Challenge Accepted

Challenge Accepted

Dr. Karl Wilcox says his favorite class is Christian Beliefs.

“What does a rock climber do when he teaches literature?” Dr. Karl Wilcox, professor of English, asks himself as he prepares for the classroom.

Wilcox has been teaching for most of his life, although not always in the classroom setting.  Besides being a professor at Southwestern, he is also a professional mountain guide, and a lay preacher.  Challenge is a part of Wilcox’s lifestyle, both mentally and physically.  Not only does he challenge himself, but he also challenges his students to think actively and intelligently.

Wilcox grew up on a farm in California.  One day, when he was about eight years old, he went hunting and shot a weasel.  As he did with all the animals he shot, he brought the weasel home, and read about it in the natural history encyclopedia.  Then he took the carcass to school, went to each classroom, and gave the students a lecture on the natural history of the animal he had shot. When he was done, he would skin it, stuff it, and put the pelt on his wall.

“I don’t shoot animals anymore,” says Wilcox.  “I don’t believe that it’s Christian that I should do that, but it occurs to me that I probably teach because I have been teaching almost by instinct since I can read.  If there’s something interesting I want to tell people about it, that’s why I’m a teacher.”

When Wilcox was old enough to go to college, he enrolled at a school in California.  Finding it “too boring for words,” he decided to drop out of college.  The school he had been attending didn’t challenge him, and he didn’t want to waste his time or money.

One day, a friend of Wilcox suggested that he enroll in a European college.  Supposedly, classes were taught differently in Europe.  Wilcox took the advice and found himself at the University of St. Andrews, an ancient medieval university in Scotland.  It was high in the mountains, so Wilcox could spend his spare time ice climbing.  Later, he also attended Newbold Adventist College in England.

It turned out that classes were taught differently in Europe, according to Wilcox.  College only lasted three years, and it started right in at senior-level classes.

“Education in Europe was very in-depth,” says Wilcox. “I try to bring that to the classes I teach here at Southwestern. Many of my students haven’t been challenged. I think students here, at least the ones who take my class, usually appreciate it. The people who don’t want that just don’t take my classes.”

One of the things Wilcox is most passionate about is the truth of Christianity. He lectures on how Christians should regard the media, or respond to the Internet.  He asks questions that don’t have simple moral approaches, but that require thought and action.

“I insist on examining everything in the light of scripture,” says Wilcox.  “If something that I’m doing, or something in my culture, is not congruent with principal values of Scripture, I say so.  I challenge people to stop doing that or to consider giving it up.

“My favorite Ellen White quote is, ‘agitate, agitate, agitate.’ So that’s what I do. What does a rock climber do when he teaches literature?  I like to take risks, both in my physical life and in my thought life. I challenge my students to do the same.”

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2 Comments

  1. Conna Bond
    January 31, 15:24 Reply
    Great job, Makala! Sounds like he's a phenomenal teacher.
  2. Mary Jo James
    May 09, 18:27 Reply
    I appreciated the class I took from Dr. Wilcox. His style of teaching is challenging and thought-prevoking.

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