Argument Builder - Student Text

Argument Builder - Student Text

Constructing an Argument Piece by Piece

by Shelly Johnson
Consumable Workbook, 190 pages
Price: $23.95

See series description for full review.

Whether you want to blame postmodernism, consumerism, or simply human nature, we live in a society where people either have no concept of logic, or only have enough to misuse it. The Argument Builder is an attempt to give students the tools to build and maintain a logical argument. An argument in this sense isn't a heated verbal exchange between individuals with opposing views; an argument is a well-reasoned position designed to persuade others or simply to defend what one believes to be the truth. A companion to The Art of Argument, The Argument Builder approaches logic positively, guiding students through the process of constructing and testing a logical framework.

How Does This Work?

This is an introduction to informal logic for high schoolers. There is a 25-chapter consumable student worktext and a teacher edition. Students read chapter text (usually only three or four pages) and complete extensive exercises. The teacher edition includes the complete student text and answers to all exercise questions (except those that relate directly to the student's own experience, or those that have multiple possible answers). There is also a section in the back of the teacher book that provides chapter-by-chapter teacher notes for presenting the material, and sources for guiding further student research.

This is more or less a student-directed course. The text is clear, and entertaining black and white photographs have helpful captions that illustrate important concepts. Since logic is a practical intellectual tool, there are more exercises than text in most chapters so students can gain practice putting their new knowledge to use. Most exercises are essay answers to thoughtful questions and will take a while for most students to complete. Other exercises include defining terms, analyzing excerpts, and constructing arguments. At the back of the book is a glossary most kids will find invaluable as they try to navigate a fairly foreign vocabulary.

This is not a formal logic course. While plenty of attention is paid to technical terminology and formal logic concepts, students will not learn how to construct a modus ponens argument, for example. This is because logic is useful for everyday situations, and author Shelly Johnson has chosen to take a more practical approach. The elements of Aristotle's "common topics" system of reason form the basis for the material; students learn about definitions, testimony, comparison, relationship and circumstance, and how to use them to make a sound argument of their own. The text ends with an overall review and guidelines for hosting an actual debate.

If your student is interested in the ins and outs of logic, this would be an excellent introduction. It will give them familiarity with the workings of logic so they won't be so surprised to find a book full of intricate argument models explained in great detail. For those who simply want to improve their own reasoning skills, this would make a fine stand-alone text.

Our Honest Opinion:

This is best used in conjunction with The Art of Argument which teaches kids how to find and identify logical fallacies; either text can be used first, and while they can be used simultaneously it's better to use them in sequence. This will get their feet wet for the elaborate world of logic and help them personally become more rational in their approach to problems they will encounter in life. Again, this can be used to proceed to more involved logic study, or on its own. The classic logic text is Isaac Watts' Logic, though Mars Hill and Canon Press offer more contemporary treatments. Whatever you do, don't assume logic should simply be relegated to the academic realm. Treat it as what it is—an invaluable tool for analyzing and interacting with the world around you.

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