Blogs - Student Conferences - Colorado
September 03, 2011
Friday, September 2nd (Session 8, Day 5)
If Summit is a bootcamp, then today was combat training.
After an early morning dance party in the court yard and a discussion on the bible’s reliability by Eric Smith, we had the privilege of hearing from Dr. Michael Bauman. I’d been eagerly anticipating this day since I first heard about Dr. Bauman over six months ago: a regular teacher at Summit, Bauman is famous for engaging students in the audience in discussion, and challenging everything they say. His goal is simple: teach students to think for themselves by use of “Advocatus diaboli,” i.e. playing the devil’s advocate.
Dr. Bauman started by explaining the debate between Augustine and Pelagius, a famous theological discussion involving questions about the origin of sin and the nature of man. Calling on them one by one, he asked students to take a stance on each issue and defend their position. Bauman then attacked their view, exploiting weak points they had never seen. No matter how much the students raked their brain for answers, Bauman always seemed to counter their points. Some grew frustrated, some stayed silent; all had to think.
To me, the experience felt like riding an intellectual rollercoaster ride: exhilarating, unpredictable, and more enjoyable than I can hope to describe. The first student to endure Bauman’s firing squad, I pulled out every piece of biblical evidence I could think of (an hour of prep the night before certainly helped). As hard as I tried, my theological kitchen sink could not withstand the onslaught of his logical bathtub. Finally, another student jumped in to back me up, taking the heat of the argument upon himself. My back-and-forth with Bauman lasted for hours, or so it seemed; it was actually only four minutes (time flies when your brain is running at ludicrous-speed).
While I may well say this about every day here at Summit, it is nonetheless true: I learned more today than I thought was possible to learn in an entire week. Dr. Bauman showed me that “ideas are like grapes: they come in bunches.” If Summit is an intellectual vineyard, it is thriving.