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Symbolism at Menlo

While walking to history class one chilly Tuesday morning, my eyes happened to glance upon a conspicuous, crudely decorated piece of paper affixed to one of the many doors of Patterson Hall. It read: "Come ToKnight, Tuesday, October 24, at 6:15 PM and Watch the Menlo Girls Volleyball Team Crush St. Ignatius." The first thought that entered my mind was "Oh, No! Not another hackneyed, irritating pun on the words 'knight' and 'night'. Why do imaginative makers of propaganda posters always feel this uncontrollable urge to use this pun?" The next thought which came to my mind, a much more important realization, concerned the imbecility of the Menlo knight.

The St. Francis Lancer, the Bellarmine Bell, the Piedmont Hills Pirate, the Irvington Viking, the Leland Charger, the Leigh Colt, the San Jose Bulldog, the Menlo-Atherton Bear, and then the Menlo Puny-guy-encased-in-a-hell-of-a-lot-of-metal.. What image does the knight project into your mind? Do you conceive a gallant, majestic, intrepid, bold hero of immense physical strength and fortitude? I think not. Can you think of any school with a worse symbol than ours? First of all, a gladiatorial match between an agile cougar or a swift stallion and the Menlo knight would certainly end in the annihilation of the iron-clad idiot. Second, the knight, with that stupid-looking visor, can never see very far into the future; he is a blind, cumbersome, clumsy dummy. Third, the knight is a relic of the Middle Ages, a time when ignorance pervaded the masses and the only "science" was religion; it is only proper that the knight stays in that long-lost age. Why can't Menlo choose a better representation, preferably an animal like other schools? What about a hawk or falcon or serpent or tarantula? For God's sake, even the ephemeral, common house fly would serve as a better symbol than the knight!

On top of the knight, Menlo has another symbol, a great, big oak tree which supposedly represents fortitude and pulchritude. Not only does this symbol litter all Menlo stationary, but it is also the team name of the Menlo College sports teams. If Menlo finds it of the utmost necessity to have a tree or plant symbol, then why can't we use the Venus-fly trap or the pitcher plant?

In addition to our symbols, our colors also call for serious revision. I bear no personal hatred toward blue and yellow as separate colors, but together they fit like anchovies and coleslaw do in dinner. Black and blue, my personal favorites, are much more compatible with each other and appealing to the eye.

However, in another sense, (prepare for a great turn in tone) the knight is the most appropriate symbol for the school. Just as the wimpy Menlo Knight hides behind its metal exterior, Menlo students fortify themselves with false appearances only for the reason of pleasing others. Menlo school is built upon fašades. The administration preaches for a "Menlo Community", a utopia where all evils eventually give way to the natural good, but, in reality, that utopia is located on the other side of the horizon. The Menlo society is split into rivaling factions, which combat this ideal of unity. Social distinctions within schools in general are ubiquitous, and an effort to efface these distinctions is futile. Though the student council purports to be a representative, democratic government, we all know that this is true only to limited extent. Students don't win elections because of their virtues or intelligence, but solely because of their popularity and social status. Everything at Menlo is governed by appearances. People judge others by the type of Mercedes or BMW they drive, by the grades they receive, and sometimes even by religion and race. People rarely consider personal character in the development of friends. In high school, I have realized that childish innocence is transient. Originally, I had hoped that a certain measure of innocence could be preserved in the school system, but now I realize that schools in general only contribute to the degradation of morals and sanity. As a matter of fact, Menlo was accurate in its assessment of students' characters: we all hide behind our metal exterior, using other people's perception as armor against reality.

by Naveen Sunkavally


This page created for The Subterranean Crusader by John W. Earl. Last modified January 28, 1996.