Like so many other college students having little direction in life, I decided to take a course in philosophy my freshman year in college back in the summer of 1965 and I’ll never forget the first day’s lesson. As a footnote, that day was not only my first day in college but the first day Ball State Teacher’s College proudly displayed its new moniker — Ball State University.
Professor Dudley: Good morning. (Then pausing for but a few seconds to gaze about the room as if taking mental attendance.) Okay, let’s get started.
At that moment a few students just sat back to listen, others — the academics — dutifully reached for their notebooks and a pencil. I was a member of the former group and I’m certain of that because the only reason I was in college at all was to avoid the draft. So having no real academic purpose it just seemed like a good idea to take a course in philosophy so, if I ever ran into John Lennon, I’d be able to carry on a fairly intelligent conversation.
Professor Dudley: (Walking to and pointing at each object in due course.) This isn’t a blackboard, it’s a lemon. This chair isn’t a chair it’s a cactus and this door isn’t a door but a window. He then paused to gauge the confused looks on everyone’s faces.
Professor Dudley: Questions?
The class as a whole was a bit slow to grasp the question but a tall student dressed in hippie gear and headband finally raised his hand and the professor acknowledged him.
Student: (Stepping to the front of the room, books in hand.) Let me get this right. That isn’t a blackboard, it’s a lemon. That isn’t a chair it’s a cactus and that isn’t a door but a window.
Professor Dudley: (With an all knowing smile on his face.) Yes.
Student: (As he opened the classroom door to exit.) Then you’re not a professor, you’re an idiot.
Professor Dudley: (Smiling broadly.) Well done. Class dismissed.
It took a few days (if not weeks) for me to comprehend the point he was trying to make (he never elaborated), but I must say the lesson was by far the most thought provoking one he taught all semester.
For me the lesson was simple. You don’t learn much if you check your brains at the door.