Seventeen-year-old Gian Garfias is about to become a graduate of Tapestry, which his family has used for the last five years. He has already been accepted to the college of his choice.
Gian gave me some of his time so that I could ask questions about his experiences as a Tapestry high school student. Although he assured me that he isn’t deeply interested in any subject except math (and maybe a little science), it was remarkable to hear how much he has learned from the humanities! This is his interview.
Will you tell me a little bit about yourself, Gian?
I’m seventeen and I live in Texas, a little way from Dallas. I want to do mathematics. I’m going to Liberty University and then eventually I want to get a doctorate and become a math professor.
Cool! Do you have a favorite area of mathematics, or a favorite mathematician who inspires you?
My favorite area of math is algebra, and my favorite historical figure is Isaac Newton because he helped to invent calculus, and also because his ideas were foundational to physics.
I know you’re really into math, but do you like geography or history?
Geography isn’t something I’ve noticed much, but I do think it’s interesting to see how often Europe changes, and it also helps me to understand why throughout history people are warring over various parts of Europe. Usually it’s because the person is invading used to own that land awhile ago, and it helps to explain some of the wars.
I like history okay. I think this year (Year 2) may have been my favorite, because we go from the fall of the Roman Empire all the way up to the French Revolution, and it’s so interesting to see how so many ideas developed in these short, controlled bursts. For the last few weeks we’ve been comparing and contrasting the American and French Revolutions, and it’s crazy to see how those two wound up so very differently, even though they started out with the same principles. America was working from biblical principles, but France abandoned God and then got more and more bloody and wound up as a military dictatorship.
What do you mean by ideas developing in “these short, controlled bursts”?
“It seems like knowledge is like a rock skimming across a lake. Whenever it touches down, you get a new burst. There’s a burst of discoveries in the 1600’s, and then in the 1800’s your machines get way more complex… you get to airplanes in a century!
That’s a neat observation, and so is your thought about the two Revolutions. I know that you are thinking about going into the field of mathematics, where traditionally there is a lot of atheism. Have you learned much about God by studying history?
Yes, as a matter of fact I have developed some convictions about God through studying history.
At the end of the Reformation, Deism started coming about, with the idea that God created everything but then stepped back and let things run on. So that caused me to wonder whether Deism was a reasonable theory and worth considering.
But when I look back through the rest of history that I’ve learned, I just don’t see how you could come to the conclusion that God wasn’t involved. Take the American Revolution for instance: they almost failed to fight the British like five different times. Besides that, when they did go to fight, the American colonies were taking on what was the most powerful nation in the world at the time. I can’t prove it mathematically or scientifically, because you can’t prove anything about stuff like that, but I became convinced that we are affected by God’s grace and the way He leads us through history. Otherwise we human beings would have killed ourselves several times, and I’m not even talking about the Cold War.
For a guy who says he’s only into math, you have a lot of great observations about history! What do you think about worldviews?
I don’t really think about worldviews that much, but it is interesting to see how fixated everybody was on God when the church had national power, but then during the Reformation people starting asking, “Hey, what if this isn’t real?” And then there were two branches of the Renaissance and one was more humanist and the other was more focused on God. It’s crazy to see how, no matter what you’re studying in Tapestry, people keep winding up saying, “hey, everybody, we need to get back to God and to what we’re supposed to be doing.”
Yes, it is funny how people keep winding up having to deal with God sooner or later. How about literature? Do you like it?
I don’t consider myself very good at literature, and I don’t like it. But there was one book that I really loved. When I was in a class at the Lampstand Learning Center, I did a PowerPoint presentation in Year 4 on The Chosen, and I think it’s my favorite book that I’ve read. It’s about this friendship between these two guys, and you get a taste of the Jewish culture at the time and I found it really intriguing and making the presentation for it.
I took three years of literature online with the Lampstand Learning Center, and then this year started doing it with my family. Now that I’m doing it at home, I’m realizing how much I learned not only about how literature works, but also about what the authors are saying. My sister is in her freshman year and she knows a lot more about literature than I do and likes it a lot better, but I’m able to spot literary devices and what the author is trying to portray in each of his works, and it’s easier for me to get the homework done, and then she’s like “how did you figure that out!?”
Whenever I talk to other Tapestry graduates, we reminisce about how much we enjoyed doing integrated studies: looking at once time period from the perspective of four or five different subjects. Any thoughts about that?
Integrated studies have definitely been great for me. I especially noticed that during my freshman through junior years. I can see things from both “government” and “civilian” perspectives in a way, because I’m reading history (which is written sort of from the government’s perspective) and literature (which is written more from the ordinary person’s perspective) for that time. So it really gives me more of a feel for what everybody is thinking.
So, even though you wouldn’t have chosen it, are you glad you studied the humanities?
Yes, I am. Studying the humanities has been unexpectedly good for me. It has helped me appreciate the arts more, even though I’m not an artistic person. It has developed the non-math side of me, and it has helped me to see some things about God that I might not have noticed otherwise. I think the humanities have also sharpened mind in ways that will help me notice worldviews.
For example now I use my literature skills to analyze songs and other books and stuff, and I find that most amazing. My mom always says that I should be careful what I listen to because people express worldviews through music. I always kind of pushed that aside, but last summer I was listening to something and I suddenly realized, “Wait! Meaning through form!”—and then I saw how those song lyrics were actually being used to show the songwriter’s beliefs. So maybe I am learning to think about worldviews more.
Is there anything you’d like to say about your mother and her involvement in your education?
As a teenager, of course you always think your parents are unfair or don’t understand what’s going on. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that everything wrong with me is my fault, and everything that’s gone right for me has to do with my parents’ influence.
My mom isn’t a very math or science oriented person, but even though that’s the case, she’s gone out of her way to make sure I had the best she could offer in terms of learning those things because I love them. Then she made sure that I had help with writing and literature and history.
I haven’t ever really liked school, except math and science. But my mother did a lot of things to try to make it enjoyable, and as I took the SAT’s and other tests, it became clear to me that she prepared me really well. It never really dawned on me how much time she invested in my education until now. I’m grateful.