Thursday, November 15, 2012

Breaking It Down- Logic

I teach Logic as a formal subject. I believe thinking skills to be one of the most important subjects for a child to learn. 

When asked what businessmen would like graduating seniors to know when they come apply for a job, they answered “Reading, basic math, and THINKING (problem solving skills especially).”

One manager I talked to tells about a delivery man working under him who had to deliver a refrigerator. The driver called the warehouse and said he needed the manager to send a fork lift out to the job site to lift the refrigerator up six inches onto the curb (costing the company salary for the driver and forklift operator for two hours). The rest of the way into the house was paved and he had a dolly so that would not be a problem. 

The manager asked how he got the fridge off the truck. 

“I used the lift gate on the back of the truck.” 

When he got through banging his head against the wall, the manager told the driver to put the fridge back on the truck (using the lift gate), turn the truck around so the back end was against the curb instead of the side and unload the fridge directly onto the sidewalk. A little logic in school would have saved a lot of aggravation.

I read Amelia Bedilia to my children often for the little one’s logic education. Miss Bedilia- a housekeeper- doesn’t always understand what her employer is telling her to do. When told to put out the lights, she unscrews every light bulb, takes them outside and hangs them on the clothes line. When told to dress the chicken, she sews up a pair of pants for it. A very delightful introduction to logic and thinking skills.

Next in age order is Encyclopedia Brown. He is a ten year old detective that solves mysteries by logic and observation. Each chapter is a different mystery with the answers at the end of the book. The library carries both of these series.

Right now we are reading The “Fallacy Detective“ together. This is a book of logic fallacies written by a couple of homeschool graduates, Hans and Nathaniel Bluedorn. My children love it!

Though it technically is written for late Junior high or High school age, sometimes my seven year old is the first one to shout out the correct fallacy name. Any book illustrated with Peanuts and Calvin and Hobbes cartoons has got to be good. (Hmmm, I believe that is The Fallacy of Association.)

I have used before and will use again the Mind Benders and Red Herring books from Creative Thinking Press. Mind Benders are logic problems starting with the very simple (Rocky and Terrible are an Elephant and a bird. Rocky weighs more than Terrible. Which one is which?) to the very complex.

Red Herrings are small mysteries that you must solve. (A man at the fair shot a prize cow. Why wasn’t anyone upset? The answer: he shot it with his camera). We will also use Introductory Logic by Douglas Wilson. I have enjoyed this book and found it very informative (Did you know that Ray Charles is God?)

I highly recommend you buy at least one of these advanced books. If you can only afford one, make it the Fallacy Detective. (Alert! Alert! The Bluedorns just announced that they have finished the sequel to Fallacy Detective; The Thinking Toolbox! Now how can I work that into my budget this month? Hmmm.)

If you just can’t afford any books, than at least pay attention and discuss with your children the reasons people give for their actions and beliefs.

“Buy our car today! Supplies are running low!” Nothing about the quality of the car.

“I believe we will be safer if we outlaw guns.” Beliefs are nice, but do you have any proof?

“My candidate lost last time because his opponent is a liar.” This doesn’t prove your candidate would be a good leader.

“Ohhh, this part of the movie is scary!” Is it really or does it feel that way because they are playing scary music?

My mother did an excellent job of teaching me logic by repeatedly telling me to “think about it. What will happen if…” 

Watching Youtube fails can also be lessons in logic. Look a the set up and figure out what the person is trying to accomplish. "The man on the bike is at the top of the hill. He is pointed towards a ring his friend is setting on fire. There is a barn 10 feet behind the ring. What do you think the man is going to do? Ride his bike through the ring? What is the best possible outcome? He makes it through the ring and slams into the barn? And the worst? Catches on fire, then slams into the barn setting it on fire." This is definitely a "think about it" lesson.

And as I am writing this during an election year, one very serious fallacy being comited every day now is the Ad Hominen attack. This is when you attack the person instead of the ideas. For example; "Candidate X has ugly hair. Candidate Y's brother got drunk in college."

Neither fact has anything to do with who either one would be as president.  

"Candidate X has no experience. Candidate Y has habitually lied and cheated people." Now those are addressing the person's character, which can be relative to their ability to hold office.

"Candidate X wants to outlaw guns and that is a bad idea with no good evidence supporting it." That is addressing the issue and is where the debates really belong.  

Read the New Testament. It is full of logic, especially in Paul’s writings. 

I know it is easier to just not pay attention, but your children need you to think and teach them to think. Challenge each other to find logic fallacies in commercials, the news, the paper, and if you dare, each others statements. It can even be fun! (One note; always teach your children to be polite to people in pointing out fallacies. Rudeness is not excusable no matter how illogical someone is. Have him discuss logic fallacies at home but it may be better to not discuss them with anyone else at least until your children are old enough to discern when and how to do it politely.)

  • Consider consequences.
  • Pay attention to what is actually being said.
  • Dissect arguments.
  • Look for fallacies.
  • Examine definitions of words.

No comments:

Post a Comment