Dr. Michael Bauman. The name alone is enough to inspire a healthy fear in the hearts of students across the nation and the world. He has served as a United States marine and is renowned as a world class cyclist. Yet that is not why he is respected by students. As an educator at Hillsdale College, Dr. Bauman takes time out of his schedule to come down and speak at various functions of Summit Ministries utilizing the Socratic Method.
In execution, the Socratic Method involves the teacher questioning the student. During class, Dr. Bauman will teach us the basic underlying parts of the principle in question. Then, he will either ask a question or call on an unsuspecting individual from his list. When a response is given, Dr. Bauman will ask the individual questions. It doesn’t matter whether the answer the student gave was right or wrong, the seemingly simple question and answer becomes an interrogation, taking the student back to the very core of logic and reasoning in order to explain why he believes what he believes. The reason why this makes Dr. Bauman so feared is because the most common result is that the student will have to look down, sigh, and admit, “I don’t know.”
I would like to bring in another topic – Orson Scott Card’s book Ender’s Game. Much truth can be found in this science fiction epic. Below, we will examine a section from this novel, the young Andrew ‘Ender’ Wiggin has departed from Battle School and is about to begin Command School. One day, after recently arriving at Command School, when he awakens from slumber, he finds two unusual circumstances. One, a stranger is in his room. Two, the only door in his room is locked. After a brief struggle, both mental and physical, the man reveals himself to be Mazer Rackham, the brilliant commander who was responsible for saving the human race. In order that Ender will also be capable of saving the human race, Mazer is to combat him in complex battle simulations. Before that happens, however, Mazer has something extremely wise to say, and this is what we will draw on throughout this article.
“I am your enemy. The first one you’ve ever had that’s smarter than you.” Unfortunately, this is all too true for many young Christians. They grow up in their churches learning apologetics and think that they’re set to go out into the world. But little do they know how woefully underprepared they actually are. Something that young people don’t expect is that there will be academic enemies they will face that will be smarter than them. Professors have had years of experience and dozens of students challenging them. Even with whatever apologetics training the young person may have had, they may not be ready, because they simply haven’t experienced a real battle of minds before. Yet being drawn into such a skirmish is exactly what students risk every time they step into a classroom with Dr. Bauman.
“There is no teacher but the enemy. No one but the enemy will tell you what the enemy is going to do.” At the Summit Summer conferences, at Summit Semester, and in David Noebel’s book Understanding the Times, students are taught about how six different worldviews think about ten different topics. While those six are the most prominent, there are certainly other worldviews. According to the Bible, Christians are engaged in spiritual warfare with the rest of the world. We don’t know what the world is going to throw at us. What Dr. Bauman teaches us is something more crucial than theological arguments and even memorized Bible verses — he trains us how to think. Through both example and teaching, we learn what kind of questions we need to ask and what kind of statements we need to make when the battle lines are drawn and the spiritual conflicts begin. In destroying our own views and rebuilding them in a safe environment, Dr. Bauman has taught us how to defend those ideas that are right and how to destroy those ideas that are wrong. Because it’s not a conversational formula, as is found in some Christian textbooks, his method is extremely adaptable and effective.
“Only the enemy shows you where you are weak. Only the enemy tells you where he is strong.” This principle holds true in almost any circumstance. You can make educated guesses as to what the enemy intends to do, but you can never know for certain. Only by examining your enemy can you understand what he is capable of and what he might do next. By probing us with questions and pouncing upon us when he senses weakness, Dr. Bauman shows us where we need to improve. In contrast, even when he agrees with us, Dr. Bauman will continue the interrogation, taking upon himself the role of the Devil’s Advocate. In this way, we are able to engage him as though we were engaging an actual enemy.
In conclusion, Dr. Bauman uses the Socratic Method to great effect. From being in his class for merely two weeks or so, as is the case at the time of this writing, my life has been changed. I have examined some of my core beliefs. Some of these, Dr. Bauman has shown me, are inadequate. Others need improvement. More importantly, I have been taught how to think in a different way. New ideas presented to me now go through a filter that examines and extracts what is wise and what is folly.
Caden Robbs is a classic New Mexico cowboy. He can often be found striding across the grounds of Snow Wolf Lodge in his boots, cowboy hat, and trench coat. Caden is captivated by the pursuit of knowledge. He involvement with TeenPact ignited his love for politics. This has shaped his desires for his career path; Caden would like to one day work in politics and run for congressman. When he has free time, Caden enjoys intellectual discussions, graphic design, woodworking, and welding. At Summit Semester, he expects God to use living in close community to sharpen him in his spiritual walk.