Last Thursday I was sitting in the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, nursing my sore feet, when a young man, with a tie, digital audio recorder, and a slightly bemused expression asked me if I would participate in a survey being conducted on behalf of the Museum. I said I would.
He sat next to me and began to ask me the same question over and over again.
“Why are museums important?”
I think he was trying to be Socratic.
So I let him think that, and then began to explain why my group was at the Smithsonian.
It blew his mind. Young Paul clearly had never heard of such an approach. Imagine! There was actually a twenty-something, white, middle-class male who had never thought about learning occurring “in the gaps”. Why ever would we do such a thing?
I explained that we could have just given the kids a bunch of data explaining Creationism, and then another bunch of data explaining Darwinism, reviewed both sets, then given tests on it. That would be the accepted progressive model: Give them the accumulation of facts, tell them what the facts mean, and then assess their “understanding” or regurgitation of the facts.
We could save up money and drive them to the Creation Museum in Kentucky, and let them see, touch, and explore for an entire day. Then we could put them in a van, drive ten or so hours, and the next day take them to the Museum of Natural History. And then stand back and watch.
Whenever any of us doubts the efficacy of this method, we need to remember this: When those kids were faced with two apparently (and in this case, actual) contradictory things, their humanity kicked in to try to reconcile the contradiction. To reconcile, they had to compare and contrast. They had to ask questions. They had to define terms. They had to determine what the things have in common, and what made them distinct and separate. They have to find the precise point of disagreement on many levels. They even followed a docent and respectfully got the lady to admit that the evolutionary theory took a “leap of faith-uh-I mean, millions of years.”
I can better see why Socrates thought that we were “remembering” things that we had forgotten when he observed such reasoning. It just flowed from these kids. This was their first year with LTW, but you’d think they’d been doing it their entire lives. And of course, they have.
This was a group of students who had been educated Classically and Christianly since they were at least in 2nd grade.
Poor Paul was amazed, and amazed in the 17th century sense, acting as if scales had fallen from his eyes, as if he had never walked on land before. I introduced him to my co-chaperone and a couple of the students. He probably would have come with us to talk more, but the Security Lady came and told us to move, and the spell was broken.
What a day.
We celebrated by going to a Greek restaurant, where the proprietor was Cretan. We ate, we danced, they broke plates.
It was just about a perfect day.