I’m going to venture into waters that could get a person censored these days. And no, it has nothing to do with v*xinations or C*v19. That’s all back burner now.
The topic that could get me censored is one that goes against every narrative out there. And isn’t that the real reason for censorship these days? The subject I’m talking about is: Logic.
You see, I taught Logic for many years. To eighth graders of all people. Let me tell something about eighth graders: they love to argue. And they are extraordinarily good at catching fallacies. Especially if they are detailing arguments involving them and their parents. Spoiler: the fallacies were never on their end.
But really, they were really good at this class. For half the year, we dove into deductive arguments in the form of syllogisms. They learned what constituted a valid argument. They looked at inductive arguments and what constituted a sound argument. The point was to look at how the premises were logically connected to the conclusions.
Wait, what? Premises are supposed to be supported and lead to conclusions? It’s really stupid to argue a conclusion. A more important strategy is to either 1) show that the form of the argument cannot be valid, as in a deductive argument, or 2) show that the premises lack backing, grounds or support, as in an inductive argument.
Does that sound confusing? These were eighth graders, and they got this quickly. They loved the section on fallacies and easily picked these out of examples given them from the news at that time.
Obviously, there is not enough space for in-depth discussion of logic. But perhaps we can all be aware how we analyze information and reach conclusions. One of the most important steps we can take is not accepting information at face value. Every day there are charts, graphs, and memes which support our opinions and demonize people who oppose our beliefs.
Maybe we don’t just repost, retweet, or repeat opinions that support our own. Maybe we challenge the sources. At the very least, let’s identify the sources. Is there a vested interest in that opinion? Is the opinion thoughtful and respectfully presented? Are any of the premises supported in significant ways?
If all we are doing is “supporting” our own opinions, we are not moving towards understanding. The nature and scale of our problems today require that things change. Tech platforms have become entrenched with narratives that just keep adding chapters to existing stories. If we can respectfully say, let’s look at the “argument” in the narrative, perhaps we can get to the heart of the issues.
I am certain that teaching geometry helps develop reasoning. But with all that we face today, maybe we need a more direct approach. Maybe we should be focusing on logic and rhetoric: how to think critically and present ideas that are well thought out. We teach the art of the persuasive essay and how to build an argument.
Anyway, I am hoping that every 8th grader that took Logic (and every 12th grader that took Rhetoric) remembers some of what they learned. And that they are willing to challenge narratives and stories that lack any semblance of logic. It matters what we think and how we reach our conclusions.
We can all learn basic logic. At the very least, we can agree to not post one thing that is not well documented. We actually read the studies, the bills, and the essays from real journalists. They are out there, just not on CNN, FOX, MSNBC or any of the larger media organizations .
I fully agree with another brilliant Lewis Carroll quote, “People who don’t think shouldn’t talk.”