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Author Topic: Teaching Our Children to Think Logically  (Read 324 times)
Joe Carillo
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« on: April 24, 2017, 12:45:27 AM »

Not that they couldn’t think logically, but sometime ago, I casually asked my two school-age sons whether they had been formally taught logical thinking sometime in their studies. The elder, now 22 (he attended primary school in a leading sectarian university and is now in college taking information technology), said the only time it was taken up was in Grade IV—and only in passing in language arts (“jumping into generalities is illogical”); there was no further discussion of it ever after. The younger, now 14 and in Grade VII in another sectarian school, said he hadn’t heard the word “logic” in class ever; neither was it taught in Montessori school during his kinder. In short, except perhaps in a very few schools in parts unknown in our country (and I’ll be grateful to know where they are), logical thinking is not formally taught to our young children at all.

 
We can be sure, though, that our children are taught many other things our educators deem more important, such as religion and physical education and civics and ethics. On these the instruction—indoctrination is perhaps a better word—is forceful and intense, very successfully for the first two I must say, yet mostly middling for the other two. Formal instruction in logical thinking, however, is surreptitiously made to wait till first year college. It is, in fact, difficult not to suspect that many schools—particularly the sectarian ones—don’t really want to teach logical thinking to children, fearing perhaps that it could undermine the teaching of the dogmas and beliefs they want to implant unchallenged in young minds.

Thus, by the time our young people enter college and take Logic 101, they could only look at the strange new discipline with great suspicion and distaste. Their mental armor of unthinking habit, religion, superstition, and wishful thinking is already well in place, so what’s the point of replacing it with a new one? Fortunately, some survive the unrelenting assaults on their rational thinking and get to understand how things in our world and in the known universe really work. They are the precious endangered few that keep our country’s tiny fires of rational thinking burning. But most of our children, like most of our generation before them, develop mindsets with little capacity for critical thinking at all.

That our educational system fails to teach us to think logically early enough is very much in evidence around us, resulting in too many fallacious behaviors among the populace. And based on some history readings that I have done lately, the situation in our country seems to be very much like what Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, a mathematician and schoolteacher, saw in England toward the end of the 19th century—a situation that prompted him to write a book introducing elementary logic to children.


Dodgson, who taught at Christ Church, Oxford, is, of course, better known as Lewis Carroll, the pen name he used for two enduring children’s books, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. Although a clergyman, he had a passion for recreational mathematics, using whimsy and satire to show the illogical ways of English society in his time. Finally, in 1896, two years before his death, he published Symbolic Logic, formally setting out his ideas on how children could learn to think clearly and logically.

Here’s what Carroll said in his introduction to the book: “Mental recreation is a thing that we all of us need for our mental health. Symbolic Logic will give you clearness of thought—the ability to see your way through a puzzle—the habit of arranging your ideas in an orderly and get-at-able form—and, more valuable than all, the power to detect fallacies, and to tear to pieces the flimsy illogical arguments, which you will continually encounter in books, in newspapers, in speeches, and even in sermons, and which so easily delude those who have never taken the trouble to master this fascinating Art.”

Carroll made classical logic easy for children by expressing it through riddles, amusing problems, and mathematical puzzles. He made his riddles perplexing but thoroughly engaging exercises in semantics, which of course is the discipline upon which the basic foundations of logical thinking are built.

How delightfully revolutionary it would be if our educators took the same tack in educating our schoolchildren! (circa 2008)

This essay first appeared in the weekly column “English Plain and Simple” by Jose A. Carillo circa 2008 in The Manila Times and later appeared as Chapter 147 of the author’s book Give Your English the Winning Edge © 2009 by Jose A. Carillo. All rights reserved.

« Last Edit: June 02, 2017, 10:54:18 PM by Joe Carillo » Logged

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