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Why Don’t They Teach Logic at These Schools?

why-dont-they-teach-logic-at-these-schoolsLogic is the art of reasoning well. Christian apologist and author C.S. Lewis believed in using logic as an aid in determining truth. There is an amusing bit of dialogue in Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe in which Professor Kirk suggests to the older Pevensie children that they should believe little Lucy’s tale of having traveled to another world through the wardrobe. Lewis uses this scene to make an important point about logical thinking. The professor rationally explores the alternative explanations through simple abductive reasoning and concludes that they are unlikely.

“Logic!” said the Professor half to himself. “Why don’t they teach logic at these schools? There are only three possibilities. Either your sister is telling lies, or she is mad, or she is telling the truth. You know she doesn’t tell lies and it is obvious that she is not mad. For the moment then and unless any further evidence turns up, we must assume that she is telling the truth.”

Historically, Aristotle was the first to develop logic as a formal discipline, but he did not invent it. The laws of logic are a reflection of the mind of God, just as moral law is a reflection of His character. The Bible says, “In the beginning was the Logos (word, reason), and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God” (John 1:1). As a former atheist, Lewis offered in the book Mere Christianity a number of reasonable, logical arguments in support of his conversion to Christianity. While doing so, he was following the example of the role that reason played in the scriptures. Logical thinking is featured prominently in the Bible.

In Acts 26, Paul uses logic to make his case for Christianity. Logically, Paul believes the Christian message because of the evidence, both experiential (his encounter with Christ) and evidential (the testimony of witnesses). In 1 Peter 3:15, Peter says: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” The Greek word translated as “answer” is apologia and was used in reference to giving a legal defense. In Acts 1:3, Luke says Jesus “gave many convincing proofs” as evidence for His resurrection. Again, he is not asking for blind faith, but faith founded on logic.

Although it is true that logic studied as a formal discipline can lead to challenging formulas and diagrams, in a basic sense we all use logic every day to get through some of the simplest decisions and actions in life. In reading this article, for example, you are using logic to interpret the words you see. Without logic, you could not make sense of this sentence. Interpreting a rational sentence requires a rational mind with the ability to comprehend words that are structured in a way that makes sense — in short, words that are organized logically.

Do “they teach logic” in your school? Logic is a fundamental part of classical education, but no matter what homeschooling method you use, logic can help you to excel in every subject you study. Studying logic will also help improve your SAT score, since the SAT at its core is a test of reasoning, not a test of knowledge.

Here are two self-paced courses that are perfect for homeschooling teens: Traditional Logic I is used for the first semester, continuing with Traditional Logic II by the same author for the second semester. If you only take one logic class in high school, it should be Traditional Logic I. But the two books together constitute a complete curriculum in formal logic at the junior and senior high school levels. They are both Christian-based and published by Memoria Press.

Traditional Logic I, Student Text is an in-depth study of the classical syllogism designed for use as young as 7th grade. Along with a basic understanding of the Christian theory of knowledge, the text presents the four kinds of logical statements, the four ways propositions can be opposed, the three ways in which they can be equivalent, and the seven rules for the validity of syllogisms. This comprehensive but easy to use course can be used as a one-semester course. However, it actually can be completed in less than a semester, which will allow extra time to spend on the more difficult material in Book II. (There is also a Traditional Logic I Workbook and Test Key.)

Traditional Logic II, Student Text covers the four figures of the traditional syllogism, the three forms of rhetorical arguments (called enthymemes), the three kinds of hypothetical syllogisms, the four kinds of complex syllogisms, as well as relational arguments. The book also includes a wealth of examples of arguments from the Bible, Lewis Carroll, Isaac Watts, St. Augustine and Tertullian, as well as extended case studies of famous arguments from throughout history. Because of the level of difficulty, Book II will take relatively longer than Book I. It could be used as the basis for a year-long rather than a one-semester course. Or study Book I in the fall, and Book II over the spring and summer. (There is also a Traditional Logic II Workbook and Test Key.)

Traditional Logic I and Traditional Logic II Instructional DVDs – In these DVDs, Mr. Cothran teaches directly to the student and covers each lesson from the textbooks while explaining important concepts and illustrating key points as well as the difficult exercises with plenty of on-screen graphics.

The Great Courses: An Introduction to Formal Logic

Many homeschoolers use secular courses from The Teaching Company, including this one taught by award-winning Professor Steven Gimbel of Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania, where he serves as Chair of the Philosophy Department.

Flawed, misleading, and false arguments are everywhere. From advertisers trying to separate you from your money, to politicians trying to sway your vote, to friends who want you to agree with them, many people try to sway your thinking and influence your belief structure.

Logic is intellectual self-defense against such assaults on reason and also a method of quality control for checking the validity of your own views. But beyond these very practical benefits, informal logic—the kind we apply in daily life—is the gateway to an elegant and fascinating branch of philosophy known as formal logic, which is philosophy’s equivalent to calculus. Formal logic is a breathtakingly versatile tool. Much like a Swiss army knife for the incisive mind, it is a powerful mode of inquiry that can lead to surprising and worldview-shifting conclusions.

Dr. Steven Gimbel guides you with wit and charm through the full scope of this immensely rewarding subject in An Introduction to Formal Logic, 24 engaging half-hour lectures that teach you logic from the ground up—from the fallacies of everyday thinking to cutting edge ideas on the frontiers of the discipline. Dr. Gimbel’s research explores the nature of scientific reasoning and the ways in which science and culture interact, which positions him perfectly to make advanced abstract concepts clear and concrete.

Packed with real-world examples and thought-provoking exercises, this course is suitable for everyone from beginners to veteran logicians. Plentiful on-screen graphics, together with abundant explanations of symbols and proofs, make the concepts crystal clear.

Please note that the above product was NOT provided for free or at a discount in exchange for a review. This item was purchased by a homeschooling family at their own expense.

What types of activities and courses have you used as electives? Leave a comment and we may include yours in a future column!

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  1. Very good points! Never considered this subject before.

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