I have been scrambling this week in response to some unwelcome news. Of the two students I have in my all-day seminar, only one is returning. The second, a bright girl I was getting to know, will be big sister to two new siblings when her parents adopt from Ethiopia this winter. The family feels the disruption will be too much for their homeschool efforts, so they withdrew from the program.
That leaves me with one 13yo boy, and a curriculum that directs classmates to debate, share papers, and compete in learning games throughout the day. Now I am looking at a day of tutoring one-on-one. Not much fun for him.
Well, after I got over the shock, I realized I have a splendid opportunity to expand our studies. He likes to play logic games as I do, so we’ll start a running backgammon or cribbage game to pull out when we finish the material 20 minutes early. During our Origins hour, I can supplement with excerpts of some excellent movies. He likes to write, so the Short Story hour can finish with a writing exercise that makes practical something I just taught. I can do this.
Defeating Darwinism by Philip E. Johnson made me morose last year. I knew I was teaching it badly. While its ideas intrigued me, it was a plate of room-temperature noodles to my middle-school boys. Too abstract to be appetizing. I have read so many books on worldview, natural philosophy, and evolution/design since last spring that the concepts in this book now reside in a web of connections. We’ll also study some of the questions an evolution-taught person might have for us.
I had an epiphany this weekend as I read the chapter we’ll be discussing. This book makes me feel like I am at the top of a rickety ferris wheel. The feeling of unease comes from the whispering doubts “How can this adequately prepare us to debate one of those frothing-at-the-mouth proponents of evolution who see it as the only possible answer for how life began?” Johnson seems to give me Rand-McNally road atlas to stop a Sherman tank. I can show the driver how he is on the wrong road, but he’d rather run me over!
The statistics persuade me to hope. Only 9% of Americans really believe evolution completely. The others have a reasoned position for creation, or think they can mix Darwin and God, a position that cannot stand to scrutiny. Most do not understand the implications of the theory that all life came by random mutations and natural selection. Most hold to time-tested values but can’t understand why these are being undermined one by one. There is certainly a connection.
So, what has set me free? I will leave the true believers alone. I will prepare to engage in conversation with the ordinary person who intuitively understands he sees design all around him, but was only taught evolution to account for it. As I have learned from the examples of Chesterton and Doug Wilson, C.S. Lewis and Nancy Pearcey, this can be a civil discourse with laughter and camaraderie, not a military campaign.
Here’s to a winter of laughs and comfortable companionship with a future leader, who may one day look back at the semester that began in disappointment, and tell his friends it wasn’t all that bad.