Designing a High School Logic & Critical Thinking Course


Landon Hedrick is a PhD student at the University of Nebraska who is also a high school philosophy teacher at Vanguard Classical School in Colorado. He is looking for some help meeting the specific challenges of designing a logic and critical thinking course in which the materials “are all appropriate for the audience, both in terms of content and in terms of difficulty level.”

He writes:

I’m designing a Logic and Critical Thinking course for high school students.  Broadly speaking, the purpose of the class is to help students get a better understanding of the use and misuse of arguments and evidence, as well as to make them aware of mistakes in reasoning that can easily mislead us.  This will involve, at least, learning some basic formal logic and informal fallacies.  I hope to also include some discussion of cognitive biases.

The students will be putting to use what they learn by, among other things, critically evaluating certain letters to the editor of a local newspaper and then writing replies.  I think it would also be valuable to include some projects about “weird stuff,” such as Bigfoot, alien abductions, ghosts, etc., where students can conduct an investigation and come to their own considered conclusions.

I’d like to get some feedback from fellow philosophers about this class.  If you were going to teach this class, what would you include?  Should I add important things that weren’t mentioned above (or subtract anything that was)?  Specific advice would also be helpful regarding particular projects, assignments, readings, etc.  I’ve found that sometimes it’s easy to say “I think it’s important to teach them about X, Y, and Z” and then later to find out that it’s not easy for one person to be able to track down appropriate readings about X, Y, and Z and then design assignments or projects around them.

Also helpful would be more general commentary about whether such a course ought to be taught in high school, what it’s purpose ought to be if it is taught there, and whether it should tend to be more abstract (e.g. focusing on general rules of logic and such) or more concrete (e.g. focusing on “weird stuff”) or a combination of both, as I’m planning on doing.

Readers?

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Sara L. Uckelman
4 years ago

I would totally have them do logic puzzles (http://www.logic-puzzles.org/ is a good source for them). My senior year of high school I did a whole course of these, concurrently with taking Intro Logic at the local university, and found them immensely useful training.Report

Landon Hedrick
Reply to  Sara L. Uckelman
4 years ago

Hi Sara, thank you for the recommendation! I had considered including logic puzzles, but I wasn’t aware of this excellent resource!Report

Daniel Brunson
Daniel Brunson
Reply to  Landon Hedrick
4 years ago

I want to second the use of logic puzzles (and Sudoku), which I do in my own courses. I have found they help in at least two different ways:
1) they show that deduction can be a discovery procedure (finding answers rather than just moving from premises to conclusions, which can be hard to motivate).
2) after students develop some facility, try symbolizing the puzzles to show how complex the inferences actually are (“You thought you were just ‘putting together’ clues 2 and 7, but that’s really 6 inferences!”).Report

Julia
Julia
4 years ago

If you’re looking for a textbook to help you design the class, I highly recommend “Reason and Argument” by Richard Feldman. It’s the best I’ve found, and I have successfully used it to teach critical reasoning to high school level students. The assignments in the book are very close to what you’re mentioning. I also found good materials to practice argument analysis on the website “Ask philosophers”. The people who write in often present some kind of argument, and want to know whether it’s any good. The students can analyze and evaluate those arguments.
Another good project to assign is a debate in which the groups have to prepare and present their arguments in an structured format. The groups get each others’ arguments in premise-conclusion format ahead of time. To write their rebuttals, they must use the techniques they learned for criticizing arguments.
I would avoid teaching students about fallacies. Most fallacies aren’t always fallacies, and any fallacy is already detectable by general methods of argument analysis.
However, I like including material about contexts in which our intuitive judgments fail, such as base rate inclusion or the Wason selection task. Gerd Gigerenzer has some excellent survey articles about this. Report

Landon Hedrick
Reply to  Julia
4 years ago

I hadn’t heard about Feldman’s book before. I’ll try to track down a copy to review it. (Thanks also for the other recommended resources!) Having structured debates in class, as you suggest, strikes me as a great idea. It will be a nice way to allow the students to put what they learn into practice in a rigorous manner. As long as the students have some freedom in choosing the exact format and content of their debates, I could see that also being a useful tool to maximize student engagement.

Given what you and others say about fallacies in these comments, I feel I should re-think part of my strategy.Report

Jonathan Parsons
Jonathan Parsons
4 years ago

As part of the “weird stuff” project, I would highly recommend spending some time discussing how to identify whether a given source is credible/reliable. You could require your students to look up five or so sources on a given topic; have them bring those sources to class and then have them discuss whether they think the sources are reliable/credible and why. It pains me to say that even at the college level most students don’t know how to tell the difference. Report

Landon Hedrick
Reply to  Jonathan Parsons
4 years ago

You’re absolutely right. Does anybody know of any useful sources for teaching this sort of thing? I could of course just teach the students some common sense rules of thumb about how to identify a credible source vs. an unreliable one (e.g. this website has a clear bias; this writer doesn’t have any credentials to speak of in the field; this presidential nominee has a documented history of just making stuff up). I could even do that with some of the sources that the students bring in for your proposed assignment. But I have to think that there’s a more effective way of going about this than just having the teacher offer criticisms of some sources and explain some rules of thumb. Right?Report

Ethan Mills
4 years ago

I used to teach just such a critical thinking course. A good textbook to start with is Lewis Vaughn’s The Power of Critical Thinking, which includes sections on applying critical thinking principles to “weird stuff.” I supplemented it with my own assignments, such as having students identify some of the many fallacies in a chapter of Erich von Däniken’s (in)famous ancient alien book, Chariots of the Gods?. I found it helpful to mix the weird stuff with more traditional applied ethics issues, like the morality of torture. This helped students who found the weird stuff to be too weird or tedious, but the weird stuff helps make the class a little more fun than focusing on exclusively on heavy topics like torture or capital punishment. Report

Landon Hedrick
Reply to  Ethan Mills
4 years ago

I have a copy of Vaughn’s book, and it does seem like it will prove very helpful. I haven’t read the ancient aliens book, however! I agree that weird stuff has its pros and cons, so I’m not sure I’d want it to be the central focus of the class or anything. But perhaps the best option is to have a flexible syllabus that allows us to cover some topics the students prefer to learn about and discuss.

(By the way, I wasn’t aware of your blog previously, but it seems like you might be a good resource for me as I search for good science fiction stories with philosophical themes for a separate class. I’ll keep that in mind.)Report

Eric
Eric
4 years ago

Teaching a critical thinking course for freshman undergraduates has shown me that the average undergraduate is not very good at paraphrasing pieces of writing he or she did not write. This observation applies not just to pieces of exposition in which an argument is presented, but also to pieces of exposition that simply report sequences of events, such as humdrum newspaper articles. And if the average freshman undergraduate is not very good at paraphrasing, I suspect that the average high school student is not either. (This is not to say the average student does not understand these pieces of exposition. But it is to say he or she has trouble putting that understanding into his or her own words.)

Where paraphrase is not simply made difficult by the author’s prose, the inability to paraphrase betrays an inability to get into the mind of another, to faithfully represent another’s point of view on the world. It also betrays an inability to see point the author is trying to convey. And reconstructing the arguments of another will prove elusive to any student who has not honed the more general skill of paraphrase.

Paraphrase is an important skill because it is often the case that the more one works at recovering another’s perspective, the less disagreement there appears to be. More prudentially speaking, paraphrasing and finding the main point of a passage is a skill that many standardized exams test but that many exam-prep books presuppose rather than teach.

All of this is to say that I would try to incorporate some basic paraphrasing exercises, working your way up to paraphrasing workaday arguments. (Paraphrasing interesting legal and philosophical arguments is nigh impossible without the ability to paraphrase the homelier arguments one might find in a local newspaper’s letters section (as the OP mentions).)

I think the first chapters of Larry Wright’s critical thinking textbook presents a workable apparatus for paraphrasing (besides explaining the virtues of the paraphrasing skill). You can apply the apparatus presented there to any kind of exposition, including more attention-grabbing articles about celebrities, etc. I’m not suggesting assigning these chapters; I’m suggesting you take a look at them and see if you can use anything from them to help teach your students how to represent another’s perspective.Report

Landon Hedrick
Reply to  Eric
4 years ago

Good advice! I’ll take a look at Wright’s book when I have an opportunity to get my hands on a copy. Either way, exercises in paraphrasing do seem like they will be helpful, and not just in this class. I recall being a TA for David Sobel one semester, and he included some paraphrasing assignments in his course. Students often failed miserably at it. Probably, if they had the sort of background you’re suggesting, they would have had more success.Report

Alex
Alex
4 years ago

I work with Wireless Philosophy. We’ve produced a series of 32 animated videos on introductory topics in logic and critical thinking (fundamentals, fallacies, cognitive biases), which might be a useful resource for your classroom. Each video is 3-10 minutes long, and features either a grad student or faculty speaker.

Here’s the link: https://youtu.be/Cum3k-Wglfw?list=PLtKNX4SfKpzX_bhh4LOEWEGy3pkLmFDmk.

The series is also available on Khan Academy, in case your school blocks YouTube: https://www.khanacademy.org/partner-content/arts-humanities-partners/wi-phi/critical-thinking.

I’m not sure what your classroom tech limitations are, but I hope this helps!Report

Ian
Ian
4 years ago

If the students learn set notation in Math, it’ll be great to show the similarities and the subtle difference between set and formal logic symbol notation.
As a university student, I wished there was a course like this back in high school. I believe having some knowledge about logic and argument will help students to write better essays. They may not enjoy it at first, but I’m sure they will eventually appreciate its importance when they go to college…
All the best!Report

Josh Mastan
Josh Mastan
4 years ago

Above all, it is critical that students have *plenty * of time for active discussion (Socratic works well I’d imagine). The success of such a class depends most heavily upon how engaged and interested the students are. If I were the instructor I would introduce new concepts as we were using them in real-time discussion; I would review/go over the grittier theoretical aspects of the material in lecture to consolidate what they’ve been acquainted with. This makes it easier to for them, since the very nature of this material is a bit metacognitive (and thus too much lecturing will more likely make them good at *comprehending* the concepts instead of *using* them well).Report

David Naples
David Naples
4 years ago

I want to agree with Eric here, and add a thing or two of my own.

I think that paraphrasing goes hand in hand with logic. Very often, we have to paraphrase an argument in order to see its logical form. This also has the added advantage of exposing hidden (or assumed) premises. One of the skills philosophy aims at is clarity, and this often means cutting through the muck of everyday emotive language to get to the propositional content. Students need to be taught how to do that.

On a different note, I’ve always considered “weird stuff” discussions to be a matter of epistemology, not logic. This isn’t to say I object to it in a logic class, but I myself would steer against it.

Lastly, keep in mind that high school students do not necessarily have a rich content background. Eric’s suggestion to stick to “homelier” topics is a good one, although I would try to expand out into more venturous territory whenever the opportunity arose. It’s a fine line to walk. Is this perhaps where your weird stuff comes in; such that you can branch out into more worldly topics while entertaining the students with something they very likely have heard about and have some content knowledge about? Report

Another Eric
Another Eric
4 years ago

There is a lot of crossover between the AP Language and Composition curriculum and critical thinking. I incorporate discussion of the basics of logic and fallacies in my AP Lang course.Report

Gary Bartlett
4 years ago

I want to second two things that have already been said.
First, echoing Julia, go easy on the informal fallacies. I’ve decided to remove them entirely from my CT class this year, except for a single period where I’ll point to that section of the text and say why we’re not going to cover it. I’ve found that far too many (perhaps half) of my students started to see fallacies *everywhere*. Despite my repeated warnings that the fallacies were only heuristics which had to be applied thoughtfully, too many students got mired in the assumption that all arguments were either fallacious or not, with no middle ground or space for consideration. Thus teaching them about fallacies seemed to almost *discourage* them from thinking about what the arguments were *saying*. (They were also very prone to thinking something was a fallacy based purely on some totally irrelevant association of the *name* of the fallacy to the passage in question.)
Second, I second Jonathan Parsons on spending some time on sources and how to evaluate them. I, too, have found that most of my students are woefully naive about what counts as a credible or reliable source. And I’ve come to the conclusion that in today’s world where our students have constant access to so much information, a crucial part of being a critical thinker has to be the possession at least of an initial filter that recognizes that (for example, taken from my experience) you should not gain all your information about how much a football helmet increases a football player’s safety from the website of a football helmet manufacturer.Report

Brandon Watson
4 years ago

If you have not looked at Lewis Carroll’s works, Symbolic Logic and The Game of Logic, for the formal side, I can recommend them highly; Carroll’s literal diagrams are a somewhat easier-to-use modification of Venn diagrams, but I find students without much background in logic usually pick up how to use them fairly easily, if they are given time to practice them. And you can do quite a bit with them (and also make sure that your students are all brought up to a basic level before you launch out into anything more complicated).

Like some other commenters, I would recommend caution about informal fallacies in a critical thinking course. I think people often tend to assume that the ‘informal’ part suggests that it is relatively easy, but this is exactly the reverse of true — informal fallacies in general raise massively complicated philosophical issues. And — I cannot stress this enough — there is currently no consensus or standard account of how to understand informal fallacies. Much of what even professional philosophers think they know on the subject is merely folklore they picked up somewhere. It’s not as bad as it used to be, because of Walton and some others who have started actually looking at where these ideas about fallacies originate and how they work in real arguments, but it’s still a messy, messy field.

Like some other Report

David Morrow
4 years ago

If you’ll excuse a bit of shameless self-promotion, I’d encourage you to take a look at the critical thinking book that Anthony Weston and I wrote together: http://www.hackettpublishing.com/philosophy/a-workbook-for-arguments-second-edition I think the level of the book is appropriate, if challenging, for an upper-level high school class.

Our book is based on Weston’s wonderful little Rulebook for Arguments, which you might use independently, if you go with another textbook as your primary text.

The book is built around the 45 rules for thinking critically that Weston developed in his Rulebook, including rules for using/evaluating sources and for propositional logic (among many other things). It includes lots of exercises, all of which are drawn from “real life” sources across a wide range of topics, and half of which have model answers (with commentary) in the back. Some involve evaluating letters to the editor, and there’s an activity that involves writing a letter to the editor. (I’ve had a number of students get their letters published.)

It also addresses fallacies in a way that’s driven by many of the concerns raised above: They’re relegated to an appendix, there are exercises encouraging people to see fallacies as fixable or incomplete arguments, rather than irredeemable sins, and there’s even an activity to get students to connect the fallacies to the “positive” rules earlier in the book.

Finally, there are a bunch of activities in the back of the book that you can use in class to get students talking to each other and practicing the skills from the book.

One thing the book doesn’t cover is categorical logic. Especially if Vanguard takes the “classical” part of a classical education seriously, they might want you to cover that. Even if they don’t, I’ve found that some students have an easier time with conditionals and propositional logic if you connect “if p, then q” to “all Fs are G,” etc.

And if nothing else, you can follow the book’s Twitter account (https://twitter.com/WorkbookForArgs) for links to arguments that you can analyze and evaluate in class.Report

Landon Hedrick
4 years ago

I realized that I was posting too many comments by replying to every single one, so let me just acknowledge all of the previous comments here: Thank you for the recommendations! There are some good resources being listed here, and I realize that it will take me a while before I have the time to check all of them out.

Josh Mastan: There will be a lot of discussion in the class. I’m probably not clever enough to be able to teach the entire semester by just lecturing on topics as they arise, so I’ll have to do some limited amount of planned lecturing. But discussions, when the students are willing to participate, are much better at getting students engaged.

David Naples: Regarding the “weird stuff” not being logic, I agree. If this were simply a logic class, I wouldn’t have considered including anything like that. But I think a critical thinking class, in general, ought to include a fair bit more than just straight logic.Report

Richard Tweedie
4 years ago

One activity: Use four Barbie dolls or similar with different coloured hair. Barbies are passed around with each student holding up sets of Barbies consistent with a proposition such as, “if Red (haired) Barbie goes to the party then Blond Barbie goes”, as other Barbies (staying back at the flat) are held under the desk. Pass on for next person’s turn with a novel combo (no repeats & don’t forget the null set – they all stay home). Semi-formal or formal notation can be introduced with this. Report

GradStudent
GradStudent
Reply to  Richard Tweedie
4 years ago

Maybe this is not to be taken seriously. But if this is meant to be a serious response to the OP, am I the only one who finds the suggestion of using Barbie dolls going to a party in a teaching setting problematic?Report

Richard Tweedie
Reply to  GradStudent
4 years ago

You could use any four different entities (e.g., Big Kens) or cultural artefacts, neutered or otherwise. The point is that students move beyond the concrete operational (the semiotics (or semantics) to the underlying logical structure. Furthermore, you can point out that, ‘if … thens’ …, and, ‘what ifs’ dominates their (emotional) thinking about the future and past. I’m deadly serious. I’ve been teaching philosophy in high school (New Zealand) for over 16 years.

[email protected]Report

GradStudent
GradStudent
Reply to  Richard Tweedie
4 years ago

Thank you for your reply. I certainly didn’t mean to question your qualities and competence as a teacher. Sorry if my comment suggested that. Moreover, I agree that the activity you suggest can be a useful and creative way of teaching students with little or no experience in philosophy how to grasp concepts and distinctions that are crucial in logic and reasoning more generally. I just found the idea of using such stereotype-loaded objects as Barbie dolls in a classroom puzzling.Report

JacquesR
4 years ago

Sorry for the self-promotion, but your interest in including ‘weird things’ makes this recently-published book by a colleague and I directly relevant. It’s a critical thinking text that uses plenty of examples from pseudoscience to illustrate the reasoning principles, and also has plenty of content on heuristics, psychology and more. Perhaps ask Springer for a review copy, to see if it might be useful – http://www.springerpub.com/critical-thinking-science-and-pseudoscience.htmlReport

Hey Nonny Mouse
Hey Nonny Mouse
4 years ago

In my personal experience, having taught both very formal and very informal courses on introductory reasoning, students get a lot more out of training in informal reasoning than in formal reasoning. They have great problems applying formal reasoning to real life but report that the informal material (fallacies and so forth) is highly useful. One thing I suggest that you discuss with them is the reliability of various sources. Students (like most people!) tend to trust any source that support their own opinion.Report

Sabrina
Sabrina
4 years ago

I have taught logic (a mixture of formal and informal) logic to local HS students. One of the biggest hits was Venn diagrams for categorical syllogisms. They dovetailed with recently learned math for the students (though you may want to adjust the notation–mathematical and logical Venns often use slightly different notation). The students came up with great examples of their own–for example, making a Venn diagram showing whole numbers and integers–and I got feedback from their math teacher that their math performance really improved. For this reason, I wish I had gotten into formal logic with them–the overlap of logic and geometry proofs is really cool, and the logic/math synergy was definitely good for the students.

More exercises: we played jeopardy with fallacies (I read off a fallacy and they had to categorize it) and a game around substitution instances–I wrote up a bunch of invalid syllogisms, and if they came up with a substitution instance they got a piece of candy. If the substitution instance didn’t work (ex. one of the premises was false) they got “bad candy”, so it helps to have some stale marshmallow peeps stashed away. And of course, knights and knaves!

Games aside, though, my students were ninth graders from underprivileged backgrounds and they were sharp, sometimes sharper than my college students. They did not *need* games and other frippery (though like all students, they enjoyed it more than a quiz or whatever). They *needed* help on things like note-taking and test-taking skills. If you can get some college students involved as mentors, that will make a huge difference. Report

Matt
Matt
4 years ago

I’ve taught logic and critical thinking to high school students before. My experience was that the sections on formal logic are kind of hit-or-miss. No one really liked truth tables (boring…), and doing formal proofs in natural deduction is the kind of thing that appeals to about half of the students in the class. Half of the students enjoyed proofs as puzzles (How do I get to this conclusion from these premises? Let me figure it out!) and the other half just flailed (Ok. I have these premises. Now what? Uh… let me just write down the conclusion on the next line and see if that gets me credit). Informal logic is also pretty hit-or-miss, with students largely being able to memorize names of fallacies and a few canonical examples, but having difficulty really figuring out what makes these fallacies fallacious, and applying them in real life.

So I branched out and started talking about some other topics that aren’t covered as much in standard critical thinking courses and got a lot more positive feedback from students. These topics were:
-Cognitive biases and the role they play in reasoning. Here I basically walked them through some of the more interesting sections of Thinking Fast and Slow and did some exercises about applying these lessons to daily life.
-An extensive discussion of partisanship in ethics and politics, and the way that partisanship activates tribal us-vs-them circuits in the brain and inhibits critical thought. This material comes out of the discussions of cognitive biases. “If people tend to like things that they are familiar with, and tend to look for evidence that supports conclusions that they already believe, what does that tell us about our ability to take opposing (and therefore less familiar viewpoints) seriously?”
-A short unit on science and its relationship to statistics (what are p-values, etc.). People venerate science, but not enough people understand what scientific reasoning is or how it works. If scientific reasoning is the paradigm of rationality, it’s important to know what it is, and why it deserves this pride of place. It also helps introduce some of the limits of scientific reasoning.
-A heavy emphasis throughout the course on the Principle of Charity and that the goal of arguments is to arrive at truth, not to defeat your opponent. Students had a lot of trouble with this, conceptually. (Student: “But if I make my opponent’s arguments better, they might WIN!”) Readings here included selections from Apology and Gorgias. As a final project, students had to do an in-class debate on a controversial ethical topic, where students were asked which side they supported, and only told afterwards that their assignment was to argue for the opposite side (they were evaluated on how charitably they were able to present the other side’s views). Much gnashing of teeth resulted, but the mental hygiene was pretty valuable.
-Overall, an emphasis on how arguments and critical thinking manifest in real life. Most students won’t care to pick apart the arguments in the Meditations. But everyone gets involved in flame wars on Facebook, immersing themselves in the viewpoints they already agree with while “other”-ing people and ideas that they aren’t already committed to. Debate these days has a tendency to turn into war. My main goal of the course was to show students why they tend to view debate as war (from a psychological perspective) and drive home the point that if this their attitude toward debate, they are doing it wrong. I’m not sure if I was able to design the very best syllabus for these ends, but I think these are the right kinds of goals to have in a critical thinking course. In real life, critical thinking doesn’t mean making truth tables. It means stopping yourself from falling into the trap of “the other person disagrees with me. Therefore, they are stupid and evil.”

tldr: IMHO, a focus on debate, argument, and reasoning as it actually occurs (online and elsewhere) is far more valuable than abstract material on the nature of logical deduction.Report

Eric Baum
4 years ago

I built http://TruthSift.com as a platform to diagram and challenge logical proofs on any subject, to pierce through the crowd think and emotion and transparently reveal what the actual logical science says about climate change or vaccine safety or Trump v Hillary or anything else, and for people to learn critical thinking from each other. Please try it out. TruthSift.com guides individuals or teams or crowds to rationality, and make them smarter collectively than any unaided individual or group. (Free) Members use TruthSift to establish what can be established, refute what can’t be, and to transparently publish the demonstrations. Anyone can browse the demonstrations and learn what is actually known and how it was established. If they have a rational objection, they can post it and have it answered. Ever notice the logical fallacies on Snopes? On TruthSift you can point such out, and when you point them out, the answer flips.

You could publish a proof in the math literature. Someone else might find a hole in it, or think they found a hole in it, and point it out. You (or someone else) may fix the hole and/or point out what was, or became, wrong with the proposed refutation. At the end of the day, if all the refutations are refuted with established refutations, the proof is accepted by the mathematical community. If some refutation of a necessary link in the proof remains established, the proof is considered refuted. TruthSift supports and diagrams this process for any subject matter.

To prove a statement on TruthSift, you want to first think about how to state precisely what you think you can prove. Then you want to think about the proofs for, and the refutations, and the refutations of the proofs, and the proofs of the refutations, and so on. The process is the essence of critical thinking, and if you miss a key argument, someone else will call your attention to it. I urge you to try it out. Its free.

For more information, see the “Start Here” dropdown on TruthSift.com or my blog post: http://lifeboat.com/blog/2016/05/truthsift-a-platform-for-collective-rationality
I welcome comments or suggestions of what else you would like to see, in the comments or email to [email protected]

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Jim Wroth
Jim Wroth
4 years ago

Hi Landon,
I’m in the same boat as you, preparing a course to help high school students to think. I’m currently considering using Peter Kreeft’s Socratic Logic. It discusses many forms of logic and argumentation but focuses on Aristotelian and Socratic forms. I am still debating whether it will be too long or difficult a read, but I do like it. I’d welcome comments from anyone else familiar with the book. Landon, I recommend taking a look at it.
Jim WReport

Jon Forslund
Jon Forslund
3 years ago

I teach an introductory logic course in our high school. I typically have four or five sections (of about 35 students) each semester.

In the class, we cover informal logical fallacies, propositional logic (with truth-tables, truth-trees, and natural deduction), and informal, natural language logic (e.g. linked, convergent, divergent, and serial arguments).

I’ve taught nine or ten different classes, in my 32 years of teaching. I get more positive feedback from former logic students than any other class.

I would be interested to hear how your class develops!

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JohnK
JohnK
2 years ago

Late to the party, but here now! lol The Reboot Foundation is coming out with critical thinking teaching programs for parents to use with their kids. http://www.reboot-foundation.org Programs are supposed to be available this April (2019) and are free. Haven’t seen them yet of course, but could be used for a class too it appears. Report

Stuart Ritchie
Stuart Ritchie
11 months ago

First, I haven’t read all the comments above, so I’ll apologize in advance for any redundancy, and for the length of this post. I’d like to offer some perspective on what I found useful as a student. The aim of education is not only to foster individual human develoment, but also thereby to foster a more harmonious and enlightened society. Logic is a fundamental aspect of education, very important in this process.

I became very interested in logic as a distinct subject only after I’d graduated from college, and wondered why I never ran across such a course in high school, as it would’ve made a lot of things easier later on.

I was naturally inclined towards scientific subjects, and did well in high school physics. I wasn’t great at high school math, never got past Algebra II, but noticed I did a lot better with certain teachers.

In college, I’d taken a course in sociology, and another in statistics. I found statistical principles very useful in deciphering the morass of mainstream news, and coupled with sociology, this gave me a better sense of how to navigate the modern world. Another very useful college course was Perception, which used the text, Sensation and Perception, by E. Bruce Goldstein. This text discusses the physiological processes of our perceptual mechanisms, the mysterious link between mind and brain, and the important distinction between them. These avenues greatly influenced and informed my own post-college investigations, and might provide some students with additional reading material if they were interested.

During college, I’d started reading a lot of different philosophical works, including both eastern and western approaches to spirituality and philosophy. I was especially interested in investigating common threads in eastern and western thought, and aiming to distill or synthesize a wholistic, inclusive approach. For several years after college, I delved into this pursuit, trying to make sense of our chaotic world. I sought foundational principles around which to organize my life.

During this period, I came across some very dense material from the Tibetan schools of Buddhism, especially the Gelug school, associated with the Dalai Lama. While one might not normally associate eastern sprirituality with formal logic, or with psychology per se, the Gelug school is sometimes said to be the most scholarly, scientific and logical of the Tibetan Buddhist traditions, possibly of all schools of Buddhism. I found this material very useful, as much of it correlated closely with my own experience.

The Gelug school emphasizes the nature of consciousness and the workings of the human mind, and offers insights into logic as an inherent aspect of psychology. It offers methods for arriving at true understanding based on logic, partially through learning to recognize perceptual distortions and biases in human psycholgy. The idea is that, by eliminating confusion, understanding arises naturally, because clear understanding, or direct knowledge, is the inherent nature of our awareness. This notion is supported by the ancient Greek concept of the Logos, the intelligence inherent in the natural world, from which all life derives. Human intelligence therefore arises out of, and is inseperable from, the intelligence of nature itself. The word, logic, itself means correct thinking, in the sense of true realization being aligned with or directly reflecting reality.

While it may not itself be a suitable text for a high school logic course, H. H. the Dalai Lama has written a text called The Gelug/ Kagyu Tradition of Mahamudra, which for some teachers might serve as a basis for further study.

The Dalai Lama has mentioned that, because there are so many different mental predispostions in people, Buddhism isn’t for everyone. He emphasizes the need for tolerance and respect for different traditions, as we must each use our own discriminating awareness to arrive at the truth, whatever our circumstances. Buddhism emphasizes the importance of the teacher-student relationship. Different students respond differently to the same material, so different teaching methods suit different students— which I can appreciate from direct experience. While all human beings have certain things in common, there are different mental types, just as there are different physical types, and different emotional types. There are so many possible combinations of such types, that it becomes clear how important tolerance, understanding and goodwill are in establishing right human relations in the world.

For myself, I found that the best teachers had a way of uncovering or demonstrating things in such a way that I could easily see the truth of it. They had a way of eliminating the nonessential and pointing out the essential, and this somehow uncovered my own ability to follow the line of least resistance and arrive at my own realizations. The best teachers simply pointed at the truth, revealing it as self-evident. This, I think, is the real crux of any course on logic. Logic itself is our own inherent ability to realize the truth. If we foster this ability, our own realizations naturally develop. We start to realize the truth of our common humanity, and the fundamental need for harmlessness and trust. It is on this basis that we must build our world.Report