Core Decorum: Class Outside

Sketch by Cecilia Lang.

It is hard, perhaps, for some professors to understand the allure of class outside. They either take it as immaturity, an organized rebellion or a threadbare ruse to allow for extensive distraction. Seen as such, it is no wonder that a definitive “no” is so often their only response to desperate pleas.

And maybe our heartfelt wails against the injustice of keeping a living being in an office or classroom on the first days of spring are a little childish. Our irrational desire to be out of the science building, even at the cost of a whiteboard full of knowledge, might lead our professors to question the legitimacy of our scholarly pursuits.

I blame Rome for destroying our ability to sit in the science building basement and be content. The wanderlust instilled over one semester can never be entirely eradicated from a University of Dallas student even if, in this case, the farthest we can go is simply outside the doors of Braniff.

Once we might have been like those complacent souls in Plato’s cave, perhaps more content to sit in fluorescent-lit classrooms, watching PowerPoints like shadows in the cave. Yet this delusional reality was heartlessly destroyed when Dr. Hatlie dragged our tired army of classmates up to the top of the Delphic ruins to recite a history of the gods and Greeks on site, not on a presentation slide.

In Rome, many of us felt for the first time the metaphorical (and often very, very literal) sun, which illuminated the entire world as our new classroom, showing us that those familiar shadows have a very real third dimension.

Now, I do not claim that Constantine Garden is the equivalent to the ancient seat of Apollo on Parnassus, or that class on the Cap Bar patio is quite like one on the Areopagus. I do not even make so bold a statement as to suggest that PowerPoints are arbitrary or whiteboards optional.

However, something about a class outside in the open air, in the sunlight or twilight of the day, perfectly befits the UD student.

Although we no longer sit and gaze on the Dying Gaul or the Ancient Forum, we are surrounded by a distinct and matured beauty that, if not novel, remains transcendental. For in the common things of nature we tend to find our common ground.

We share the beauty of creation with every poet, philosopher, saint and sinner who has preceded us in Western Tradition. The same sun that lit the battlefield of Agamemnon and the empty tomb on Easter morning greets us every day on the Mall.

Treasure the classes outside. And if your professor or course material makes such a venture impossible, make time to study on a bench or swing around the campus, even if the open “Republic” on your lap is only a token feature.

As Winnie-the-Pooh, in all his wisdom, once said: “sometimes, if you stand on the bottom rail of a bridge and lean over to watch the river slipping slowly away beneath you, you will suddenly know everything there is to be known.”


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