Wednesday, March 14, 2012

TOS Review - The Art of Argument

Since arguing seems to come naturally to most kids, it may seem that arguing as an art form might not be something a parent wants their child to learn.  However, learning to use logic and be able to think clearly and debate respectfully is something that young people should learn.  And that's the kind of argument that Classical Academic Press aims to teach in their series of products designed to teach logic.

As a member of the TOS Review Crew, we recently received the set titled The Art of Argument for our review.  The title certainly got everyone's attention! After all, it's not uncommon for the boys to argue about whose turn it is to watch TV or use the computer, or to want to debate me on which one of them should be made to do certain chores.  And everyone wants to "win" their argument, right?!

The first thing we had to learn was that the book would be teaching us how to argue like philosophers - attempting to reveal what is true on the basis of evidence and reason, being rational, trying to persuade others to a point of view based on logic, and doing so "with gentleness and respect."  (as I Peter 3:15 reminds us to do.)

From the Classical Academic Press website:
Logic is a fascinating subject for students in middle school or high school. As a fundamental part of the trivium, logic study will impart to students the skills needed to craft accurate statements and identify the flawed arguments found so frequently in editorials, commercials, newspapers, journals and every other media. We regard the mastery of logic as a "paradigm" subject by which we evaluate, assess and learn other subjects--it is a sharp knife with which we can carve and shape all manner of wood. Mastery of logic is a requisite skill for mastering other subjects. 
Junior high aged students will argue (and sometimes quarrel), but they won't argue well without good training. Young teens are also targeted by advertisers with a vengeance. From billboards to commercials to a walk down the mall, fallacious arguments are everywhere you look. The Art of Argument was designed to teach the argumentative adolescent how to reason with clarity, relevance and purpose at a time when he has a penchant for the "why" and "how". It is designed to equip and sharpen young minds as they live, play, and grow in this highly commercial culture. 
Now that's what I want my kids to understand well - to be able to identify poor reasoning and to be able to make wise decisions based on sound reasoning, so that they won't be fooled by slick advertising or be tempted to go along with fads or causes based on faulty thinking.  And to be able to effectively communicate with others, whether it is discussion of an issue, or sharing the "reason for the hope that [they] have." (I Peter 3:15 again!)

The Art of Argument comes in workbook format, and teaches the 28 common logical fallacies (bad or incorrect reasoning); how to recognize them in editorials, newspapers, and advertising; and how to avoid them. The workbook contains dialogues, worksheets, real-life applications (such as recognizing fallacies in advertising or social/political debates), discussion questions, and tests.  There is also a skit for students to perform.

We really only scratched the surface of what this curriculum has to offer, but definitely saw the benefit of studying logic!  As Spencer and I looked through the first few lessons, he had to admit that he often rejects a suggestion that DH or I make simply because it came from us, and would accept the same suggestion if it was made by one of his friends or one of the youth leaders!  That was an interesting discussion!  Landon is just on the cusp of being ready to study logic - meaning he is probably at the perfect age to study it, but he wasn't interested in sticking with us as we did our overview of the book.

I think this course would be best used with two or more students at about the same age, so that they could test their ideas and skills against each other, and be able to read the dialogues aloud.  Perhaps in a co-op setting, or in a setting where several families are working through the course and the students could get together weekly for a dialogue about the lessons.  I found that trying to get my taciturn teens to engage in a real discussion with ME about what we were reading in the book was a huge challenge.

What we liked best:

  • real world applications
  • material presented in easy-to-understand dialogues and lessons
  • humour in the phony advertisements used to demonstrate fallacies
  • makes it relatively easy to teach this important subject
  • the available DVD with experienced teachers and enthusiastic students is very helpful
What we weren't crazy about:
  • I felt that it was designed more for group study than for an individual student and parent
Would you like to take argument to an art form in your homeschool? Here's what you need to know...

The student book can be purchased for $21.95, the teacher's edition for $24.95, and the DVD set for $54.95.  The entire course can be purchased in a bundle for $88.95.  See the Classical Academic Press website for more details.  The Argument Builder and The Discovery of Deduction are the two other titles in the logic series.  You may wish to look at some Sample Chapters from The Art of Argument.  

Visit the TOS Homeschool Crew blog for more information, and to read other Crew member reviews.  (Some Crew members reviewed The Argument Builder.)

Note: As part of the TOS Homeschool Crew, we received a complimentary student workbook, teacher's edition, and sample DVD in exchange for our honest opinions.


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