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The Logic Revolution

by Nathaniel Bluedorn

We want to start a revolution – a logic revolution. Read this article, and you may never look at education the same way again. Logic is at the heart of every subject. We believe that logic is a fundamental skill; if you neglect it, you have missed a central message of every subject. But, before you react to this radical idea, let us run three examples by you to show you what we mean. The logic we're talking about might not be what you imagine.

1. Evaluating Evidence

Officer O'Malley arrives at the crash. He notices a truck in the middle of the intersection with a smashed rear end. Close behind sits a car with a crumpled front bumper.

Irate Man: That wretched woman rear ended me! I was minding my own business, see, when wham, I get knocked clear across the intersection! These women drivers, they'll kill us all!

Distraught Woman with a Small Boy: It happened so fast.

O'Malley: Yes, ma'am. Just the facts, ma'am.

Distraught Woman: All I did was stop at the light. I never run red lights. Stopped behind that truck there. Then the truck backs into me, like it didn't care if it hit me and my little Joey.

Joey: I bubbed by dose.

Bum on the Street Corner: I saw it with this one good eye of mine. That pickup truck stops way out in the middle of the intersection, then this car pulls up behind. Then the truck backs into the car. I saw the little boy bump his nose. Terrible! I'll have nightmares for weeks.

Let's stop here. Who do you think is lying? We know someone isn't telling the truth because the stories contradict. Here are some principles that might sort this out.

First, should we trust the irate man's story? (1) He is a primary witness, which means that he saw what happened firsthand. (2) However, he could have a reason to lie, because he may have caused the accident. (3) And his use of exaggerated language indicates that he is emotionally biased.

Should we trust the woman? (4) She may have a reason to lie, but the bum on the street corner is a corroborating witness for her story, and he had no reason to lie. (5) He also had a better vantage point to see what happened because he could see both cars from a distance.

Now you ask, what does this have to do with school and logic? Everything! If your children learned these principles for analyzing evidence, could this revolutionize their attitude towards studying history? As an example, your children could learn by reading primary sources – source documents written at the time of an event – instead of reading a secondary source, like a textbook author's opinion of what happened.

Let's try this from a different angle.

2. An Inquiring Mind

Bert: We've got this history fair project, and I'm bummed for ideas.

Jenny: We could do it on Louis XVII – you know – the lost dauphine.

Bert: Sounds hard. We just read about Christopher Columbus in our history book. How about a report on that?

Jenny: We might uncover the mystery behind why the boy dauphine disappeared during the French Revolution. We could look at opposing viewpoints!

Bert: Good grief. We already know about Christopher Columbus. That'll be easy.

When your children are adults, it won't be the encyclopedia of history facts that you've stuffed in their head that will come in handy; it will be the love you taught them for learning and researching things. If necessary, they can learn about all those names and events later, but they have just a few years to learn a passion for inquiry.

We believe this is a revolutionary perspective. And it changes more than just our study of history.

3. Scientific Reasoning

Bud at Science Fair: My experiment was to see if Vitamin C kept me from catching a cold. First, I went to the library and licked all the handrails and doorknobs. Then I went home and took a Vitamin C pill. I didn't get sick.

Judge: Really.

Bud: Next, I went to church and shook everyone's hand and rubbed my eyes. I took another Vitamin C pill, and I didn't get sick. See, this is #2 on the graph.

Judge: Intriguing.

Bud: Last, I sat at the bus station and breathed deeply whenever a sick person walked by. I didn't take a pill that time because my little sister. . . Well, anyway, I ran out of pills. I got sick a week later, so Vitamin C must prevent the common cold.

Learning how to do science right is part of logic. Poor Bud probably won't win first place. If Bud had made sure that he had truly been exposed to cold germs on each occasion, and if he had done this more times with different people, then his experiment might have contained fewer scientific fallacies.

In an important sense, science is not a subject but a method. If you teach your children how the method works, it will give new meaning to those facts and formulas. Learning how to do science right will not only help your children win science fairs, but it will also help them make choices through the rest of life.

Logic in Every Subject

All three of these examples were about logic but not logic as a separate subject in school. Logic is part of every subject – every subject has a piece of logic in it.

Science uses the scientific method – that's part of logic. The study of history uses methods for analyzing historical evidence – that's logic too. Every subject, from history and science to worldview and Bible study, uses logical reasoning at some point.

But the logic part – the basic reasoning skills – is often missed in each of these subjects. Textbooks teach facts and dates and equations, but the reasoning skills often are passed over in the process. However, when it's all over and done with, the reasoning skills will be what your children will take into adulthood and use on a daily basis. Logic really is at the foundation of every subject.

What to Do

Practically speaking, this new perspective on logic and education would mostly affect subjects such as science, history, Bible study, worldview, writing, literature, and debate. We don't mean that a chapter about logic should be added to each textbook and a few "by the way" comments sprinkled in. We believe that logic should be a central organizing force behind each of these subjects. Unfortunately, few textbooks put reasoning at the center of their subject. Until textbook writers begin to integrate logic, you will need to supplement with additional material and projects. Here are four principles for doing this:

Remember, you're part of a revolution now – the logic revolution in education. If there is only one thing you give your children, give them an inquiring logical mind. Everything else might just take care of itself.

Nuna and Toodles - Thinking Revolution

Resources

Critical Thinking in U. S. History by Kevin O'Reilly. Series of four books (The Critical Thinking Company; 1983-1993; http://www.criticalthinking.com): Teaches students ages 13 and up how to question and evaluate historical interpretations and sources.

Opposing Viewpoints Series, collection of books published over about the last fifteen years (Greenhaven Press): Explains issues such as the Civil War and gun control using essays on different sides of the issue.

Apologia Educational Ministries Science Curriculum by Jay Wile, collection of books. (http://www.highschoolscience.com): Integrates scientific reasoning into the text.

Developing Critical Thinking through Science by Paul Eggen and June Main (The Critical Thinking Company; 1991; http://www.criticalthinking.com): Easy activities for younger students that teach science concepts and develop scientific thinking. Does not teach enough to be useful for older students.

How to Think Like a Scientist by Stephen P. Kramer (HarperCollins Publishers, 1987): An interesting little book for children on how to use the scientific method to answer everyday questions.

A Rulebook for Arguments by Anthony Weston (Hackett Publishing Company, 1992): Introduction to writing research papers and argumentative essays; teaches a three-step process for writing an argument.

Ancient History from Primary Sources by Harvey and Laurie Bluedorn (Trivium Pursuit, 2003; http://www.triviumpursuit.com): Each event or person in history is accompanied by suggested readings from various ancient sources.

First appeared in Homeschooling Today magazine, January-February 2004.

Copyright January 01, 2004, all rights reserved. 7345 views


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