It's easy to think all argument is bad and should be avoided. After all, we typically use the word to describe bickering or ill-willed fights between employees, siblings, and spouses. But that's not all there is to argument—in fact, it's not even remotely the most important facet. The real point of argument is to discuss ideas in order to convince others or reach consensus.
This is the kind of argument taught in The Art of Practical Debate: A Real Life Guide to Argumentation. Grace Lichlyter, herself a homeschool graduate, uses logic, the art of question-asking, the importance of having a position to defend, and more to teach kids the ins and outs of constructing an argument and defending it in a formal setting.
How Does This Work?
The book, which doubles as a student text and teacher's guide, contains 15 lessons to be completed in a classroom setting. It isn't possible to use The Art of Practical Debate with just one student as a significant portion of the course involves classroom activities and actual debates between individuals and teams.
Classroom time will generally be about 1 hour, especially if you follow the sample lesson plans included in the back. Students will need a lot of time outside the classroom too, so one class per week will have them busy for a semester, while once every two weeks will give them one school year's worth of work.
Each lesson begins with a homework assignment that includes a reading assignment from the text, a list of questions to ponder while reading and discuss afterward, and an assignment related to constructing a debate. Then there's a lesson objective and overview, followed by the lesson proper which is text to be read by students or relayed aloud by the teacher.
Lichlyter approaches her subject matter-of-factly and systematically. She helps students understand and build an argument from the ground up, introducing the basics of logic, the impact of a good argument, how to speak to the heart, mental organization, etc. While the focus is formal or semi-formal debate, this course is useful for person to person interaction as well.
By the time the course is completed, students should be able to engage in both formal and informal argument clear-headedly and with grace. Quite a bit of attention is paid to humility and winsomeness as essentials for Christian debate, an emphasis that needs to be reiterated often when dealing with the discussion and interchange of ideas in a potentially hostile environment.
Our Honest Opinion
Students who want to progress to some kind of master debater status will need to go further, but The Art of Practical Debate is a very good place to start. It's surprising that it was written by a 19-year-old—sometimes her tone is a little condescending, but overall she's very helpful, articulate, and instructive.
This course is intended to precedeThe Art of Value Debate. It lays the foundation for more in-depth work, both in debate and in the fields of logic and rhetoric. These are skills no Christian can do without in our era, and introducing students to them as early as possible will only help them. Of all the Institute for Cultural Communicators books, this is one of the best.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here
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