Friday, March 09, 2012

Review: The Art of Argument, An Introduction to the Informal Fallacies

Pin It Now! Last summer I began researching logic courses for my son who is now in seventh grade. Not being too familiar with the subject, I ended up choosing a course that was an introduction to formal logic. Maybe I'm just not that smart, but even I had a difficult time understanding the course and told my son that he was basically on his own for that one!

Just as my son was running into some difficulty with formal logic, I was presented with the opportunity to review an informal logic course from Classical Academic Press: The Art of Argument, An Introduction to the Informal Fallacies by Aaron Larsen and Joelle Hodge with Chris Perrin.

Can I just tell you that our logic life just became a whole lot easier!

The Art of Argument, Basic BundleIn this course, which includes the student text, teacher's edition, and instructional DVD, your child will learn to think clearly and to argue like a philosopher. A philosopher is one who loves wisdom and argues in a positive way while trying to persuade or convince another person of his viewpoints by sharing reasons to support them. In an argument he gives reasons that are relevant, uses clear language, and doesn't make unnecessary assumptions.

Your child will also learn to follow specific rules for arguing like a lady or a gentleman by following the principles of gentleness and respect. (I don't know about you, but I sure could benefit from learning this as well!)

Arguing isn't such a bad thing. I love what the book says: "To the Latin mind, an argument was not necessarily an emotional disagreement, rather it was an attempt to reveal what was true on the basis of evidence and reason. In short, to argue is to provide rational reasons for or against an idea or action."

Unfortunately, not all arguments are positive. After taking this course, your child will know how to quickly identify bad arguments and will even be able to name the ways that arguments can be bad by learning twenty-eight specific fallacies. A logical fallacy, according to the book's definition, "is an occurrence of bad or incorrect reasoning."

The twenty-eight fallacies are divided into three categories: fallacies of irrelevance, fallacies of presumption, and fallacies of clarity. To make it easy, your child will learn one fallacy at a time. The student text is very organized; It's divided into three units, six chapters, and twenty-eight fallacies. In the lessons, fallacies are clearly defined with explanations, illustrations, examples, sample advertisements, and dialogues. For mastery, discussion questions are also provided for each lesson.

In the back of the student text there are many extra features. In Appendix A you will find Bill and Ted's Excellent Election, A Theatrical Play Demonstrating the Common Fallacies. In Appendix B you can read a story called, "Love Is a Fallacy" which shows how the logic you learn can be used against you. There is also a glossary that defines the bold terms throughout the text and logical and technical terms that will help you learn additional information related to the study of informal fallacies.

The teacher's manual contains the same information as the student text but has all of the answers to questions in the lessons. It also provides chapter and unit tests that can be copied for your child. There is an answer key for these as well.

I received, along with the student text and teacher's manual, a sampling of the instructional DVD. It has been a very helpful component to the course. (I wish we had the complete DVD set!) In each segment, logic teachers sit around a table with four students to discuss a particular fallacy and to make practical applications of each fallacy. According to the website description, "each discussion seeks to make a practical application of the fallacy to student life, advertisements, political speech, and various kinds of ethical and philosophical debates." Discussions usually last about 20-30 minutes or less.

The cost of The Art of Argument, Basic Bundle is $88.95. Each product can also be purchased separately, and the DVD isn't necessary to complete the course, however, it is very helpful. Also on the website you can view samples of chapters, frequently asked questions about logic, and a video clip of the DVD. This course is designed to last for one semester but could easily be adapted to whatever pace with which your child is most comfortable.

I would recommend The Art of Argument to seventh graders and up. This course will equip your child with the tools necessary to be able to argue well and to detect bad reasoning. In an age where we are constantly bombarded with all kinds of advertisements and ideas, these are vital skills that can be used in everyday life. I am hoping these newly learned skills will be applied to sibling rivalry and "discussions" between my children and me! I hate to admit it, but I have already used the "that's-not-relevant" point with both my boys on separate occasions.

I will definitely be using this program for my other children when they are ready!

For more information, you can visit the Classical Academic website here. There is also a student support site called Head VentureLand, and a Facebook page with product information, conversations, and links to authors' blogs.

See what other reviewers said about The Art of Argument here.


Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I received this product, at no cost to me, in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are mine.

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