes.
Allowing your opinions of others to be guided by gossip is the SparkNotes of social life. It’s much easier, everyone does it and in the end you paid $120,000 to have a “B.A.” after your name as you watch the puppet show on the wall. Come out from the cave and converse with the forms of your classmates. I promise it will be worth the effort.