Logic is usually most easily identified by its misuse. Human beings need logic fora variety of purposes, but because we are human beings and not God, we're prone to do it all wrong. We attack people instead of addressing their arguments, we reach conclusions that the evidence doesn't support, we make statistics say what we want them to say.
They say knowing a real dollar bill as well as possible is the surest way to spot a counterfeit, and the same is true of logic. If you want to avoid the pitfalls of bad reasoning, the solution probably isn't to bone up on the fallacies, it's to study and understand the principles of critical thinking and the steps necessary for building a solid argument.
Knowing the fallacies is a good idea, though. As is being able to define deductive and inductive logic, knowing how to conduct research, the best way to frame a rebuttal, etc. As Christians, logic is one of the primary tools we use for interpreting the Bible (in conjunction withthe Holy Spirit, of course), and one of our best weapons for defending the faith and maintaining purity of doctrine.
A growing number of curricula offer comprehensive introductions for homeschool students, most of them very good. Finding a good program for your family is an excellentfirst step toward raising kids who can think well, but it's not a place to stop. These courses usually tend toward introductory-level material (most of the offerings from Critical Thinking Press) or intense theoretical concepts (Memoria Press' and Canon Press' logic programs), and you'll want to fill out your students' knowledge.
The best way to get better at logical thinking is to practice. For older students and adults, this often means simply applying what they know to the world around them, analyzin the news, books, movies, sermons, etc. Younger students, however, require more guidance, and there are a variety of worktexts available filled with logic problems for them to complete.
Many of these books center around real-life problems and examples, thus demonstrating the ways critical thinking is useful in day-to-day situations. The James Madison Critical Thinking Course for high schoolers is an excellent example, as it guides students through a series of fictional crime scene investigations designed to strengthen critical thinking skills.
For Christians, the works of Hans and Nathaniel Bluedorn provide excellent (and highly entertaining) supplemental reading. The Thinking Toolbox helps students understand how to construct a logical argument, The Fallacy Detective shows them how to identify and avoid fallacies, and the Logic in 100 Minutes DVD is a brief but thorough introduction to both the principles of good reasoning and fallacy identification.
We can't overemphasize the importance of teaching our children (and ourselves!) the principles of clear thinking and logic. The ability to connect ideas and knowledge, to move beyond rote memorization to understanding, to think creatively and independently—all these are predicated on knowledge and understanding of logic, the use of which is simply a reflection of our creation in God's image.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes 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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