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It’s a shame that the idea of teaching logic– and I’m talking actual logic here, not “critical thinking”– has fallen out of vogue in modern education. Take a casual glance at media outlets and social platforms and you’ll be greeted with dozens of situations crying out for the application of some very elementary-level rebuttals and yet … there are so few people with the know-how to identify what’s wrong with the group think being offered up around the world today.
It’s a little depressing out there, folks.
I’m not a hardcore Classical educator, but I believe in the purposeful teaching of logic as an independent discipline. It’s usefulness was apparent to me when my oldest children were barely school-age, and prickling at being called to task for misbehavior.
Me: “I can see you’re angry right now.”
Me: “That makes sense. I’d be angry, too.”
Child (slightly disarmed): “You would be?”
Me: “Absolutely. But let me ask you a question– with whom should you be angry?”
Me: “Because I disobeyed the hard and fast rule?”
Child (confused): “Nooooo….”
Me: “But you are angry with me. I must have done something wrong.”
Child: “You… you…”
Me: “Who actually broke the rules here?”
Child (thinking): “Ummm… me.”
Me: “Right. So you should be angry at ….?”
Child (admitting defeat): “Myself.”
I can’t tell you how many times I have had that exact conversation with pretty much every.single.one of my children. It’s pretty banal at this point. And yet … it smacks of the root of what’s wrong with the arguments of our entire nation, I think.
We can’t identify a fallacy if it bites us on the bum.
Got in trouble? It’s the fault of the rule enforcer.
Want something to be true? Repeat it until it sounds right.
Want to know the best outcome? Insist that a poll of your peers will suffice.
Want to ensure results? Limit choices.
Uncomfortable with legislation? Let your feelings lead the way.
So what’s a homeschooler to do? If, like me, you attended public school, the learning curve will be steep indeed. There are magnificent formal logic tools available on the curriculum market. But what if you’d like something slightly less structured? Something conversational, instructive, engaging, and entertaining all at once.
I’ve got you covered: The Amazing Dr. Ransom’s Bestiary of Adorable Fallacies, by Douglas Wilson and N.D. Wilson.
Seriously, this is one of those books that ought to find a home on the shelf of every homeschooler if only as a reference, something to be pulled down and flipped through whenever an obvious bit of obnoxious illogical thinking finds its way into your ears. Written in a casual yet not dumbed-down style, The Bestiary (as it’s known here) adds an element of zoomorphism to the missteps of logic that run rampant in the presenting of facts.
This fallacy, in a nutshell, wants you to see things its way or it will beat you with a stick. Now a stick is one way to do it, but this may be extended metaphorically to any number of artificially arranged consequences of negative nature. If one looks at the size of the Whooping Beetle’s forelegs, it looks at those this pugnacious little critter really can fulfill his threats — although most of the time just the threat is good enough.
Each short chapter gives an introduction to an elaborately illustrated “beast” whose appearance is, indeed, adorable. A fictitious example of interaction with the fallacy invariably leads to the fallacy revealing its true nature— and this is the part your children won’t forget. The reek of the Red Herring. The squid-like pull of Compromise. The assault-at-the-ready of the Loaded Question. With these images stored away in their memory, children (and adults!) can more easily access the truth behind an argument laden with fallacy … and fend it off.
Like any great resource, The Amazing Dr. Ransom’s Bestiary of Adorable Fallacies is flexible. Each chapter is followed by a handful of discussion questions, as well as exercises in identifying fallacies. Those exercises build on one another; the fallacies presented in the statements can be from any previous chapters as well as the current. Fifty fallacies are presented overall, and an answer key is located at the back of the book. Two schedules for study are suggested in the appendix. A homeschooling parent might present this book to their student for independent study, or utilize it in a one-on-one instruction time with current events at the ready. Our family has chosen a third option. We’ve giggled our way through our “older group” evening read-aloud time with The Bestiary, laughing at the over-the-top examples, but finding more than adequate fodder in society and history to keep a passionate discussion going for well over an hour.
You won’t be surprised at all to find that an inventive, engaging book like this is part of one of Timberdoodle’s Complete Homeschool Curriculum Kits (10th grade, specifically). Taking a needful topic and finding an out-of-the-box way to educate— not just teach— is their specialty!
Want a copy of The Amazing Dr. Ransom’s Bestiary of Adorable Fallacies of your own? Timberdoodle is graciously giving away a copy to TWO readers of To Sow a Seed. Enter below for your chance to win!
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