Blogs - Student Conferences - Colorado
August 24, 2012
Friday, August 24 (Session 7, Day 6)
I’ve heard it said that it is better to have an abundance of questions than an abundance of answers. If that is the case, then The Summit is definitely a great place to be. Between the speakers, staff, and students, you never have to wait too long for someone to ask something (even if it is just “When’s lunch?”).
With all of this exposure, my time at Summit had left me feeling fairly confident in my ability to address and answer any questions which might be leveled at my beliefs (though only a few days of basic apologetic training is hardly enough to support that claim). It became blatantly obvious to me, however, just how much I still have to learn when I, along with the rest of the attendees of this session, were faced with what can best be described as the “force of nature” known as Dr. Michael Bauman. (A brief disclaimer: The following narrative makes use of quite a bit of exaggeration. In reality, however, I, and all of the students I have talked to, deeply enjoyed Dr. Bauman’s presentation).
To give you an example of what I mean by “force of nature,” one person I heard after his morning lecture (in which he played Devil’s Advocate as the class chose sides in the weighty issues of freewill and the basics of human nature) described the resulting atmosphere as “intellectual carnage strewn across the room.” In my estimation, that is an understatement. Carnage was rampant. Frustration, along with a healthy dose of awe, seemed to be the universal feelings: frustration at the doubts which had arisen in our minds, frustration that in the 45 minute session we had covered a mere 2 out of the 10 originally intended areas of discussion, and most of all, frustration at the man responsible for the frustration. The afore mentioned awe came into play when it became evident that it wasn’t Dr. Bauman’s logic that was beating us so handily. Rather, it was our own logic which he was using against us, subtly twisting and turning our own words to become the instruments of our demise. (Again, please understand, we really did enjoy this).
But all of this frustration had a purpose. Later in the day, after Dr. Bauman’s session, we had the chance to participate in an open forum, where attendants are free to ask any question to the speaker for the day. Naturally, many of the questions focused on the chaos Dr. Bauman had unleashed in our minds. In response to one particularly direct appeal for answers, he responded with a story about his two favorite teachers from his time in college, which shed some light on the logic behind his rather harsh approach.
One teacher, he said, systematically laid forth the topic of the class in monologue style, so thoroughly addressing the issues that no questions arose (or, none that Dr. Bauman mentioned). The other teacher was, according to the description, the exact opposite, doing nothing but asking hard questions about things his pupils assumed to be true, and refuting all of their weak, learned by rote arguments, until they eventually, after much hard work on their part, developed answers which satisfied even the most brutal attempts to discredit them.
So, even though Dr. Bauman’s seminar was brutal, it did serve to illustrate a valuable lesson: sometimes the best way to learn is by being shown how little you already know. It’s one thing to be taught what to believe; that does have a place. But it’s another entirely another to be taught why to think that way, and ultimately that is what Dr. Bauman was doing: teaching us that often it is far more helpful to know the reason for something rather than to just know the facts. It might mean wrestling with some tough questions, but as was just proven to me and the rest of the Session 7 class, questions can be a great motivation to learn.