I should start as we teach the students to start: by defining my terms. In the last issue of the Classical Teacher magazine, Martin Cothran wrote a piece about the myth of “Critical Thinking.” In it, he intends to convince his readers that critical thinking is the academic equivalent of “ra ra ra, sis boom ba.” Words meant to elicit positive feelings but that don’t have any real meaning. Most schools intend to teach a form of “critical thinking.” Ask a teacher or administrator therein and you will get a blank stare.

Cothran was asked to define what critical thinking means and he simply responded: Logic.

Logic is the art and science of reasoning well. There are still other definitions that you need  to understand logic though. Firstly I want to draw a distinction between the term “curriculum” and “pedagogy.”

Pedagogy is the method that we use to teach. That’s it.

Curriculum is the content of what we teach. That’s it.

We often use the term pedagogy internally and we (teachers) all know what that means, you may not though. Why would you? When we speak of logic in it’s pedagogical sense we mean the stage of learning called the logic stage. The logic stage is a normal part of human development when people (teenagers) become inquisitive (obnoxious). Joking. It is when they begin to ask questions of authority figures, though. If parents and teachers don’t appreciate that that is a normal stage of development, it can be disorienting.

We begin to see students entering the logic stage of development when they begin to grow comfortable with “grey area thinking.” That is, the textbook definition begins to lose importance to them and they are more focused on the actual knowledge that the definition is supposed to be imparting. We begin to move away from memorizing definitions (which may or may not be understood fully) to defining terms by synonym, example, counter-example and we do still use textbook definitions when appropriate. At the logic stage I less interested in you memorizing data and more interested in you understanding that data and its implications.

Typically, memes aren’ highly logical. Is Fallacy Ref a sign that logic is making a comeback?

A long time ago, it was discovered that human beings normally develop into young adults at the preteen years and at that point they begin to learn differently. Rather than try to fight that development, we seek to harness it. If the students want to ask questions, great. We will teach them how to get the most out of their questions.

Pedagogically this means we transition the students from the grammar phase instruction type to a dialectic method of teaching(or the socratic or question and answer teaching). That term simply means that a person can deduce certain knowledge based on simple reasoning. Mathematics works this way. No man invents math, he only deduces it based on the order of mathematics.

Your students have to sit and ponder for a while on questions of this type. Sometimes, they don’t get there and we have to help them fill in the blanks. But, they always say “Ohhhhhh.” Because at a certain point they see it and it makes logical sense to them. Then they feel silly for not seeing it before. This doesn’t work for every type teaching. I can’t have the students deduce the plot of Uncle Tom’s Cabin by asking the questions about it if they haven’t read it, for instance. But, we can discuss the content of Uncle Tom’s Cabin using this method and the students can deduce a number of excellent ideas from the book. They still need the grammar of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

That’s the pedagogical portion of what Logic is. It is a method of teaching that requires the students to think clearly and make deductions while trying to answer questions from teachers or other students. It is most commonly used from grades 6-9. Students younger than that will be exposed to logical instruction in limited ways and older students will be expected to essentially make logic into a constant shield for their minds.

Let’s move on to the curriculum. At HRA, we have two logic course named simply “introductory” and “intermediate” logic. Introductory is the class where we teach middle school aged students to begin to clarify their thought. We do this by teaching them the importance of terms, statements and propositions. We teach them fallacies of thought. This type of logic is most useful for writing and speaking because it involves the language arts most directly. About halfway through that class we transition to formal logic which involves the evaluation of propositions. Starting with syllogisms, we determine if they are valid and sound. The goal of this type of instruction is to inoculate students from faulty reasoning and equip them to use sound reasoning in their own work.

Intermediate logic continues the study of formal logic and enters into the theoretical territory. Students move away from plain english arguments and into symbolic arguments. Then they are able to test arguments and compound propositions of essentially any length and complexity for validity, equivalence, consistency and other factors. During this class the mind is being sharpened and honed. They will finish the class with a study of digital logic and understand how basic computation works. This class is the best place to look for a bridge between language arts and the scientific pursuit of mathematics. As far as the actual explicit training in the curriculum of logic it isn’t very expansive. Only two classes. Compare that to six years of omnibus, eight years of latin, and 13 years of mathematics. This is partly true because logic is taught in every class.

The curriculum, in keeping with our philosophy, stands as a valuable pursuit in it’s own right. Clarity of thought and expression make life better for students now and in the future. Parents, put yourselves back in your middle school mindset and imagine how great it would be to be trained in clarity of thought and expression at that age when life is anything but clear. Being able to reason well sets them apart from the crowd. As far as future usefulness, logic will enable the students to excel in any higher education efforts the students choose to undertake. The idea of a logical college student is very nearly oxymoronic now. Specific jobs need logical training in order for a student to excel in them such as a study of law or of computer science. But, really any human being will be able to use logic daily and make use of sound logic professionally. As parents, you should study logic so your kids won’t beat you in debates (and they will try).

Philosoraptor knows bad economic logic when he sees it.

Logic can help your students steer the way between bad policy, poor economics, greedy swindlers and con men, fake news and poor scholarship. It is the shield of their mind. In a world that is captured by various interests, lies, politics, false religion, revisionist history, a world that is enslaved to emotion, logic will be the tool that insulates from those dark masters and makes these students free. It is a liberal art, because it imparts freedom to the one who practices and masters it. It is the free man’s art. In Christian terms, to practice logic is to strive to be like God, or godly or Christlike. Freedom for individuals is always under attack from those who wish to profit from the oppression of the mind. Logic is protection for the mind. A well trained logician is tough to beat, and that is what we want. Make no mistake, we are trying to train up a new generation of intellectual dissidents. The world is broken and only Christ can truly fix it, but we are trying to prepare dangerous minds to go into the world and undo the damage being done by evil men. They must be ready and need bulletproof logic.